April 24, 2014

Creating Time

Gary Thomas — 
photo by by kobiz7, Creative Commons

photo by by kobiz7, Creative Commons

More and more young couples—even Christian couples—are questioning what my generation took for granted—after you get married, eventually you have kids. In this post, I want to provide a bit of perspective for those who are wondering if it’s “worth it.” (This post is not for those who want kids and aren’t physically able to have them.)

One day I pulled down a little-used commentary from my bookshelf. A receipt for the book fell out and fluttered to the floor. The receipt was old and faded and it told me that I had purchased the commentary in December of 1984, at the Regent College Bookstore.

In December of 1984, I had been married for just 6 months.  Lisa and I didn’t have any children—and frankly, I’m surprised I had enough money to actually buy a commentary.  But there it was—incontrovertible proof.

We must have saved up.

Thirty years later, my youngest daughter is editor in chief of her university newspaper. She is the first editor at the University of Portland to be asked back to edit the paper for a second year (she’s just giving them one more semester, however). As such, she’s moving a lot of conversations forward in her little corner of Portland, Oregon.

My son Graham is in New York City, but his company is giving him a year to work with a huge foundation based in the Pacific Northwest. His affinity for business and his capacity for understanding things that would put me in a catatonic state within sixty seconds amazes me. Ever since he spent a summer at a really scary part of Johannesburg, South Africa, working at a school for under-privileged children, he has wanted to figure out a way to make philanthropy more effective and impactful—and God is giving him an incredible platform from which to do just that.

Our oldest daughter Allison is now back in Bellingham, Washington. She carries with her an unusually high EQ—far higher than mine—and is like a little human radar machine that picks up on people’s sensitivities, hurts, and insecurities. (When it comes to discernment, I can be decidedly below average.)

Based on what I’ve seen with my kids over the past three decades, when people tell me they don’t have “time” for more children, I think they misunderstand the whole concept of time.  Children are the only elements that create more time.  Thirty years ago, there was just my wife and me, with all our limitations, but now, through God’s plan of procreation, a part of us is walking in Manhattan, Portland, and Bellingham, with their own gifts and their own contributions and their unique service to God’s Kingdom.

Taking the time to conceive and/or raise children is based in part on humbly recognizing and accepting our own limitations. It’s a seasonal investment requiring time, sacrifice, money, and energy, but in the end it will produce far more than it ever took out of us. And which of us can say that what we do is so important that completely unimpaired work for twenty five years is more valuable than creating two, three or four more lifetimes for someone else?  Of course the Bible affirms those who are called to celibacy and thus childlessness; what Jesus did and what Paul did was worth more than having children for their particular calling in life. But I suspect that for most of us, raising children who will honor God and serve Him with gifts that we lack is just about the best investment of time we could ever make.

We only have so many days to live on this earth, and then we die.  But when we give up some of our time, choosing to come home at 5 instead of 8, and keep our weekends a little freer, we can create seven or eight decades for someone else to live their lives and use their time for the glory of God.  It’s not like I took those years completely off—I wrote Sacred Marriage when my kids were 13, 11, and 8. But would anyone suggest that this world would be better off with three more books by me but three less kids? Not a chance! And if anyone did, they couldn’t be more misguided.

As you take time out of your busy life to invest in conceiving a child, feeding a child, raising a child, and then training that child, you’re setting into motion seven or eight decades of a human life.

When we are so filled with our own importance that we don’t take the time to have children, or to raise the children we already have, or discipline our kids, we are actually limiting our own influence.  Yeah, we may get a slightly bigger office, but the cost to the Kingdom could be enormous.

Instead of saying, “I don’t have enough time or energy to raise kids,” I think we might want to say, “I don’t have enough time or energy to not raise kids.”

May the mundane tasks of parenting—and the sacrifices it calls you to—take on a new wonder as you realize that God has chosen you to do far more than live one life; He’s called you to set in motion several others.

 

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Making Time - GaryThomas.com

 

For a book length discussion of this topic, check out my friends Candice and Steve Watters’ excellent book Start Your Family: Inspiration for Having Babies  http://tinyurl.com/ma5sx3u

 

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4 responses to Creating Time

  1. As a father of 5, this was just the encouragement I needed to read today.

    Will be sharing this post with the Future Marriage University (FMU) community at https://www.facebook.com/FMUniversity where I hope it will encourage them in a different way.

    • During my college years I never saw work as good as this. You display a lot of innlgeiletce and detail within this article and I hope you continue to write these. This is very good.

  2. I have had similar thoughts and couldn’t agree more. My husband has been a pastor, church planter, and worked in human services. I have worked in public relations and am now writing online. We owned a Christian bookstore in the local mall for 7 years until the economy and Internet sales led us to close. Most of those endeavors have come for a season and gone. The ones we are involved in now will be here for a season and then be gone.

    But the two “endeavors,” so to speak, that will most likely outlive us are our two precious adult daughters. Like your children, both have served in ministry, but even if they had not, the values and messages they take into their relationships impact their little portions of the world over and over. I could not be more proud of them.

    I wouldn’t trade the joy and fulfillment of having raised them for all the careers, time, money, leisure activities, or anything else that I can imagine.