Monday, April 2, 2012

Becoming New Parents: A Matter of Prayerful Planning

“When Enoch had lived 65 years, he became the father
of Methuselah. And after he became the father of
Methusaleh, Enoch walked with God”
(Genesis 5:21-22).

—by James T

Becoming a Parent: Dilemma or
Delight

The implication of the above
Scripture is that once Enoch had a
child he walked with God (since he
lived to be 365 years old). Research,
observation and personal experience
confirm that having a child
produces a more serious approach
to life in the parents, especially in
the spiritual arena. But what about
prior to the coming of that first
child? In spite of the biblical directive
to “be fruitful and increase
in number” given to us through
Adam and Eve and Noah and his
sons (Gen. 3:28; 9:1 NIV), many, if
not most Christian couples today
experience a sense of fear as they
anticipate having a child. The reality
of parenthood, while exciting and
delightful in a general sense, also
produces some anxiety in the minds
of prospective parents.



Part of that anxiety is normal, 
emanating from within each partner
as they question their ability to be 
parents and consider the responsibility
of raising a child. But in
Christian marriages a major portion
of that anxiety comes from contemplation
of the world into which
their child will be born. More and
more couples bemoan the fact that
society is becoming increasingly
detrimental to the welfare and upbringing
of a child. So in spite of the
fact that most Christian parents, like
Enoch, strive to walk with God after
they have a child, many hesitate to
take the first step.


What assurances does Scripture
provide to couples who are contemplating
parenthood? The answers
will be couched in terms of differentiating
biblically between a planned
and an unplanned pregnancy.

Prospective Parent Concerns
We live in a time when decision-making
relative to having children
has shifted from the domain of
chance to the domain of choice.
(This is not to imply in any way that
God’s sovereignty has been usurped
by science. It merely affirms the
fact that childbirth emanates from
“natural descent ... human decision
or a husband’s will” (Jn. 1:13). The
availability and utility of birth control
and the increased knowledge of
reproduction combined with Christian
couples’ awareness of economic
and career realities often produces
a decision-making process prior to
conception.


The first question Christian
couples consider is typically a tandem
one: “Should we have a child
(given our personal situation and
the wickedness of the world), and if
so, when?” The subsequent question
of “How should we raise a child in
the world such as it is?” quickly follows.
However, beyond the biological
aspect of becoming parents is
the more crucial issue of seeking the
Lord’s guidance, which leads us to
the difference between planned and
unplanned parenthood.


Unplanned vs. Planned Pregnancies
From a biblical perspective an
unplanned pregnancy is neither a
pregnancy out of wedlock (even
though statistics indicate that one
in four births are to unwed mothers),
nor a pregnancy resulting from
an error when using birth control,
nor a pregnancy that occurs during
menopause, or change of life. All of
the above pregnancies are unexpected
pregnancies, and certainly
may produce adjustment reactions
in their own right, including marital
crises.


So what is an unplanned pregnancy?
An unplanned pregnancy is
any pregnancy that occurs without
the parents first seeking God’s direction
relative to having and raising
the child. In contrast, a planned
pregnancy is one in which a couple
prayerfully seeks the Lord’s will and
direction regarding having a child.
For such parents a biblical basis for
assurance and eager anticipation is
given.


The Parents’ Promise: Noah’s Family
(Gen. 6-9)“As it was in the days
of Noah, so it will be at the coming
of the Son of Man. For in the days
before the flood, people were eating
and drinking, marrying and giving
in marriage, up to the day Noah
entered the ark” (Mt. 24:37-38).
Noah lived in a day and age so evil
that the Lord determined that He
would destroy mankind. Although
He relented in the case of Noah and
his family - “God ... protected Noah,
a preacher of righteousness and
seven others” (2 Pet. 2:4-5) - the case
can be made that conditions today
are not unlike those of Noah’s time.
However, Noah, in spite of the evil
environment, was able to find a wife,
have and raise three sons - Shem,
Ham and Japheth - and find three
wives for his sons (Gen. 5:32; 6:5-
11,18; 7:1-13). All this was accomplished
while Noah was building the
ark and before the ark was sealed up
by God thus preserving them from
the devastation of the flood. Upon
emerging from the ark the four families,
including three that had no children,
were given the commission to
“be fruitful and increase in number
and fill the earth” (Gen. 9:1). Imagine
the trepidation of those “eight souls”
as they embarked on the path to
procreate families.


Inherent in the story of Noah is
the parents’ promise that God will
protect and provide for families who
turn to Him for direction. It comes in
the form of two metaphors - the ark
and the rainbow. First, the Christian
family that builds itself on the Lord,
the “Rock” of our salvation, will
experience the protection of the
ark when flooded by the evil the
world unleashes against it. God will
provide the resources necessary to
preserve our children and to bring
them to fruitful maturity. The ark is
a safe place of shelter in the storms
of life, and provides protection
because God seals the door. Second,
the rainbow is the symbol of God’s
promise of hope in the storms of
life. A rainbow is created by the sun
shining through the rain which is a
fitting picture of God’s promise of
protection: “Whenever the rainbow
appears in the clouds, I will see
it and remember the everlasting
covenant between God and all living
creatures (including parents and
their children) of every kind on the
earth” (Gen. 9:16).


The Parents’ Prayer: Samson’s
Parents (Jud. 13) Samson’s parents,
Manoah and his wife, also lived in
a time when Israel “did evil in the
eyes of the Lord” (Jud. 13:1), and
“every man did that which was
right in his own eyes” (Jud. 21:25
kjv). Consequently, when they were
informed that they would have a
“special” child who would have to
be treated in a special way, they also
had a good deal of fear and trepidation.
However, they did the right
thing; they “prayed to the Lord” (Jud.
13:8). Manoah’s prayer captures
the essence of every prospective
parent’s prayer as he or she considers
the awesome responsibility and
privilege of bearing and raising their
special child: “O Lord I beg you, let
the man of God you sent to us come
again to teach us how to bring up
the boy who is to be born” (Jud.
13:8). This prayer symbolizes the
importance of each child being set
apart for God at birth (the meaning
of the term Nazirite).


This couple had their spiritual
life in order, a critical factor for any
couple thinking about having a
child. They each had a personal
relationship with God (Jud. 13:3,
8). Their marriage was solid in spite
of the agony of being sterile and
childless (v. 2). They had good communication:
“The woman went to
her husband and told him” what
had transpired (v. 6). And when
they realized they were going to be
pregnant, they immediately started
down the right path to prepare for
family life: they turned to the Lord
for guidance (v. 8).



The Parents’ Purpose: Samuel’s
Mother (1 Sam. 1-2) Hannah’s ordeal
in coping with a closed womb, in
spite of having a husband who
loved her and treated her in a
special way (1 Sam. 1:5), provides
the third element of guidance to the
prospective parents’ quandary regarding
having a child - the answer
to the purpose question. In this case
it is the motivation of the mother
(Hannah) with the full support and
cooperation of the father (Elkanah)
that raises the point.


Hannah’s prayer in 1 Samuel 1:11
expresses the parent’s purpose in
childrearing. Notice that she invokes
the “Nazirite” designation in her
petition: “O Lord almighty, if you will
only look upon your servant’s misery
and remember me and not forget
your servant but give her a son, then
I will give him to the Lord for all the
days of his life and no razor will ever
be used on his head.” This prayer sets
the context for the parents’ purpose.
Its motivation is three-fold: first, to
resolve the generational and heritage
issue (to provide Elkanah with
a son); second, to resolve Hannah’s
personal anguish in being childless;
and third, to emphasize the Lord’s
preeminence by dedicating her
firstborn to Him. The request is not
made out of concern for preserving
her marriage. Many couples who are
struggling in their relationship often
make the mistake of trying to solve
their marital problems by having a
child. This usually results not in resolution
of marital problems but in the
transformation of marital problems
into family problems. Children are
not meant to be the bonding agent
in a marriage.


In Hannah’s case, her prayer
results in conception and the birth
of a son, Samuel. When she follows
through on her pledge, by presenting
him to Eli, the parents’ purpose
is formulated: “Now I give him to
the Lord. For his whole life he will
be given over to the Lord” (1 Sam. 1:
25-27). The purpose of every parent
is to prepare their child to worship
and serve the Lord. Also, do not dismiss
the role of Elkanah as Samuel’s
father in this situation. He played a
significant role first in supporting
Hannah - “Do what seems best to
you” (1 Sam. 1:23) - and then enacting
the commitment by leaving
Samuel behind and returning home
with Hannah (1 Sam. 2:11). He also
had to make a sacrifice to commit
Samuel to the Lord.

Conclusion

So what is a planned pregnancy
from a biblical perspective?
A planned pregnancy is
where the prospective parents:
seek the Lord’s guidance
in having and raising their
child (the parents’ prayer);
seek and trust the Lord’s
resources to preserve the child
from the world and protect
the child in the world (the
parents’ promise); and dedicate
themselves to raising the
child to be God’s servant 
(The parents’ purpose). CL
Source Confident Living Magazine