I’ve heard before that Austin, Texas, the city I live in and love, has more dogs than children. Needless to say, having my first kid at 25 made me weird, and now having four kids qualifies me as absolutely crazy.
It’s not surprising that people often look at me and say: “I’m not ready for kids. I just don’t want to give up _______.” Often that blank is filled with “my freedom,” “my time,” “my selfishness,” “my career,” “my money,” etc. We live in a culture that is looking for life in traveling the world, drinking lattes, and happy hours (which don’t get me wrong – I love those things! Lattes are my love language), but we tend to value our enjoyment, entertainment and ease more than we value giving our lives away to the next generation. We want to live our life and then have kids. Because having kids is the end of your life.
At least, that’s one pervading thought in our culture, both outside and inside the Church. Even having children myself, I find myself falling into this kind of thinking. When I need to get something done, but my daughter wants to play with me again. When I have to wake up in the middle of the night to feed or comfort a child. When I dream of the day they’re all in school so I can have my time and my life back and do what I want to do. When I view my children as burdensome, that’s exactly what they become.
While our culture tends to undervalue children, and my flesh tends to grumble about them, the Scriptures paint a different sentiment. Children are not burdens; they are blessings.
Behold, children are a heritage from the Lord,
the fruit of the womb a reward.
Like arrows in the hand of a warrior
are the children of one’s youth.
Blessed is the man
who fills his quiver with them!(Psalm 127:3-5a, emphasis mine)
The extent to which kids are a blessing is indescribable. Children expand your experience of love and joy in a way you couldn’t even have guessed before having them. Kids teach you so much more about yourself, they challenge you to be a better person, and they give you a unique perspective about your relationship with God. And if they happen to be like my kids, then they also happen to be very cute!
So, no, having kids is not the end of your life.
And yet, let’s be real, at the same time, it totally is. Having kids actually is the end of your life because parenting is daily dying, daily laying aside our resources, freedoms, and comforts, and our desires for the sake of our children. But this daily dying is not a death to fear. By dying to my own selfish desires, by putting my flesh to death, I’ve gained so much more. I have gained so much more love, joy, patience, though sometimes it doesn’t feel like it; but mostly, through these sacrifices, I’ve gained so much more of Jesus.
So, yes, in some sense it is true: having children is the end of your life. But isn’t that exactly what our God calls us into as followers of Jesus? Not only as moms, but in any season of life. Too often we are caught up in just living for ourselves, trying to find life in what the world can offer us. But Christ calls us to give our lives away for the sake of others, and ultimately for the sake of the gospel – in any and every season of life. Whether you’re a mom, single, married, empty nesters, students, working, or retired. Jesus gives us all the call in Luke 9:23-24:
“And he said to all, ‘If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me. For whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake will save it.’”
Either way you look at it in these verses, we are a perishing people. But we have two options for our death. We have the option to lose our life willingly – to lay it down and die to ourselves, which will ultimately bring life. Or we can live for ourselves in the present, trying to find life in what the world can offer us, but ultimately find what we thought would bring life actually ends in death. We will die one of these deaths – so it’s just a question of which one: the death of self-sacrifice or the death of self-serving.
For me, Jesus calls me to lay down my desire to have comfort and control over my day with my children. He calls me to not seek my life by wanting my time and my life back so I can do what I want to do, but to give my time, my life, and even to set aside some of my desires so I can pour the truth of the gospel into my children. What is it for you? What is it that God calls you to lay down for His sake, in your season of life? How is He calling you to give your life to Him, that you may truly find it? Jesus calls us to die daily, to daily lay aside our resources, freedoms, comforts, and our desires for His sake. But the daily dying of self-sacrifice is not a death to fear. In Christ, dying to ourselves always brings about life, and we see this most clearly in the person and work of Jesus.
Ultimately, Jesus didn’t just call us to die to ourselves, Jesus knew we wouldn’t die the death of self-sacrifice perfectly; that’s why He died in our place so that even when we fail to die to ourselves, we still receive His life. Jesus, in such a relatable way, wrestles with laying down His life, but ultimately prays, “Not my will, but yours be done.” He could have decided the cost of having children was too high and that the sacrifice of His freedoms, comforts, and life were too great a sacrifice. Yet Jesus willingly suffered and died for the “joy set before him.” We, the children of God, are His joy. However, Jesus’s death of self-sacrifice didn’t end in death – three days later he resurrected from the grave, defeating our great enemies of sin, Satan, and death once and for all. His death brought life, not only for himself, but for all of God’s children, for all of us who believe in Him and then He calls us to follow Him into His death, but also into His life. Following Jesus may feel like the end of your life, but it will actually only be the beginning.