For seven years, my husband and I chose childlessness in the name of youth ministry. We wanted the freedom to build our entire lives around reaching teenagers for Christ, which meant spending most evenings at sporting events, taking teenagers on frequent weekend trips and retreats, and having an open-door policy at home that was great for needy teenagers but wouldn't work well if we had little ones toddling around.
But we had been living a lie that has been whispered into many ears, which I believe is one of the greatest tragedies of our time: the lie that children are a hindrance to doing Kingdom work.
People have many reasons for delaying or forgoing children altogether, and we had many of our own. Jason and I chose childlessness because we wanted to make sure our careers were well established. We wanted ample time alone with each other. We wanted financial security. We wanted to travel. We wanted to accomplish a list of personal goals. We wanted to sleep through the night.
In hindsight I can see that this is an area where I checked my faith at the door. Jason and I prayed extensively about whether to get married, what jobs to accept, and which house to buy, but we never spent time praying about God's will for the size of our family. By neglecting to seek out God's plan for our family, we were essentially saying that the decision was ours to control. The bottom line is that when it came to children, I simply did not trust the sovereignty of God to provide for my good.
But when we squeezed our reasons for choosing the "child-free" life through the filter of God's Word, we started to notice a theme: me, me, me. It's a drumbeat that we all must fight against. Now as a mom, I still long for many of the things on this list. I'd love to use my discretionary income on chunky jewelry instead of diapers. There are times when I'd offer a limb for a night of uninterrupted sleep. But is building a life based solely on what I want really all it's cracked up to be?
As my husband and I read God's Word together as a couple, we learned that God desires for us to worship Him by fighting the self-serving nature of our flesh and choosing to live sacrificially. We knew that sleepless nights, restricted schedules, and child-friendly financial choices would be difficult sacrifices to make, but the Bible also made it clear to us that choices rooted in selfishness, fear, or preservation of personal comfort do not lead to the life God calls us to. We began to see the bigger picture and understood that the real question of family planning is not "Is choosing childlessness biblical?" but "Is living for myself biblical?"
I am now the proud momma of two small children, and by studying and applying God's Word to our family, our faith and ministry have deepened in ways we never thought possible. Rather than hindering our ministry, our children have enhanced it. Parenting has served as a refining fire in our lives, burning out selfishness, complacency, and lack of compassion for other parents and children. We have learned to treat our family as our primary mission field, which has taught us to be well-rounded and balanced as we approach student ministry, and also prevented ministry burn-out. Ministering together as a family has also given us opportunities to teach about the value of pouring one's life out for another to teenagers who desperately need to learn that lesson.
Our choice to remain childless was influenced by both the cultural value of the freedom the "child-free" life offers, and the Christian misconception that raising children would detract from our full-time ministry. But as Jason and I sought and submitted to God's plan for our family, we discovered that the biblical model of parenting, of pouring oneself out for another, is truly Kingdom work.
-Erin Davis is the founder of Graffiti Ministries and the author of Beyond Bath Time: Re-imagining Motherhood as a Sacred Role