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The children of spring

Culture

Spring is attempting its arrival and children are sprouting up on baseball fields and playgrounds across the country. The air is alive with their little voices.

I am sometimes amazed we see any children at all. Are they here only because the previous generation tragically miscalculated the expense, bother, heartache, and missed opportunities for fun that bearing and raising them would involve, to say nothing of multiple children in the same family?

Marriage itself requires personal limitation and sacrifice. You are no longer free to think only of yourself. You are bound to another, at times as though in a three-legged race. But those races are fun, especially when you get the hang of them, and they only last a while. Marriage is for life.

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Then add children to the mix. Sure they’re fun and lovable—most of the time. But so is a dog. Is having children just an irrational public service most people undertake at great personal expense to provide for a future workforce? In secular terms it doesn’t make much sense. That’s why the Europeans have largely given up on it.

Even a marginally decent mom or dad knows that parenting is 20-plus years of sacrifice. But what is the alternative? If the “rational” course of action is the childless life—i.e., the life that maximizes personal liberty and pleasant consumption—then it would make the most sense for no one to have children. Where would that leave us?

First, we would all become utterly self-absorbed. Nobody would be able to stand anyone because everyone would be focused on him- or herself and thus not giving anyone else the attention, respect, or service we would all think we deserved. No one would be happy.

Then at the end of our unhappy lives of rambling, grabbing, and consuming we would find ourselves lonely and poor. There would be no one to take care of us except other people equally in need of care and either unable to provide it or utterly indifferent to us. It made no sense to us to produce and care for little ones, so in life’s closing scenes there are no grown little ones to care for us.

And life would be poor because there also would be no younger generations growing food, making cars, running power plants, discovering helpful medicines, and staffing retirement homes. Life would have become solitary, poor, nasty, brutish, and surprisingly shorter than we expected. It begins, therefore, to make sense why Jesus, the Author of life, said, “For whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake will save it” (Luke 9:24).

Should one generation sacrifice itself for the next generation only so it in turn can sacrifice itself for the next, and so on? But the alternative makes even less sense: sacrificing all future generations for oneself.

My life, it seems, is not all about me and never can be. That’s not what life is. Children show us that human life itself is a matter of giving your life so that others may live. Thus, the apostle Paul counselled, “Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves” (Philippians 2:3). Welcome to spring and life.

D.C. Innes
D.C. Innes

D.C. is associate professor of politics at The King's College in New York City and co-author of Left, Right, and Christ: Evangelical Faith in Politics (Russell Media). Follow D.C. on Twitter @DCInnes1.

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