“If you aren’t ready to have children, then you aren’t ready to be married.” I heard this statement from a sermon that I was listening to yesterday, and I thought that it was an incredibly strong statement to make. Yet, I do find some truth with it. Let me explain.
Since giving birth to my daughter 12 weeks ago, I have been face-to-face with how innately selfish I am. Having a child can truly show you how selfish you really are. Let’s face, that baby does not love you, and if you believe that, you are lying to yourself. The baby has no concept of what love is. He or she simply desires to have their needs met, and you are the person staring at them all the time. Now, eventually your baby may desire an affection and preference for you over other people, but it will be an incredibly long time before your child really understands love.
The reason why is because love is sacrificial. Love requires a constant denial of yourself for the benefit of another. You will never know how much love you have for someone until they become utterly helpless, and you have to do everything for them. For my daughter, having to wake up to feed her every few hours, burp her, wipe up the vomit the comes out on my clothes and on herself, change her diapers, bathe her, dress her, play with her, comfort her…..the list goes on and on and on. And I will tell you that the first month was no joke. I mean, there are sincere moments where you want to refuse to get out of bed, but out of love, you take a deep breath and get up, yet again. For me, I ended up having a c-section, and I had to return to work after two weeks. Let me tell you, that was nothing but love and grace from God that kept me in a positive demeanor and a loving disposition to continue to care for my daughter, even while being in pain and working all day.
From this experience, I truly believe that marriage is absolutely beautiful, and you should love your spouse deeply. But I do believe that you will not know what is in your heart regarding love until you have a child that will expose all of your selfishness. The fact is, unless you are marrying an invalid, you are marrying someone who will actively love you back, reciprocating your feelings. This is beautiful, but it still gives you room for selfishness. Now, if you want to deny it, just consider how many times you drag your feet to do something your spouse wants to do that you have no interest in. Or think about how many times you try to make something you really want to do that your spouse has no interest in, and somehow you twist it around to try to make it appealing for them to do with you. Consider, how many times do you get upset if your spouse didn’t complement your appearance, or that you fixed dinner, or that you did something else well. Or, for ladies, how many times do you get upset that he didn’t spend time with you the way you wanted him to spend time with you?
Now, I won’t say that you don’t really initially love your spouse, because I believe that you can (I know I do). But, I believe that you love “in part” without a child. Consider 1 Corinthians 13, the “Love Chapter”. Verses 8-10 say: “Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. Love never ends. As for prophecies, they will pass away; as for tongues, they will cease; as for knowledge, it will pass away. For we know in part and we prophesy in part, but when the perfect comes, the partial will pass away.” What these verses mean is that the things that we presently do are not done in perfection, or completely. What we do is based on our current knowledge, which is incomplete now, and will be completed when Christ returns. Now, when you consider Romans 8:28-29 (I know everyone loves that verse), it says: “And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose. For those whom he foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son…” So, this means that as we are doing things imperfectly here (meaning, we are doing things partially), God is steadily working and using every circumstance in our life to conform us to the image of Christ (conforming us into his perfect image).
So, considering this topic of love and selfishness again, when you enter marriage, no matter how much you think that you know what love is and that you are doing it absolutely perfectly, you are not. It’s only partially. Every situation that you and your husband will go through, God can use that to show you even more how imperfect your initial state of love was and cause you to mature in it. I believe that having children is vital to this plan too. A helpless child will expose practically every lick of selfishness you never even thought you possessed. That baby can leave you in tears because you want him or her, so desperately, to just do what you say and go to sleep and be quiet for a while. And those tears are just the acknowledgement that you are selfish and you have selfish desires. But, when you get to that place of acknowledgement, it is my testimony that if you seek God to help you in your state, He will pour out a grace on you like never before, and you will grow in love. You will see your love become more mature. You will see yourself become less and less selfish. You will find yourself walking with even more humility than you did before. You will find that you can do more things for people without seeking or expecting, even to the slightest bit, something in return. And it is a beautiful thing to see and experience God growing you up like that.
That preacher that made the statement that you weren’t ready for marriage until you are ready to have children made such a strong statement, but he spoke the truth. If you are not ready to love without any kind of selfishness, then you are not ready to love period. Just as much as you don’t want to marry someone who has a set of limitations accompanied with their vows to you, why would you enter into a marriage covenant with someone with the intentional mindset to do it partially, not wanting your love to be perfected and give up all of your selfishness? Keep in mind, having a child, a helpless child, can expose a large majority of your heart, especially your selfishness. If you have hesitations with having children, please reconsider getting married, and seek God to change your heart and mind regarding the matter.
Press on, and be conformed to the image of Christ!