Do I view children as God's gifts?
In 2003, our home was filled with growing children. Things were always in motion—children playing, fighting, enjoying the freshness of life, and getting into mischief. Our oldest daughter was nine while the youngest of our seven children was still nursing. We loved our children and wanted to see them develop strong relationships with God. This love matured into a commitment to allow God to plan the size of our family.
We experienced a challenge however, that brought us growing frustration with our small brood. As parents, we struggled as baby after baby came along and neither our time nor our physical stamina seemed to grow to match the needs around us. The two of us simply weren’t enough!
There were long nights of changing, nursing, and rocking babies. Days were filled with activity, and our responsibilities crowded around us. As evening came and we gathered together in the living room, fights broke out among the children over who was going to sit in Dad’s lap tonight.
We became burned out trying to meet our children’s enthusiastic need for attention and love from their parents. Cris and I were also very concerned that resentment would grow if we spent one-on-one time with some children, but not with all of them. No matter how carefully we planned our days, there was never enough to time to reach into the heart of each child or deal with the multitudes of attitude and heart needs that arose constantly.
Growing Frustrations, Hardening Hearts
As we vainly tried to meet the needs in the little lives around us, our attitudes began to shift with the announcement of each new child’s conception. Instead of rejoicing in the precious gift of new life, we heaved sighs of exhaustion. Surely God realized we needed a break in between children! We longed for this delay, thinking it would give us the chance to become the successful parents we wanted to be. We were inadequate, but we thought we could fix the problem if given more time.
Then Cris had a miscarriage after seven healthy, normal pregnancies. Though surprised at this unusual departure from the norm, we were relieved. Here was our chance to catch up and pull things together! In the days that followed, school continued on. We began working with the kids to apply the concept of mourning, which was the focus of our current Wisdom Booklet studies.
Moving From Hardness of Heart to Brokenness of Spirit
Mourning over sin seemed simple at the first glance. Yet as our family sought to apply what we were studying, God opened our eyes to our true condition before Him. The list of vocabulary words suddenly became a description of our heart attitudes toward the baby who had died: apathetic, indifferent, unconcerned, unresponsive, and insensitive. The gift we had rejected was priceless, yet here we were relieved that it was no longer ours.
We began to grasp the true meaning of mourning as God revealed our heart condition, and we repented with tears and anguish over our sin. Our fully intact, month-old son was a beautiful expression of God’s handiwork. We showed all of our children this perfectly developing child that God made in His perfect wisdom. He was no longer just another little one we would have had to clean up after and spend long hours caring for, but rather an indescribably precious soul that God had created and then taken back to Himself. Where we had seen an added complication, God saw a precious life to cherish and surround in His tender love.
We planned a simple funeral and chose the name Matt Noble, meaning “A gift from God, made for Himself. A child of the King of Kings.” The child who was precious to God, was now precious to us as well.
Finding God’s Strength Perfect in Weakness
We still don’t have what it takes to be the parents we want to be. We are still inadequate and struggle to give each child the attention and love they need. Yet now we see that this is the very situation God wants us to be in: inadequate and empty, because He is able to fill us and provide for our needs. God’s strength is “made perfect in weakness” (2 Corinthians 12:9).
In His all-knowing kindness, God used this lesson of viewing our children through His eyes to prepare us for the next child He gave us to raise. Little Tessa was born one year later and has been diagnosed with some special needs. Because of the perspective we now have, we cherish her and delight in her as a unique and amazing creation of God. God has richly blessed us through her life and has fulfilled the very promise made in Matthew 5:4: “Blessed are they that mourn: for they shall be comforted.”
Related Command of Christ
This testimony illustrates the command of Christ to Despise Not Little Ones. (See Matthew 18:10.) Lance and Cris learned to look beyond the moment-by-moment challenges of raising a large family and to see the eternal treasure in each of their children’s lives.