By: Gregory Popcak
A few years ago, my wife and I discerned that God was calling us to adopt a child. We traveled to China to meet our daughter in the Spring of ’07. We didn’t know what she looked like. We didn’t know her name. In fact, it was a bit of a presumption to think that she would even be a girl. Although most children adopted out of China are girls, every once in a while, prospective parents are surprised to learn that both God and the People’s Republic of China had a different idea. And though we knew little about our new child, there are a few things we do know. Whoever she is, she is the child God has willed for us, she is ours, and she is loved. After the birth of our second child, my wife began to suffer from a number of health problems that have made it dangerous to add to our family naturally. Despite having always wanted a larger family, when we would pray about another child, we would always hear in our hearts, “Yes, but not yet.”
In previous articles, I have written that when a couple encounters an obstacle to adding another member to the family, they should not treat it as a reason to assume they will never again conceive. Rather, they should treat it as an obstacle to be surmounted with God’s grace, on the road to discerning the next step in God’s plan for your family. Health concerns, financial problems, primary or secondary infertility, marital problems, obligations to the children that we already have, and many other factors may necessitate that a couple not conceive another child, even for the rest of their lives. But often these obstacles simply mean that God wants us to grow in particular ways by responding gracefully, effectively, and totally, to the challenges right in front of us, because by doing so, we will be ready for the new life he may yet have in store for us.
St. Josemaria Escriva once wrote;
“God in His providence, has two ways of blessing marriages: one by giving them children; and the other, sometimes, because he loves them so much, by not giving them children. I don’t know which is the better blessing. In any event, let one accept his own. To those couples who don’t have children, I want to tell you to love each other very much, very much. Human love within marriage is most pleasing to God. Love one another with all your soul, according to the natural law and God’s law.”
I’m not sure I would have understood those words when I was first married
almost 20 years ago, but I think I do now. And after many years of having lived with both the blessing of having children and the blessing of not being able to have children, God introduced us to a new blessing; that of welcoming a little stranger who needed us almost as much as we needed her.
I would just like to offer this bit of counsel to couples who are struggling either with the question of having another child, or with the question of whether God will give them children at all. First, know that you are blessed. God’s blessing does not come from having children or from not having children. The blessing comes from learning to love God and each other with your whole heart, mind, soul, and strength. There is no blessing solely in tallying up a great number of offspring if they do not know in their bones that they are loved, if they are being raised in a home with a mom and dad who do not love each other, and if whatever children you may have are not learning to love and be loved by God with all their being. Sirach 16:1-3 says, “Desire not a brood of worthless children, nor rejoice in wicked offspring…. One child can be better than a thousand; rather die childless than have godless children.” Scripture is clear. There is no holiness or blessing to be found in mere numbers. Rather, the blessing is the love that is experienced on the road to becoming perfect as our Heavenly Father is perfect whatever our state of life. Whatever the present state of your discernment regarding children, your call to love is clear. Go deeper and experience the blessing that comes from loving fully whatever the state of life God has you in.
My second bit of advice is simply an echo of something I’ve writing before here in this magazine. Don’t ever think you’re done discerning. Whether problems prevent you from taking advantage of your fertility, or there are problems with your fertility, or your fertility has run its course, if you prayerfully hear that God has a child in mind for you, trust that sense, and at the same time, be open to the many ways God may wish to create your family. It may be that He wants to resolve whatever stands between you and conceiving a child naturally. Or it may be that, in his wisdom, he has already given you a child that he has chosen to allow to live at a different address for a time. Perhaps your little one is next door. Or maybe thousands of miles away. If your heart ached with love for a child, seek him. Find her. And know that “…the vision still has its time, presses on to fulfillment, and will not disappoint; If it delays, wait for it, it will surely come, it will not be late (Habakkuk 2:3).”