May 31

Quivering or quiver-full…

What are gifts from God? Should we desire all those gifts? Should we then desire as much of those gifts as possible? Is not desiring a particular gift, or not allowing God to give you a gift, sinning?

I love the Duggars on “19 Kids and Counting.” I can’t wait for the new season to start. I love how Michelle Duggar is always so calm, even with her 19 kids running around. Her children seem to be very smart, articulate, kind, responsible, and helpful. It was through this show that I first heard about a movement called the “Quiverfull Movement” which is taking place among many different evangelical Christian groups. Some parents are being convicted that the number of children they should have should be left up to the Lord, without any attempts on their part to limit the size of their family or space out how often their children are born via birth control or natural family planning.

Lately, I have been hearing more and more about this movement. I’ve come across several magazine articles in favor of it, and I’ve also found a web site called “No Longer Quivering” run by a woman who used to be a Quiverfull mom and seems to bear scars from those years. Therefore, this issue has been on my mind a lot lately, and I can’t quite figure out what I think of it. (I want to make it clear, though, that I don’t personally know any people who call themselves part of the “Quiverfull” group.)

The movement’s name comes from Psalm 127:3-5: “Children are a gift from the Lord; they are a reward from Him. Children born to a young man are like arrows in a warrior’s hands. How joyful is the man whose quiver is full of them! He will not be put to shame when he confronts his accusers at the city gates.”  Then, of course, there is the mandate in Genesis that mankind “Be fruitful and multiply” (Genesis 1:28).

So much of a Christian’s journey through life is about giving up our own life and trusting the Lord to take over. It is not something we do one time, when we become a Christian, and then that’s it; personally, it is something I have to choose to do (or not do) on a daily basis. Giving up control over my own life is not an easy thing to do, especially for this independent-minded American. I look at these families that are trusting their family size to the Lord, and trusting the Lord to help provide for their larger families, and I feel they must have enormous faith to do so. Do I trust God that much? Should I?

I can think of many criticisms to this mindset. What about women with health complications during pregnancy? What about women who face multiple c-sections? What about families with special-needs children? What about families with limited incomes or small homes? What about women with a tendency towards postpartum depression? And I’m sure there are more. Should a Christian’s faith, if it is strong enough, be enough to overcome all of these complications? Is it wrong to use modern medicine (or natural family planning practices) to make informed decisions regarding fertility and childbirth? Can some people be “called” by God to have large families, while others are not? Or does the mandate to “multiply” apply to all Christian married couples? And how far does Psalm 127 apply?

I am not a confrontational person at all. I’m not trying to start a debate, but, rather, I’m just sharing something that I have been trying to make sense of for many months now. I’d appreciate (kind!) input!


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  1. Nanda

    Thought provoking article. There was a time, up until quite recently, that I might have placed myself squarely in the “Quiverfull” camp–that’s really funny there’s an actual movement with a name around the concept of having lots of kids. Anyway, my thinking has changed some in the past few months, and is tempered by dealing with some special needs in our family coupled with years of being short of financial resources (although still experiencing God’s provision). I would say that this tempering has given me some much needed humility on the subject and I think has revealed my own tendency to want to make mental pronouncements such as “A Christian family should *always* be open to having another child; to do otherwise is to not trust God.” That may be true for some, but not for others. It may be true for one family at certain times and not for other times.

    I think we absolutely should trust God with our children and how many we have, and having an attitude of openness to life doesn’t always translate into “let’s have another baby as soon as we can conceive one.” Maybe a couple really wants to conceive a child but God is leading them to wait and their waiting is an act of trust in Him. While artificial contraception is against my religion, natural family planning is perfectly acceptable to me.

    I don’t have all the answers either, not even for my own family. I am realizing, though, that this is another area where the right thing is a matter of what God is calling each couple to do at the time, and that given that a couple is giving up control of their life to God, He may lead them in different ways at different times on this issue. I also believe that the decision to have children should be made in unity. One spouse shouldn’t be imposing his or her will on the other. They should both be working towards the same thing. Of course, surprises should be welcomed by both!

    I did peak at the “no longer quivering” website you mentioned and at first glance it struck me that the underlying issue wasn’t so much the number of children the author had, but that she was living in an abusive situation. She didn’t just stop having children. She also divorced her husband. Assuming she had good reasons to do so, those are two separate issues: how many children to have and domestic abuse. I’m uncomfortable that the two seem to be mixed up.

    Having said that, I’m reminded of a conversation you and I had about the Above Rubies magazine and how many articles seemed to be devoted to wives in some way coming to terms with being submissive to their husbands. After reading a few of them between the lines I’ve wondered if those poor women weren’t actually married to jerks. I mean I may struggle with the idea of submission to my husband on a theoretical level, but practically speaking it’s a complete non issue because I am married to a very good man who has repeatedly earned my trust over the years. If there ever was a time where he had to decide something for the family that I didn’t agree with, at least I have years of trust and mutual respect to make it possible to trust and submit in this rare case (which by the way hasn’t yet happened in nearly ten years of marriage).

    So I guess my thoughts on the subject are that I think trusting in God and yielding control to Him will trend in an overall openness to new life (more kids) but that it’s not something you can turn into a legalistic formula and impose on everyone. A couple who is yielded to God and open to new life may be called to wait on having more children at various times and that is a matter for them to prayerfully discern. I am also making an important assumption that the husband and wife truly love each other and treat each other with respect. I think in situations where there is abuse going on, that dramatically changes the picture.

  2. admin

    I took just a quick peek at the “No Longer” web site also, but not enough to really undercover what the author’s situation had been. However, I did sense that there was some type of abuse going on. I think that often, the issues of submission, or patriarchal abuse, are mixed in with the “Quiverfull” movement (especially among women who are unhappy in the movement, duh). I didn’t really want to “muddy the waters,” so to speak, by bringing all of those complications in. I am struggling with the whole basic theoretical concept–is it wrong for me to impose my own limitations on my fertility? Should I leave my fertility up to the Lord? What does that look like? Etc. But of course you are right, and introducing any kind of abuse into a husband/wife relationship is not an example of a Godly marriage.

    Back when I was using the birth control pill, I often thought, “This is not 100% effective (because no birth control method is, except abstinence). Therefore, if God wants to give me a baby, He can, even if I’m on the Pill.” I wonder about that now.

    Mostly, I am realizing the need to truly pray and seek God’s will for my life–to ask Him what He wants me to do personally, and then follow that path, and not be so concerned about coming up with a blanket answer to this issue.

    And, also, I 100% agree that “surprises” are wonderful blessings that should always be celebrated!

  3. Erik

    It’s kind of amazing how legalism can creep into any issue Christians are wrestling with! When I was being homeschooled, it was a weird thing and many Christians strongly questioned how families like ours could “take our witness out” of the public schools. I was astonished years later to overhear a conversation in a church that clearly indicated the attitude had changed in that church to “of course Christians should homeschool, it’s the only possible spiritual thing to do!” Something my family struggled with very deeply had become a flippant proverbial axiom, requiring no thought on the part of believers in that particular church.

    Struggling with these kinds of questions is one thing that has helped me grow a lot over the years, although I never liked the struggle at the time. The most dangerous part of the struggle was always when I had found the answer for myself and immediately faced the temptation to impose it on everyone else.

  4. A.Roddy

    Andrea Yates was part of this movement too. She drowned her five kids because some preacher told her they were born in sin and women have the nature of a witch She believed she would be a better mother by giving them back to and saving them from sin. I think we each have our own will and should use it. Just when you think Amercia learned from jim Jones and Waco here we go agains. The truth about Quiverfull is being exposed little by little. Man made philosophies like Quiverfull put Christians in competition with each other. An interesting link on the subject

  5. admin

    Thank you for taking the time to read my blog and commenting. I think that as humans have a sinful nature, we are able to take things that are good and make a mess out of them. Also, we need to be careful about becoming legalistic. Like you mention, we need to be cautious of man-made philosophies.

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