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Delaying Childbirth, Part Three

John Stonestreet | BreakPoint | Thursday, February 21, 2013

Delaying Childbirth, Part Three

A few weeks ago on BreakPoint I spoke about the cost of delaying marriage and childbirth. I also pointed out what the increasing trend of delaying childbirth says about us and about how we view children: Are they just another item to check off the bucket list? Are they something we want once we’ve got all of our ducks in a row? Or are they bearers of God’s image — ends in and of themselves, and not a means to our personal gratification?

Well, we got a lot of good and thoughtful comments on those commentaries, and I’d like to respond.

First of all, ever since Chuck Colson went to be with the Lord, I’ve been so honored to step up to his BreakPoint microphone along with Eric Metaxas. But I’ve also come to realize a little of what used to frustrate Chuck: There’s no way to say everything I want to say about an important topic in just four minutes. Now, in the radio world, four minutes is a lot of time, and I can’t tell you how grateful I am to the many Christian stations that give us this time together.

Nonetheless, on any given topic, there are a bunch of things that I could say that I just don’t have time to say.

So, on the subject of delaying childbirth, I didn’t get to address how two audiences might view the topic: Folks who for whatever reason married late and still want children, and single Christians.

Right off the bat, let me say this: I wasn’t saying that if you’re over 30 or 40 you shouldn’t have children. Not at all. A listener questioned me on that point (very politely), and I really appreciate it. What I was addressing is a real and disconcerting social trend. I certainly wasn’t trying to give advice to older married couples.

Most of the comments I received, however, were from single Christians. While many agreed with my points, they also wrote movingly about what it’s like to be single in one’s late 20s, or in one’s 30s or 40s, and longing for marriage and children.

As Christian writer Enuma Okoro recently wrote in the Washington Post, “I am not suggesting that we refute or ignore science. ... [But] as a Christian woman who is in the ‘high-risk’ bracket and not in a position right now to have a child[,] there is this crazy, but convicting element of trust, and hope. I have to trust that if raising children is in my future then God will make a way even if the ‘facts’ say there is no way, or that the way is full of risk and danger.”

Let’s be real: marriage doesn’t always happen when you want it to. In fact, in recent years, the church has been experiencing something of an epidemic of unintended singleness.

There are all sorts of reasons for this. There’s the fact that single women greatly outnumber single men in today’s church. In many churches, there’s an artificial separation between married people and singles, which leaves the singles without role models, guidance or support.

And then there’s the faulty advice from many Christian leaders and writers about how dating and courting should work — teaching that makes the whole process seem so complicated and frightening that it just scares many people away — or, even worse, creates false, unrealistic expectations.

Instead of trying to convince single Christian adults that if they play by all the courtship rules God will send along Prince or Princess Charming, pastors will do well to emphasize that there are no guarantees in this vale of tears. And like many of our commenters wrote, our hope and trust for our futures lie in God, not in some method.

Christians do have reason to be concerned about demographic shifts, and about a worldview that puts children last. But we also have a responsibility to remember that God calls people in different ways and asks them to do different things. That means we have a responsibility to care for, encourage, and support each other in whatever station of life we’re in.

Thanks to everyone who wrote or called. Do know Eric Metaxas and I are listening.

John Stonestreet, the host of The Point, a daily national radio program, provides thought-provoking commentaries on current events and life issues from a biblical worldview. John holds degrees from Trinity Evangelical Divinity School (IL) and Bryan College (TN), and is the co-author of Making Sense of Your World: A Biblical Worldview.

BreakPoint commentary airs each weekday on more than one thousand outlets with an estimated listening audience of one million people. BreakPoint provides a Christian perspective on today's news and trends via radio, interactive media, and print.

Publication date: February 21, 2013

Delaying Childbirth, Part Three