When you see a paper chain dangling from the ceiling, you know something good is about to happen. When I was little, I made paper chains for everything — days until Christmas, days until my family left for our Disney World vacation, days until I graduated from high school.
My most recent paper chain has 73 links, 73 links marking the time until I marry my fiancé, Michael. But these links aren’t just blank rings of paper marking time until an event.
My paper chain is counting down the days until Michael and I become one, a couple in ministry together. Michael will lead our family and we will be full-fledged “grown-ups.”
So on each link, I decided to include one way I could pray for Michael. Today I’m praying for Michael as he continues to lead the youth worship team at church. Tomorrow I’ll pray for him as he prepares to lead me … and one day, our children.
“For you were called to freedom, brothers. Only do not use your freedom as an opportunity for the flesh, but through love serve one another.” Galatians 5:13
Our freedom in Christ allows us to celebrate the good things in our lives, things like getting married. But in that freedom, we are to serve one another in love. One of the best ways we can serve each other is by praying for each other.
I could spend the next 73 days focusing on what marriage will do for me and how it will benefit me, and stressing out about every wedding detail. But I’m not going to.
Is it sinful to be excited about getting married? Definitely not! Is it sinful to want a nice wedding and to plan for it? Nope. But I want to keep in all in perspective. When I take down the last paper link, after the vows are said and the honeymoon is over, Michael and I will be living out real life and ministering together.
And I’d hate to look back and see that I spent the 73 days before our wedding focusing on the party and not the marriage.
I was panicking … you know, the shaking, sweat on your brow, hyperventilating kind of panic only the thought of packing up all your belongings and moving to a new town can summon. Sitting in MY room among piles of MY stuff, I called Michael and listed all the things I would have to change because I was marrying him:
• MY home. Not only did I have to move to a new house, I had to move to a new town … a bigger town. I also had to move into a smaller place we could afford.
• MY job. I’m keeping the same job, but who knows if down the line that will have to change.
• MY schedule. Because I’m keeping my job, I am commuting 25 minutes back and forth each day.
• MY traditions. He told me that some holidays we would have to spend with his family, not mine. I told him MY holidays would not be interrupted by his family.
• MY free time.
• MY spending habits.
• MY name.
MY, MY, MY, MY, MY!
I loudly exclaimed that I just didn’t know if I could marry him because it would change MY life too much. The weight of all these changes suddenly became too heavy to bear. Upset, Michael said he had to go and would call me later.
And as I silently sat in the middle of all MY things, God spoke to my heart: “First, none of this is yours anyway. It’s mine. And second, have you ever considered the sacrifices Michael is making to marry you?”
I picked up my Bible from the depths of the piles on the floor and began to read.
“Yours, O Lord, is the greatness and the power and the glory and the victory and the majesty, for all that is in the heavens and in the earth is yours. Yours is the kingdom, O Lord, and you are exalted as head above all.” (1 Chronicles 29:11)
“For by him all things were created, in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities—all things were created through him and for him.” (Colossians 1:16)
Not only were all my “things” created through him and for him, but Michael was created by God and for God. And in that moment God helped me remember that Michael is a blessing and that the things I possess are a blessing and all of it is to be used for God’s glory. So instead of looking at the changes in my life as sacrifices (and burdens) I started looking at ways I could use the changes for God’s glory:
• God’s home: Our new apartment is in the same town as our church. We can use it to host the students in the student ministry we work with and for the college students we are friends with. I will also start hosting a girls’ bible study in that apartment next month.
• God’s job: For now, I still get to spend my days writing and meeting and encouraging the people in the community. My job is flexible and through it, God provides me money to live comfortably.
• God’s schedule: It may use an hour of my day to commute back and forth, but it gives me time to sing praises to God and spend time in prayer.
• God’s traditions: Family is great. I love Michael’s family. I love my family. The most important thing we do as a family (no matter which one) is glorify and praise God together.
• God’s free time: It’s true, once Michael and I are married, there will be less “me time” and more “us time.” But that gives us as a couple that much more time to bring glory to the Creator.
• God’s spending habits: Michael is a much better money manager than I. Working together on budgets will make us both better stewards of God’s money.
• God’s name: My name will change from Oliver to Drews. I never had a problem with changing my name … when I was stressed, it was just another change I could think of to make me feel sorry for myself. When I change my name, it will be a testament to the blessing God has given me in Michael and it is a very public expression of our desire to live in marriage as God intended it.
I’m getting married in less than five months. Cake, dresses, colors, rings, vows, songs … you name it, I’m talking about — and planning for it.
And all that marriage talk has got me babbling baby talk. And not the “Right after the ‘I do’s’ let’s start working on having a baby.” It’s more like “How on earth are we going to embrace this ‘marriage = getting to have sex’ thing without making a baby?”
I joke, but that’s where we are. “Family planning.” I call it “making a terrifying decision about the future of our family.” My fiance Michael and I have embraced God’s plan for intimacy only within in marriage. We’re active in our church and we’re starting pre-marital counseling soon. We seek the advice of godly couples in our lives. We’re trying to do things right.
But when it comes to family planning, we can’t find “the right answer.” Birth control? If so, what kind? Does it take abortive measures? If no birth control, what kind of protective measures will we take? What if we end up with a bunch of kids? The godly couples in our lives are all over the map when it comes to answers.
On one hand, it wouldn’t be the end of the world if we had a baby. God calls children a blessing, a heritage from the Lord. Psalm 127:3-5 says: “Behold, children are a heritage from the LORD, the fruit of the womb a reward. Like arrows in the hand of a warrior are the children of one’s youth. Blessed is the man who fills his quiver with them! He shall not be put to shame when he speaks with his enemies in the gate.” And after reading the Beyond Bath Time blog, I have more than enough reasons to argue that I want to have children (and lots of them) in the future.
But Michael and I will be newlyweds. He’s still in school and I’m still trying to figure out what I want to do with my post-college life. Having a baby in the next couple years would be tough and, well, inconvenient.
As Christians, Michael and I believe life starts at conception. So where does contraception fit in? We are excited to have kids (we want four) and already have names picked out for most of them. But we’re scared … scared to make a decision about how and when our family is going to get started.
Bottom line — We don’t want our selfishness to defer one of God’s greatest blessings.
Unfortunately, the Bible doesn’t give us a time line or a rule book when it comes to having babies. In “Beyond Bath Time — Motherhood As A Sacred Role,” author Erin Davis puts it this way: “There are layers of questions related to this topic that are worth asking. For example, are there good reasons to prevent childbearing through the use of birth control? If so, when? … How many? As many as possible? …”
“Let me be honest at this point and say I don’t have all of the answers to your questions,” she continues. “While I do think that God calls us to mother and values parenting … I can’t tell you exactly when you should have children, how many children you should have, and if there is ever a reason why forgoing motherhood, even for a season, is the right choice.”
Truth is, there aren’t answers to all our questions. And, we could seek the advice of a million godly couples and probably never come up with the same answer. The Bible may not say much about when to have kids, or how many to have, or if we should or should not use contraception, but it does say that when we pray according to His will, God hears us. (1 John 5:14)
And I have to believe that if God is good enough to bless me with a husband-to-be as awesome as Michael, He’s going to bless us with some pretty great kids, when He says the time is right.
What about you? How did you approach the “baby topic” before you got married?
The lack of a washer and dryer at his place means Michael hauls endless amounts of dirty laundry over to my apartment about every three weeks. While putting piles of fresh linen-scented button-up shirts on hangers, we scrub out those conversations every couple should have before they get married.
On this particular day, the conversation landed on the big guy up … err … the fat guy in a red suit who eats cookies and scares the daylights out of me. Yep. Santa Claus and his minions — Tooth Fairy and Easter Bunny.
While hanging shirts on hangers in the wrong direction, Michael told me he didn’t want to do the Santa Claus thing with our future children.
I was relieved. I truly wasn’t sure what he would say. I grew up believing in Santa Claus but have known for a long time that’s not something I want to do with my kids. As it turns out, Michael’s family never promoted Santa in their home. He doesn’t remember having Tooth Fairy and Easter Bunny being a part of their celebrations, either.
I believed in them, too, but after I grew up, Mom showed me a bag of my baby teeth she pulled from the depths of her dresser. She beamed while I nauseously vowed never, ever to play the Tooth Fairy for my kids.
Our beef with Bunny and the Claus is that they really do take away from the reason why we celebrate Easter and Christmas — the resurrection and the birth of Christ. (The Tooth Fairy is just a disgusting tradition.)
When you see a Santa statue hovering over a Nativity scene and it reminds you of God watching over His people, it’s time to rethink why you celebrate Christmas.
The choice we’ve made doesn’t come without resistance. I got into a discussion about choosing a Santaless Christmas with some co-workers not too long ago. I don’t even have kids yet, but they told me I am going to ruin my kids’ childhood, that my kids will never have any imagination and when they get older, they will resent me for taking away their Christmas joy?
Santa is their Christmas joy? No.
Here’s the true joy of Christmas: “She will give birth to a son, and you are to give him the name Jesus, because he will save his people from their sins. All this took place to fulfill what the Lord had said through the prophet: “The virgin will be with child and will give birth to a son, and they will call him Immanuel”—which means, “God with us.” (Matthew 1:18-25)
Not only that, but the idea of Santa Claus and the Easter Bunny has the potential to teach our children some falsehoods that could have severe consequences in their spiritual walks later in life. If not having Santa in our house makes my kids a little less imaginative, that’s fine by me. I’d rather them know the truth, and know that I always told them the truth, than for them to get excited about Santa sliding down the chimney to leave lots of presents.
As you prepare for marriage, what kinds of discussions are you having about family traditions? Those kinds of conversations are worth having before you have a child who wants to sit on Santa’s lap at the mall.
As for Michael and I, we’re going to keep having those conversations … and I’m going to teach him how to hang shirts on hangers the way my family does it.
(Note: My inspiration for this post was from author Erin Davis, who has recently been tweeting about this topic. Learn more about her here.)