“IT AIN’T ABOUT THE NUMBERS,” SALT MAGAZINE (11/06-02/07) BY CINDY MCDERMOTT
The first week of our married life Jim and I became increasingly uncomfortable with the idea of birth control. It was a feeling that came from deep down, not initiated by a person or event, but one of those unyielding feelings that must not be ignored. We were drawn to see what God had to say, and we saw that everywhere in the Bible children are considered blessings. We also saw that God promised to always provide for our needs. We recognized that God’s ways are much higher than ours and His purposes much more noble. God’s quiet tug on our hearts resulted in an early and easy decision: we would let God determine the size of our family. We would let Him determine when and how often the children came.
Thus we embarked upon what has been an interesting road. We have encountered those who had encouraging words for us, those who had puzzled looks for us, and those who tried to cut us down at the knees. Now and then we ran into a family that was like-minded, who not only understood the beliefs behind what we did, but understood the road from personal travel. Still, it was mostly a private road – not a long one, but one we walked alone with God, buoyed by His strength and love, as our conviction grew ever clearer and stronger.
Now, twenty-plus years later, I’ve become aware of some articles discussing our lifestyle. While all these years I’ve seen people’s reactions on a personal level, I now had the opportunity to see how people perceive this lifestyle on a larger scale. My reading has left me saying, “No, you just don’t get it!” at some times; “Wow! You get it!” at others; and at still other times I’m left feeling confused, as the writer said one thing and then turned around and said another. This has set my mind a running, and while I know that a couple of articles cannot adequately explain all those who are “Quiverfull”, I’d like to share with you what it all means to me.
First, it ain’t about a movement. I was startled to find out that unknowingly, according to some articles, we have been part of the “Quiverfull” movement for over two decades now. How does that fit into what I described as a private road? A movement is defined as an “organized effort to promote or attain an end” or “a series of organized activities working toward an objective”. But I don’t see it. I don’t hear of preachers across the country instructing their parishioners – and encouraging them – in the biblical teaching of turning their fertility over to God. I don’t hear Christian radio airwaves jammed with teachers confronting and asking their listeners why being “quiverfull” isn’t part of their surrendered Christian lifestyle. I don’t see “quiverfull” marches and rallies with its proponents shouting from the roof tops. If it’s a movement it’s only because our culture has suddenly turned around and found a whole bunch of people doing something so new, so countercultural.
Kathryn Joyce wrote in her article “Arrows for the War” (The Nation, Nov.27, 2006): “While economic and cultural complaints may attract believers to Quiverfull, conviction, and the momentum of a growing movement are what sustains them.” I beg to differ. While it’s nice to know you’re not alone (“the momentum of a growing movement”), it’s not necessary if you have true conviction. I didn’t get into this because of eloquent writers or charismatic preachers. Emotional supporters didn’t entice me. It was pure spiritual conviction that brought me to this place and won’t let me leave.
It also ain’t about the numbers. Ms. Joyce also wrote, “Population is a preoccupation for many Quiverfull believers.” Being on the inside looking out, I do not find that this is the case. True, if the birthrate of Christians is the same as our nonChristian counterparts, our voting influence will soon be outmatched, not to mention our influence on the culture. Numbers get you somewhere in this country. But that is not the motivating factor for most “quiverfull” families. Ms. Joyce also wrote, “Quiverfull parents try to have upwards of six children.” I would love to know where she got that from. She also wrote that the denominator of this movement is “babies, lots of them, for God.” Again, it ain’t about the numbers. It is not a race to see who has the biggest family. The size of your quiver doesn’t determine how holy you are. It is not about seeing how many children you can have. It is not about setting a goal of “upwards of six” or nine or nineteen. It grieves me when people think it’s about the numbers. That thought goes contrary to the heart of the issue. The heart of the issue is our hearts. It’s about surrendering every part of our lives to God’s control, including our fertility and thus our plans for our lives. It is accepting the size of family He has chosen for us – whether it be one or two children, or fourteen. It is recognizing that we are merely His servants on this earth. It is bowing to His Lordship and trusting in His plan, His wisdom, His provision. It’s about putting a practical face on our oft spoken words, “Take my life, Lord”. It is about wanting His plans for our lives, not our plans. It is about surrendering our all – no compromise.
And then, for a moment, I feel like Ms. Joyce gets it. She writes, “And in its most innocuous self-explanations, this is what Quiverfull is about: faith, pure and simple.” Ah, yes! What a sweet aroma! It is not about control or plans or using the brains God gave us. It’s about faith in the God who loves us and is so wise and perfect. Our wisdom and motives are tainted by sin and selfishness but His are not. I can rest secure. There need be no fear or worry or indecision.
It also ain’t about a war. Observers talk of the militaristic language quiverfullers may use – how they are building an army for God and arrows for the war. I agree with my fellow Christians that we are in the midst of a spiritual war – one that we often take far too lightly. It is my desire and objective to raise children who love God uncompromisingly and will serve Him unswervingly. I want my children to be great believers in the eyes of God, fulfilling His plans for their work in His Kingdom. My goal, however, is not to raise as many soldiers as I possibly can. My goal is to allow God to work His plan in my life, whether that mean three soldiers or many more. It is a matter of faith and commitment. The size of God’s army is secondary to me. I will leave that in His hands. I again quote Ms. Joyce, “But if the Quiverfull mission is rooted in faith, the unseen, its mandate to be fruitful and multiply has tangible results as well. Namely, in Rick and Jan Hess’s words, to provide ‘arrows for the war’. ” I want to produce sharp arrows for the war, but God can determine how many.
So for me it’s not a matter of numbers or a matter of war. It’s much more simple than that. And I still don’t feel that we are truly part of a movement, except perhaps in the sense that God is moving the hearts of people to follow Him in a new way, in a way that most of our generation does not acknowledge and does not understand. True, Jim and I have seen more fellow travelers on this road as of late, and we thank God for the fellowship. But we still look at it as a personal journey with God. And as one that has held no regrets.