To Clarify... I Surrender
The following article first appeared in the Feb-April 2010 issue of SALT Magazine.
TO CLARIFY... I SURRENDER
By Cindy McDermott
One of my most defining characteristics – in other people’s eyes – is the size of my family. Our family of thirteen children stands out against the norm of our culture. In contrast to the typical family of two or three children, and even the large families of today of four or five, our family likely looks like a crowd or a mob to others. People seem to think our home is chaotic and resembles more of a circus than a family. And while people don’t seem to understand the mechanics or experience of the large family lifestyle, it is the reason behind our family size that is even more misunderstood. Even when I explain what we believe in this area, I still so often feel misunderstood, by both Christians and non-Christians alike. They miss the point of what our family, personally, is really all about.
With the advent of octomom, the Duggars, and large family reality TV shows, the large family has become more apparent to America, and often under quite a bit of criticism. Perhaps you have heard of the “Quiverfull movement”. While the term ‘quiverfull’ was started by Christians (referencing the blessing of a full quiver of children mentioned in Psalm 127), the media has picked up on the term and often misrepresented it to its consumers, whether purposely or not, I do not know. And as always, any term can mean different things to different people. So let me tell you what it means, and doesn’t mean, to me.
First of all, though I may be quiverfull, I don’t feel like I’m a part of any movement. Jim and I have had this set of beliefs for nearly twenty-five years. Beliefs we based on the Bible. There were no seminars we attended or books that we read. There were no public speakers, to our knowledge. We didn’t know anyone with the same views. There was no bandwagon. It was just Jim and I, doing what we believe God called us to do. Over the years we have met like-minded people, which has just been an encouragement to us. But the idea of a movement or a crusade is just rather foreign to us. It is between us and God.
More practically speaking, quiverfull is not about amassing children. It is not a race to have the most. It is not having the mindset of “the more the better”. Having a large family doesn’t make you more holy than others. Let me repeat myself, because this is so important. Being quiverfull is not about having lots and lots of kids. You can be quiverfull and only have one child. Or have none. It’s not the number that makes you quiverfull. It is the attitude of your heart.
Readers of SALT know we have discussed this issue before. Those times we have focused on such topics as the purpose of marriage, God’s wisdom, God’s will, not tampering with what is not broken, and God’s promise to provide, all as they relate to being quiverfull. But I’m going to go in a slightly different direction this time. I’m going to talk about surrender.
Surrender. You see, that is what being quiverfull is about. That’s what it is all about. We talk about surrender in church, but what does it mean? To surrender means to give up possession of something. It means to give up control of something. To yield to the power of another. Do we really understand what this means? We give some money or time to the church and we feel we’ve surrendered. But surrender is to give up everything we have and are and put it all at God’s disposal. To let Him use it. Christ is to be Lord, which means we are not. We are merely His subjects; we are not the ones in control. 1 Corinthians 6:19-20 says, “Do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit, who is in you, whom you have received from God? You are not your own; you were bought at a price. Therefore, honor God with your body.” We are not our own anymore! We were bought with the blood of Christ and so our lives now belong to Him.
We talk about giving God our talents, time and treasure, but where does our fertility come in? Somehow, in the current, popular way of thinking, it falls under common sense. We are supposed to “use our brains” when it comes to having children. We are supposed to control our fertility. But that’s not a true surrender, is it? We apparently think we can handle the situation better than God. That our mind can sift through it all and make a better decision about having children than God can. This contradicts Proverbs 3:5, which says, “Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding,” and verse 7, which reads, “Do not be wise in your own eyes; fear the Lord and shun evil.” We are not to depend on our own wisdom, for God’s is higher than ours. And these verses come with a promise: “In all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make your paths straight.” (verse 6).
If we are serious about giving God our fertility, we will need to be prepared to surrender a few other things along with it. One is our personal tendency of likes and dislikes, of preferring to do certain things a certain way. If we say, “I can’t have a lot of children because then my house wouldn’t look the way I want it to,” or, “because I’d have to change the way I do things”, we’re still holding on to our control. We can adapt our ways to accommodate the family size God wants to give us. We can train our minds to concentrate on the long-term, spiritual goal of raising children for God instead of being distracted by things that don’t really matter. We can train ourselves to set our hearts and “minds on things above, not on earthly things”, for our lives are “now hidden with Christ in God.” (Colossians 3) Peter wrote, “Therefore, prepare your minds for action; be self-controlled.” (1 Peter 1:13a) We can learn new ways of doing things and submit our tendencies to doing God’s will. To say that “God didn’t make me for that” just doesn’t cut it. He knows what He made us for.
We may also need to surrender what we always pictured our life would be like. If we believe in Jesus Christ and trust Him for our salvation, that also means we are giving Him lordship of our life. When we do that, He may take us down a different road than we expected. But being in the center of God’s will is the best place for us to be. There’s no internal struggle there. There is peace. We may face challenging and difficult times, but those are external. There is great rest and joy in being where God wants us to be. And again, we have a promise: “For the eyes of the Lord range throughout the earth to strengthen those whose hearts are fully committed to him.” (2 Chronicles 16:9a) And Psalm 37:5: “Commit your way to the Lord; trust in him and he will do this: He will make your righteousness shine like the dawn, the justice of your cause like the noonday sun.” There are great and varied blessings waiting for us as we truly walk with God! And I just have to add this one: “... and let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us. Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy set before him endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. Consider him who endured such opposition from sinful men, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart.” (Hebrews 12:1b-3) This earth is but a temporary existence. We are to give our all to glorify God, for we have set our eyes on those things that are eternal.
And that’s where we are in regard to our family size. We gave up control of that area of our lives to God. Is this where we expected to find ourselves twenty-five years after we were married? No. When we married we expected maybe five children. When we gave our family planning over to God, we didn’t worry about it anymore; we didn’t hold any expectations. Has it always been easy?
No. It has not come without challenges. But I’ve learned so much and experienced so many blessings. We have no regrets. None at all. And I hope people understand that we are where we are because we gave that area of our lives to God. We’re not out to have the most kids on the block, just the number God wants us to have. So, one more time, just to clarify ... I surrender.
©2010 SALT Magazine, 2131 W. Republic Rd. #177, Springfield, MO 65807, www. saltmagazine.com