By Emily Carpenter
Ever since I was very young, I wanted to be married. I desired the companionship and intimacy that it would provide. However, there was an “elephant in the room” that I was not sure of how to address if I ever were to enter into a serious relationship: I was not sure that I really wanted children!
I loved my career and the independent lifestyle I had developed during my years of singleness. The idea of raising children sounded like drudgery. Furthermore, there were many ways that I could see myself serving the Lord that seemed much more “worthwhile”, like evangelizing to my neighbors, teaching Bible studies, and pursuing overseas missions. I felt that having kids would distract and prevent me from continuing to pursue these opportunities, which is something that I did not want to happen.
When God brought Jer, my (now) husband, into my life, he really began to change my heart about marriage and having children. Through a slow (and somewhat painful) process, I began to realize that marriage was not just a gift for my happiness, but also a wonderful and humbling opportunity to represent the church in her relationship with her heavenly Groom, Jesus Christ. This was a type of “sacrifice” I had not envisioned for myself before! Rather than embarking on a list of heroic achievements for the kingdom, God wanted me to die to myself in marriage, letting God change and grow me through marriage as well as reflecting Him in how I submit to Jer. Through the process, God was also going to grow me closer to Him in a way that I would not have if I were busy “serving Him” in my own self-driven ways.
Regarding children, God showed me that they are an important part of His command for humans to “be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth and subdue it” (Genesis 1:28). For Christians, this command takes on a much larger scope as it applies not just to physical multiplication, but to kingdom multiplication! One of the greatest tasks God gives us humans is to invest in the next generation and teach them about Christ. Parents have a unique privilege and responsibility to fulfill this task starting with their own children. This is a true sacrifice. While the work of a parent is often a mundane task without much earthly glory, it has the potential of an impact greater than most other earthly relationships that we can have.
Jer and I have been married two years now, and we are expecting our first daughter, Zoey Gray, in March. We could not be more excited. Seeing a new life develop inside of me is one of the greatest joys I have ever experienced. And God’s timing could not have been more perfect in leading us into this new season of parenthood!
At the time of writing this, I am 7 months pregnant. Physically, it has been challenging, but doable. Being a relatively healthy person, I definitely hoped that I would avoid many of the common pregnancy symptoms, but this has not been the case! I have faced the nausea, back pain, fatigue, and many other symptoms that commonly come with pregnancy. The difficult part has been giving up the sport of running due to physical limitations during pregnancy. However, the most amazing part of pregnancy has been feeling Baby’s movements and kicks inside of me!
This pregnancy has also brought about a wide variety of emotions. When I first found out I was expecting, I was actually in shock and denial. While Jer and I both knew there was a very real possibility of me becoming pregnant, I was still in disbelief when we received the positive test. I was overwhelmed by all of the implications of being pregnant and raising a child, and I wanted to run away from the results. However, we trusted that God was in charge, and that He would give us what we would need to raise this child. Through the pregnancy, this fear has turned into joy and excitement over welcoming this new life into the world.
As the months have progressed, I have been amazed to see how God created my body for this task! Pregnancy is a miraculous phenomenon. Watching my body grow and adjust to support this baby has left me in awe at God’s incredible creation, as well as my unique design and role.
Through it all, God is teaching me to let go of some ideals that I have always had. Rather than being naturally physically fit with few obstacles, I am learning the daily discipline of physical exercise through pain and weakness, in order to keep my body as strong as it can be for continuing to serve Him. This also translates to an important lesson about spiritual disciplines and growth through struggle. In addition, God is teaching me to rest and be okay with accomplishing less each day, or rather to be invested in the work of “growing a baby” when I would feel more productive being otherwise occupied.
Throughout this season, God has opened my eyes to His amazing creation, infinite wisdom, and perfect timing. I have also been able to truly understand the fact that He sustains us as well as all of His creation. Just as God has grown and sustained Zoey inside my womb (all I’ve done to contribute to this is eat and sleep!), God also sustains each of us both physically and spiritually, every day.
“My son, do not forget my teaching, but let your heart keep my commandments, for length of days and years of life and peace they will add to you.
This reminder to stick to the age-old truths of God has really encouraged me in my faith as the world shifts around me. The idea of bringing a child into this fallen, chaotic, and confusing world is very intimidating. The promises that come with holding fast to God’s commands are so comforting, and they are a reminder of the responsibility and privilege that my husband and I will have to teach these commands to our children.