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If children are a reward from Him, where does that leave me?

June 25, 2009

You probably heard about the recent scandal of the governor of South Carolina. He left town for five days without telling anyone. Turns out he was in Argentina with his mistress. I read the statement his wife Jenny, mother of four, made to the press, and it was fine until I came across this: Psalm 127 states that sons are a gift from the Lord and children a reward from Him. I will continue to pour my energy into raising our sons to be honorable young men.

I read the first sentence at least five times. I would be okay if someone said that children are a blessing from God. A gift from God, sure.  But a reward? Those with children are rewarded by God.

Reward: re·ward // (r-wôrd)n.Something given or received in recompense for worthy behavior.

So the crack addict mother I’m representing who has six children was rewarded for worthy behavior by God? God rewarded the kids in the backseat of the car after prom? Do you Jenny, think that you are better than those who cannot conceive since you quote to us that children are a reward from God?

She didn’t mean to say it like that of course and its probably the lawyer in me deconstructing her statement as I did. I don’t mean to offend any Christians who believe in this verse. It just really struck me, the casualness of the statements and the silent implications her simple quote carried for me.

Disclaimer: I’m joking about the title. I don’t really think I’m being punished. I’m just feeling a bit reflective as I considered her words said with such absolute certainty.

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11 comments

  1. great post. i’ve often contemplated this line of thinking/theological belief many hold, especially in light of my present fertility circumstances…my huz and i were just talking about this very thing the other day…i’m not sure how to reconcile the theology i was raised to believe with the reality of life–my life. if i was a researching-type person, i’d look into the hebrew for the word that was translated “reward” in jenny’s version. i’m not though, so i won’t… 🙂


  2. Thanks Lilly.

    That is a good point about the hebrew word that was used. I’d like to believe that the true version did not say “reward”, however, its troubling that in this translated form that most people read today, no one flinches and believes it to be true.


  3. You’re right, you’re deconstructing the words used in the English translation of the verse in light of our struggle with infertility. But the verse is actually emphasizing that children are a gift, not a burden. It’s also making the parallel that Christians are the treasure (children) of the Lord just as children are a treasure to their parents.

    That being said, I do struggle with why we’re infertile. Was it just that I waited too long? Why did it take Troy and I so long to find each other? How long should we keep trying? Are we not good enough people to be parents?

    I think perhaps for me, God is creating in me a true thirst and desire for a child. I’ve gone from feeling like it was something we should do, to something I wanted to do for my husband, to something I truly desire. Just as I needed years to learn what being married and really meant (and I am still learning how to be the best possible wife I can be), I have needed time understand the depth of commitment it takes to raise a child. I am not forsaken, forgotten or punished; I’m learning a lesson I need to be the best possible mother I can be.

    But I think infertility is a very unique and personal journey for each person. If nothing else, it’s taught me the value of prayer, something I was not consistent about before.


  4. wow – i’ve always heard the phrase as “a gift from God” never heard it as a reward.. but I went straight to Bible gateway, and you’re right – she’s right, whatever, it’s there as the word “reward.”

    I am sure that is not what was intended when written. I do believe that we go through these trials to draw closer to Him.. but thats still really really hard to take.

    I prefer to focus on the fact that I’d rather be in our situation than the wife of the governor who had an affair with some Maria in Argentina. (not that i’m comparing, but you know.. )


  5. yuck, i hate it when people use religion to excuse or defend an action. quoting the bible does not make her a good person!


  6. It’s hard not to react that way to such ignorant things people say. People say that kind of stuff all the time not even aware what kind of impact it will have on someone.

    I had a friend miscarry and someone at her church told her that she must have done something bad to deserve that kind of punishment!!! I would have been so incredibly shocked and appalled, I wouldn’t know what to say!

    I’ve realized that even though someone may not have “meant” something a certain way, they need to realize their language may affect others adversely. Sometimes even earning them a slap in the face from us fertility-challenged women!


  7. Stacey, your perspective of the context with which the verse is dispensed (i.e. to remind people that Children are a good thing not a burden as children were surely burdens for many back in the day) is a good point. Thanks for the perspective. If God is trying to create thirst in us, I’m ready for the IV . . . I am dehydrated! 🙂

    Gabby, Good point, yes I’d certainly rather be in my own shoes than the Gov’s wife’s shoes. Poor thing.

    Katery, amen to that.

    Alison, I cannot believe someone would say to someone that a miscarriage is punishment. That makes my jaw drop, how horrible! Yes, despite the best of intentions, people should be careful what they say


  8. Hi sweetie,

    Personally, I think most people are far too pat about religion and assuming they know God’s will. Spouting a Bible verse doesn’t distract from the fact that he went on a mistress trip to Argentina on Father’s day weekend. Not exactly an example for an honorable young man to follow.

    (Also, it drives me crazy when people take verses out of context. Also, it would be worthwhile to look up various translations of that word/verse or the word in the original Hebrew. Ugh, sorry, verse slinging just gets to me!!)

    In religion & spirituality, not everything is black & white – you were bad so you get punished, he was good so he gets a reward. There are ineffable mysteries to the spiritual life, and at the end of the day the one thing I know for sure is that I cannot claim to know the mind of God, but I do trust that He loves me & has the best in mind for me. I can only try to do the best with the circumstances that I’ve been given & ask for His help in dealing with them.

    Motherhood is an amazing station in life, & should never be devalued, but isn’t it interesting that so many utterly devout & faithful women in the Hebrew Bible were tested with childlessness, at least for a time? At least seven women (Sarah, Rebekkah, Rachel, Samson’s mother, Hannah, Michal, & Elizabeth) are mentioned who were initially childless, though six of them did finally conceive after many years.

    The first case: Abraham & his wife Sarah were promised children that would be a “blessing to all nations” but didn’t conceive until 25-30 years *after* that divine promise. Talk about patience & faith!

    In fact, Sarah had such an “advanced maternal age” (90!!) that she actually laughed when the angels approached her to announce the glad tidings of a son (Isaac) to her!

    In the Christian Bible, Mary was tested in a different way, by the Virgin Birth which led some to slander her reputation. To bear Jesus as a single mother at the tender age of 12 is no small undertaking but, again, she approached it with faith & patience.

    In the last of the Abrahamic religions, Islam, from the Mothers of the Believers to Rabia of Basra and onwards so many inspiring and legendary women never had any biological children. But they have millions of spiritual children.

    While Islam recognizes that “heaven lies under the feet of the mother”, it also values women as complete beings, and sees that not everyone’s path will be the same. But the highest spiritual rewards remain open to all, regardless of gender or motherhood.

    All of the women in the Abrahamic religions were tested in ways that must have been extremely difficult given their time & circumstances. But what they shared was faith in God & patience with His will.

    Perhaps cultivating those traits is the best we can do before the loving but ultimately unknowable mind of God.

    Love,
    Baraka


  9. While Islam recognizes that “heaven lies under the feet of the mother”, it also values women as complete beings, and sees that not everyone’s path will be the same. But the highest spiritual rewards remain open to all, regardless of gender or motherhood. <– How did you know I was writing about that as I wrote my next post? Wow. Sometimes God speaks through people. Thank you for your well thought out response. *hugs*


  10. The biggest issue I am trying to answer is: If I am to not become a mother, who am I? Who will I be?

    I think you are spot on with this question. It is a recurrent question, one we deal with whenever we don’t fit into the norm. E.g. when I had to leave work due to my illness I discovered I, like so many Americans, defined myself by my job. It took me a long time to find out that there was so much more to who I am.

    As I, like you, contemplate and pray for motherhood, I’m trying to figure out who I am. What is it that remains stable at my center no matter how much the world whirls and changes around me?

    It is fertility that I seek. But it is one that lies beyond the body and is instead a fertile and centered soul that will nourish me no matter how my life changes, with or without a job, with or without a husband, with or without a child.

    I haven’t figured it all out yet & obviously a lot of the possibilities scare the crap out of me, but I’d love to talk to you about your thoughts soon.

    Love,
    B


  11. PS- I forgot to mention that in the Christian Bible Mary’s cousin, Elizabeth, was also of advanced age & childless but persevered in her faith & eventually gave birth to John the Baptist.

    It’s interesting that all these women gave birth to extraordinary children. It says a lot about the effect of a strong and centered mother on her children and their ability to transform the world.



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