The Church says: “God has called the vast majority of believers to have families. Dating isn’t ideal, but you should only date with the goal of marriage in mind. If you know you won’t marry this person or that person, don’t date this person or that person. Courtship or Betrothal are more in line with Scripture’s teaching about having godly relationships. You should pray for God to send The One to you. In the mean-time, faithfully attend church and complete any marriage preparation Bible studies so that you are ready for your future marriage. Marrying young is ideal as it will be easier to raise the children. Having children is part of God’s design for family. You mustn’t have too few nor too many. You must trust God to give you the right size of family just for you. It will never be too much for you to handle because God knows your limitations and he will not exceed them. Continue in the faith, bring your family to church, and obey all instructions of the Bible to the letter to prove that you love God. He will reward you for your faithfulness.”
In some recent months, I’ve heard that certain prayers will yield certain results. Pray this and God will do that. Pray like that and God will do this. It’s as if there is some arrangement by which if we keep our end of the deal, God will have to keep his. There’s just one problem – scripture doesn’t always paint the rosy picture that the Church tends to teach. The real world proves to be inexplicable in that light – when a young adult dies too soon, when a child gets really sick, when natural disasters destroy everything one works so hard to build. When work isn’t steady but the bills are. “God, I’m doing my level best to keep my end of the deal! Why aren’t you?”
What about the believers that God did not call to have families? He called them for some purpose, but what? What could possibly be of more cosmic importance than having a family like everybody else? The church can’t answer that question. All it can do is to tell people to keep on praying that God will send The One. But for how long? Five years? Ten years? Fifteen? Then what? Do we try to help God out? Speed up the process? Does it suggest faithlessness to do so? Or faithfulness that God will make everything work out?
You know the story of Abraham and Sarah right? God told them that they would have a son. As the decades flew by, nothing seemed to be happening. So Sarah did the only thing that was culturally acceptable – she helped God out by sending Hagar to have her husband’s child. Because Hagar is a Sarah’s servant, everything Hagar owns is Sarah’s – including the child. That’s what Sarah thought God wanted, after all, it was perfectly legal. Only after this was done did God clarify his promise and that Sarah would be the one to bear the child – she laughed and well, you know the story from there. I wonder if God spent all that time waiting for Ishmael to be the first born so that he could choose Isaac instead. God does that a lot, choosing Jacob over Esau, David over his eldest brother, and Joseph over Reuben. The latter story does involve Rachel giving her servant Bilhah to Jacob just as Sarah did. Even in the New Testament, there’s not much talk of families for the guys actually about the work of the church. Paul was famous for being married to the ministry, which seems to be true even for the married Peter. Jesus didn’t say that he came to give every believer their very own family, but to make them a part of his family.
Families are made up of all sorts of different people, all ages, all marital statuses, and the like. A family that excludes, ignores, or marginalizes the unmarried, the widows, the divorced, and the married couples without children is not worth being a part of – and any church family that idolizes the nuclear family is going to be surprised when Heaven is not really like any family on earth.