Recently, I was waiting at the hospital for a decidedly difficult to find sharp's container when it happened. I was waiting in the discharge area with several other patients. Usually I can predict who and what form the 'it' is going to take, but that day I was not paying attention as I had already waited for quite sometime and there was no end in sight.
"Is this your first baby?"
"You are expecting? Is this your first pregnancy?"
"Yes, I am. No, it isn't."
"How many children do you have?"
"This will be our seventh."
I know that it can be more startling to hear this news that there is a young, 30-something mother happy to be expecting her seventh child, but I was still taken aback by this particular woman's reaction. Rising out of her chair, she adjusted the spectacles that balancing on her nose so that she could more effectively examine me. Her hands struck the desktop with such startling ferocity that several of the other patients jumped in their seats.
"You know what causes that, don't you?"
Up to now, I had only ever encountered a sneer ion the lips of some sinister ne'er do well in the pages of of some gruesome murder mystery. I am certain that the tone and expression on this woman's face would live up to everything literary sneering aims to be.
I wish I could pinpoint the moment in time when we became committed to the large family course we've been on for more than a decade. The most hopeful me would say, our wedding day. In reality it has been a struggle for each of us. Sometimes more, sometimes less, but it is a daily conversion for each of us. Growing in understanding of what exactly is this blessing of children, what it means to being open to to life, being open to God's will. Just because you decide on paper that you do not want to engage in the so-called 'contraceptive mentality' does not mean that you won't wrestle with what that means from time to time.
After I became pregnant with our third child, the jokes, comments, and questions began to abound regarding when we were going to stop having children. Three. It really amazed me that three small children could elicit such powerful emotion and derision. I was embarrassed, angry! and speechless at the near constant commentary that came from all quarters. I'm certain that Satan was doing all that poking and prodding and hackle raising.
Actually, mention any spiritual discipline and you will get the same angry response from the same people. So taking an average group of Christians and non-believers alike and raise the case for tithing or fasting or the blessing of children and you are likely to be met with the same level of vitriol, defensiveness, and rejection of the argument (maybe even a few ad hominem attacks if you are really lucky). And why is that? Because the Devil is at work there. Any time we obey those commandments that cause us to die to self, any small sacrifice that we make towards the building of our treasure in Heaven, anytime we choose LOVE over jealousy, avarice, covetousness, fornication, pride, et cetera our defeated foe makes a furious campaign to overwhelm us. It can be shocking the venom that snake has ready for us, but there it is. I used to be much more cautious to call out the Devil on these things, but if it is not the work of Satan then I am at an utter loss as to why my business is of any concern to anyone else.
I had a much beloved professor who used to pound table with both hands and declare, "Children! If you learn nothing else, you must know! Evil exists! It's a fallen world!" That lovely man saved me more time than I can tell you. I no longer try to understand the senseless, terrible things that occur in this world. If events at times seem to arise out of senseless chaos, out of insanity . . . then it is likely that they do.
So given all this, and the fact that we do have several more children than your average household, I decided several years ago, that I wanted to be a positive witness for marriage, large-than-average families, and for husbands and wives. I have been through the 5 stages of "you know what causes that" everything from humiliation to cordial silence to barbed comments to funny retorts and finally acceptance. I know this topic is covered ad nauseum, there's even a song. As I am rapidly approaching my due date (only 7.5 more weeks) I'm going to throw in my 2 cents: be a good witness. If you must say something, smile and say, "yes." Now unfortunately, this doesn't satisfy everyone, but it will satisfy most. It was not going to satisfy my cross-examiner that day. What a bizarre experience, this public trial of sorts as there were many present. All the same, I was resolved to neither be snarky, nor rude, nor defensive, nor embarrassed.
"You know what causes that, don't you?"
"Yes. My husband is a wonderful lover."
The coolness and unexpectedness of my comment knocked her off her feet. And maybe that seems to be a mean or crude joke to play on someone. But actually, what followed was a frank and lovely conversation about what we consider our vocation. Gone away was the Angry Sneerer, scurried off was the venomous snake, all that was left was a room of people who listened and heard, "the grace is bestowed when the blessing is received."
Win-win, I'd say.