Almost certainly, someone will read this post and think that I’m writing about something of which I have no personal experience, and therefore have no right to have an opinion on. Yet it’s something I feel strongly about, because I am a daughter of Eve, because eventually I will experience it personally, because I’m an auntie, and because….I’m human. I read an article in TIME magazine (16 September 2013) about women and couples who choose not to have children. There’s so much in this article of “I like my life the way it is, and I couldn’t have it the same way if I had children”. Some of it is, “I would want to be a good parent, and I couldn’t if I kept the same lifestyle”, which is a slightly better way to look at it, but still chooses something else over parenthood, or “I’m scared of children”. I can understand how people who don’t understand the moral imperative of God’s commandment to “multiply and replenish the earth” could see other things as more, or equally, important as the decision to have children. But it’s sad because the message is that parenthood is just another choice, another thing to do or not do on the platter of middle-class life. Obviously here I’m not talking about people who’d do anything to have children but can’t, or who don’t because they’re not married (that’s me anyway!). I’m talking about people who see it as a choice rather than a responsibility or a privilege.
As I read, I thought again about what our first parents chose – their noble, sacrificial choice to leave paradise in order to be parents. They had even more to give up than the people who are mentioned in the TIME article, or than anyone else conceivably could give up today. They gave up immortality (for a time), walking and talking with God Himself, an idyllic life without worry, perfectly beautiful bodies that didn’t decay…. Yet they considered the chance to give life and nurture it of greater worth than all these things. Their lives in Eden, though apparently blissful, lacked so much – the depth of real experience; the true joy born of suffering; the understanding of having a Saviour and the hope of eternal life with God; the satisfaction of sweaty work; everything that a difficult mortal life would contain – a life that was definitely not Eden, definitely not blissful, but somehow more beautiful because it was more real. Because it contained others to sacrifice for, to live for. Because they became parents, and life on earth was. They didn’t know this, though, until after they made their choice. Eve later rejoiced, “Were it not for our transgression we never should have had [children], and never should have known good and evil, and the joy of our redemption, and the eternal life which God giveth unto all the obedient” (Moses 5:11). Adam also rejoiced in their decision, saying: “Blessed be the name of God, for because of my transgression my eyes are opened, and in this life I shall have joy” (Moses 5:10). As wonderful as life in Eden was, it was apparently nothing compared to the richness and complexity of a life spent gaining knowledge through the difficulties of mortality. The pains of parenthood were, to Adam and Eve, glorious, because through them they knew themselves, they developed true character, and they were able to teach their children the truths of God. They discovered their identity and destiny; their difficult choice to give up their lives brought them infinitely more life.
In a recent post, I wrote about the divine missions of Adam and Eve to show how these are a glorious (and logical) thing, not something to be ashamed of or to find a ‘better’ alternative to. Understanding these missions leads to the conclusion that parenthood is possibly the most sacred thing here on earth. To Eve was given the responsibility of companion and motherhood, while to Adam was given the responsibility of companion, protector and fatherhood. The role of protector was created for the purpose of children. Mother needed to be protected because she was mother, and children protected because they were vulnerable and needed to grow to maturity, where they could take on their own roles. Adam’s very purpose rested on Eve’s – and both of their missions rested on parenthood. Otherwise there was no purpose at all in their being there. It was the whole reason for them leaving the Garden of Eden in the first place – or else they would have forever been the only souls on earth. A whole earth, all of the gods’ effort, for the progression of two people! That traumatic, courageous, momentous choice of our first parents to leave paradise-on-earth was made so that we could be. What will we do now? Will we reject their noble sacrifice and enhanced understanding of the purpose of life, or will we continue their courageous legacy? Will we mistakenly think that we have more on our own, or that the world is a better place without more of us, or will we realise what our first parents did – that nothing compares to fulfilling the glorious purposes of our lives here?
Related post: Saving Families