Earlier this week I was sitting in the living room of a friend, a woman who had lost her husband of 57 years just a few days earlier.
A small tabletop Christmas tree stood in the window, its festive glow belying the somberness of the moment. Both of the widow’s sons joined us, and we enjoyed a two plus hour visit looking back on the extraordinary life of the husband and father they were blessed to call their own.
John had been a pastor of a prominent local church, and he had literally devoted his life to the Lord and his beloved congregation. When I asked what day of the week he typically took off, they all smiled. As it was, he may have taken hours off, but he was almost always “on.”
“But Dad included us in almost everything he did,” his oldest son shared. “We’d go to the church on Saturday each week and walk every inch to make sure everything was right for the next day. He made me feel welcome by his side.”
Welcome by his side.
Pastor John had discovered one of the secrets to good parenting – inclusion and involvement. It’s not necessary to always separate the different spheres of your life. When children get to participate in what a parent is doing, they’re more likely to appreciate its significance.
The ongoing news of the declining birthrate is often treated as a demographic problem. It’s reported as a fact, like the weather or Dow Jones Industrial Average. In truth, it’s a much deeper issue with far more at stake than money or the latest storm.
People aren’t having children because they don’t see it as an attractive pursuit or lifestyle. Writing in Vox earlier this week, Rachel M. Cohen, who is childless, observed: “To our generation, being a mom looks thankless, exhausting, and lonely.”
Of course, it’s not just women who apply such negative adjectives to children and parenting. Many men have expressed a similar disdain for sacrificing their time and resources in the raising of the next generation.
The “DINK” (Double Income No Kids) phenomena has been trending on TikTok and across other social media platforms this week.
“We’re DINKs, we get a full 8 hours of sleep and sometimes more,” one couple shares. “We get desserts and appetizers at restaurants. We’re DINK, we can play with other kids and give them back. We’re DINKs, we still do it 3 times a week.”
The Daily Wire’s Matt Walsh, who has six children, pointedly and accurately referred to such an existence as “a meaningless life of consumption and materialism.”
What’s so heartbreaking about the intentional childlessness push is that proponents will never really know what they’re missing – until it’s too late.
To make parenthood great again, moms and dads need to talk openly and often about how meaningful, fulfilling and satisfying it can be to care, nurture, and mentor sons and daughters into young men and women.
Pastors need to encourage the faithful to step out of the selfishness mode and lift up their eyes to God’s perspective.
“Children are a heritage from the Lord, offspring a reward from him,” wrote the Psalmist. “Like arrows in the hands of a warrior are children born in one’s youth. Blessed is the man whose quiver is full of them. They will not be put to shame when they contend with their opponents in court” (Psalm 127:3-5).
Pastor John loved shepherding his flock, but he loved being a father even more, which is why he saw his children as part of his ministry. His formal pastoral ministry came to an end nearly twenty years ago, but being a father to his two sons carried on. One of them was with him the afternoon he died, a fitting conclusion to a life well lived.