September 26, 2012

Why We ‘Chose’ to Have Beautiful Babies

by Josiah Grauman

mutation

I have a genetic mutation called Loeys-dietz syndrome, which in addition to physical and external complications, also weakens my arteries and causes them to rupture easily (depending upon the location of the artery, this is both life-threatening and faith-strengthening). My wife and I have three beautiful children named Abigail, Noah Jay and Silas, two of whom also have Loeys-Dietz. Frequently, we get ‘asked’ about why we chose to have children knowing that they would likely be born with a life expectancy of 26 (though with the surgical replacement of arteries, this number can be significantly improved).

Non-believers ‘ask’ us why we did not abort.

Believers ‘ask’ us why we wouldn’t have chosen to adopt instead.

Doctors ‘ask’ leading questions about our family history. When they realize we chose to have children knowing that my mutation would force half of them to live with physical pain, their faces make it obvious what terrible parents they think we must be.

QuestionsBut Jesse Johnson recently  asked me : What Biblical principles guided you to have babies?

First, a bit of background:

A. I do not believe it is sinful for a married couple to prevent conception. I am not wading into the controversy of the pill, but rather simply stating that if conception is legitimately prevented I do not think it to be sinful.

B. We love the idea of adoption, admire those who adopt, and have not ruled it out for our family.

C. My grandmother was what doctors call a ‘spontaneous mutation’. From there on, the mutation had a 50% ‘chance’ (Prov. 16:33) of passing on… which it did to my father and to me. I am therefore a third generation LDS patient (Yes, I am an evangelical missionary who has Loeys-Dietz Syndrome).

LAC-USCD. My grandfather was a doctor, my father was a doctor, and my first job was as a certified hospital Chaplain at LAC-USC. Medicine runs deep in my veins in every sense of the word.

E. I was convinced prior to meeting my wife Crystal that I would never hinder my Gospel ministry by getting married and certainly not by having children.

ZygoteThe first time I seriously considered having children was at Stanford University. Crystal and I were dating, and the doctors shared with her the marvelous medical advancement: We didn’t need to have children with LDS. They joyfully presented us the ‘miraculous’ news that they were now able to only implant zygotes which did not have LDS. My Hospital Chaplaincy training helped me maintain composure, explain that I believed that would not please my Creator, and then excuse myself to weep, horrified at the thought of how many “me’s” they were throwing into the trash simply because they failed a genetic test.

The fact was incontrovertible: Doctors did not think my life was worth living. So, in all honestly, I must confess that I first starting thinking hard about filling the planet with more me-mutants just to prove that I and my children were just as fearfully and wonderfully made as any of God’s image bearers (Psa. 139:13-16).

Of course, more than that, these events sent my mind reeling with questions:

Is it ever sinful to have children? What does make a life worth living?

Children of AfricaDoes there come a point when it becomes sinful to have too many children if you can’t reasonably provide for them? What if you know your children will go through trials? If we say yes, does that mean that families living under intense poverty in Africa should never have children because their life-expectancy will be much lower than if they lived in the United States?

Did Shem wonder if it was even worth it to have children if they were only going to live a couple hundred years instead of a millennia? What would a married mutant like me have done before contraception was available… especially in light of the fact that Paul commands married couples not to deprive one another (1 Cor. 7:5)?

The more questions I asked myself, the more clear the answers to these questions became. So here are the four general principles that most guided our thinking:

grey area1. This is a ‘grey’ area. If I cannot make a Biblical case that something is sinful, then there is liberty. If a family decides to stop having children, I say praise God, if a family decides not to stop and has 15, I say, praise God, may both of them be fully convinced in their own minds and may they rejoice in what God gives them. Paul says about marriage in 1 Corinthians 7 that he wishes to spare us from worldly troubles, and thinks it’s best not to marry at all, but he doesn’t call it sin, so there is freedom.

God's Will2. Objective #1: we need to be Biblical parents. Just because we are ‘free’ to do something, doesn’t make it best (1 Cor. 6:12; Phil. 1:10). So we prayed, we sought counsel, and the longer we waited the stronger we desired to have children (See: Found: God’s Will for further details on how this guided us). Crystal strongly desired to have a large family. I loved the idea, but thought it would be hard to biblically parent more than two LDS children given the fact that they would need surgeries and the other children would still need us to instruct, discipline and not exasperate them. Nothing is impossible for the Lord, but it seemed overly difficult, especially with my own physical limitations, to parent children in different houses and hospitals simultaneously. So, we prayed that God would give us many children, but ‘decided’ (Jas. 4:15) that we would stop when He gave us two with LDS. If that meant 7, we would praise Him, if 2, we would praise Him just the same. Three was God’s perfect number ;).

3. Children are a blessing from the Lord (Psa. 127:3). This is a basic principle that guided us and encouraged us to have children, but one which we have come to understand much more clearly after being entrusted with them. We are so thankful and so grateful to the Lord. In fact, it seems almost silly to me that I once thought they could ‘hinder’ my ministry, knowing now how often the Lord uses them to open doors to speak of His matchless grace. Our children are a blessing in every respect. (Obviously, I am not saying missionaries who prevent pregnancy are sinning, in fact, I think Paul would say they do well, I’m simply speaking of our own experience).

4. The only thing that matters is Christ. To know Christ for 26 physically painful years on earth is incomparably better than to live a millennia without Him and then suffer eternally in hell. This knowledge, through the Holy Spirit, enables me to live my life here in the flesh with complete hope and joy. If a doctor pities me because he thinks my life must be terrible, I pity him. He knows not the joy I feel nor the hope that I have. I’m not mad my parents chose to have me, I’m grateful!

The potter and His clayNow, of course, I’m not saying that we should choose pain, or that I go around hitting people so that the Lord would sanctify them, but I am saying that we and all our progeny will have pain, this issue here is only one of degree… a degree chosen by Him, not us, and for our good (Rom. 8:28). So if someone doesn’t want to have children because they might have pain, or because they might not be able to provide for them… then nobody should ever have children!

Furthermore, if I pray “Lord, do whatever it takes to mold me into the image of your Son,” knowing that His molding will most likely require the painful removal of my flesh, but I pray it nonetheless because I know that He knows best, why would I not pray the same thing for my children? And if my mutation has a coin’s flip chance of passing on to my progeny, is not He who sovereignly sustains all things capable of making it land heads 7 times in a row (Prov. 16:33)?

I trust my God, that He will not give me one ounce of pain more than I need for His glory, and I earnestly pray that He will do the same for my children… and for you and yours as well! May He do whatever it takes to save us, be it cancer, a car accident, LDS, or if He wills, a long joyful life of effective ministry.

Josiah Grauman

Posts

Josiah is the director of the 'Instituto de Expositores', a Spanish language training institute at Grace Community Church, where he and his wife serve as missionaries.
  • Damon Loomis

    Thank you Josiah for your thoughtful words about deciding whether or not to have children when you know there’s a possibility of passing on your physical disease. However, as you know, even without that kind of disease, we all will pass on to our children the spiritual disease of sin (if I can call it that). Thankfully, Jesus Christ provided the perfect cure for that disease. The most important question is whether or not people have obtained that spiritual cure, and are passing that knowledge on to their children.

    • http://www.elidex.org/ Josiah Grauman

      Damon,

      Amen. Nothing else matters but Christ.

      And unfortunately, our children aren’t born diseased with sin, 100% percent of them come out spiritually still-born, dead in their trespasses and sins, and only Christ can save. Having a physical condition only makes it that much clearer for me how important it is to share the gospel with our children and with all people at all times, only the gospel has the power to save. His death and His resurrection on the third day alone provide a way to escape the wrath that we deserve.

      Lord bless,
      josiah

      • Damon Loomis

        Thank you Josiah. Being still-born is a better way to put it – we are dead spiritually until becoming a new creature in Christ.

  • Taneil

    I am grateful that you and your wife sought the Lord and made a wise decisions on if you should have children and how many to have.

    I would like to ask how you came up with your belief that Paul would say a married missionary couple would do well not to have children. In the passage he talks about a man doing well not to get married, but Paul doesn’t address a married couple not having children in that passage. Thanks

    • http://www.elidex.org/ Josiah Grauman

      Taneil,

      Thanks for the opportunity to clarify.

      When I mention a missionary ‘preventing pregnancy’ I was trying to address two issues:

      1. I was trying to strongly underline the fact that I think this is a grey area, and I didn’t want to give the impression that it is sinful for a missionary to ‘prevent pregnancy’.

      2. By prevent pregnancy, I’m not talking about having 0 children necessarily, but rather not having 18 children (which would be normal if a married couple never prevented pregnancy). I think Paul, in 1 Corinthians 7:26-35, gives a number of different principles about a) living like we are not even married, b) the married man worries about worldly things, the single man has undivided attention to Christ, etc.

      So I think, in general, these principles could be applied to the amount of children a missionary has. If you have 18 children, you, like the married man, will necessarily be “anxious about worldly things”, how to take care of your family. Paul does not say this is wrong, he is “not laying any restraint”. So I was simply applying this principle and saying that if a missionary decides, with the desire to travel to remote tribes, etc., that to only have 3 children it would be best, I think Paul would say he does well, he does no wrong.

      I hope that helps to clarify,
      josiah

  • Kim K.

    A wonderful testimony. Thanks for sharing. Just one quibble – please avoid referring to biological offspring as children “of our own.” It implies, indirectly, that adopted children are someone else’s. I have biological and adopted children and I cringe whenever I hear someone using this terminology.

    • http://www.elidex.org/ Josiah Grauman

      Kim,

      Thanks for the correction. I edited the article to remove that phrase. In the place where I mentioned it I was speaking of Crystal’s desire to have a large family, which we thought would have to be both biological and adopted, but the paragraph was obviously confusing and unclear, so thank you.

      I obviously don’t want to give the impression that adopted children are inferior… I’m adopted into God’s family after all!!! And thanks for your willingness to adopt, may the Lord bless you as you raise them,

      josiah

  • kevin2184

    Thanks so much for writing this Josiah. I praise God for your example of Christ to us all.

  • Pam Snider

    Thank you Josiah for your eloquently written article. You and Crystal have been a blessing to Andy and I from both afar and near. Thank you for your evident faithfulness and leaving the result of that faithfulness in the Lord’s hands! You and your family are loved.

  • Norm Harris

    Completely unreleated to this particular article: I get the Cripplegate email every day and enjoy reading them. I do have one small suggestion. It would be good to include the author on the email just like you do on the webpage. I always like to know who I’m reading.

    • http://thecripplegate.com Jesse Johnson

      Thanks Norm. I literally don’t think there is a way to do that. I’ve tried. I’ve talked to friends at cnn.si, ESPN, and the folks at Standard Theme, and they have told me that they can’t do that on their blogs either. So if anyone has any way to make Feedburner pull that info, let us know.

      • elainebitt

        Can’t the authors simply sign the article at the bottom with their names?

  • Benita

    Muy bien: Queridisimo Josiah. Cuando no conocemos al Señor hacemos muchas preguntas y tu las ha contestado en tu articulo. Gracias por enseñarnos y por explicarnos tu sentimientos y abrirte con nosotros, los cristianos a veces cometemos el pecado de la critica por ignorancia.(yo). Te quiero mucho y a tu familia tambien, Dios te cuide y a tu familia. Doy gracias a Dios por ti y por tu familia.
    Benita.

  • http://www.facebook.com/samvandyke Sam Van Dyke

    Thanks Josiah, encouraging words. It is a tough decision about how many kids to have, thank you for the biblical wisdom clearly explained. God is working in you and your families lives.

  • Papa

    Thank you Josiah for your solid discourse on such a living issue. It is so easy be academic and spiritual on these matters, but you come from the living side of these trials. As your father-in-law, I know you’re smart. And I know your trials. Thank you for such a well balanced, thoughtful article. I know that you have been working on it for a while because it isn’t just academic. It is life for you. And it should be for all of us.

    I remember the first time you asked me to be the pastor you met with for your Discipleship Lab in seminary. We spoke of many things but never about marriage – it was a settled issue: you would never marry. And you lived accordingly. Because of LDS, you specifically ignored a couple of things: 1) girls, and 2) advice motivated to prolong your life but diminished your exposure to lost souls, especially people who suffered. Your shortened life expectancy made time precious to you. You ignored the doctors and family members who advised you not to choose a job in a hospital where exposure could compromise your health, perhaps fatally. One problem: people in hospitals frequently meet their Creator sooner than people not in hospitals. So you entrusted yourself to the call of God who groomed you for your first job.
    A couple of years after that first D-Lab, you asked me a third time to be the pastor you met with. By that time, I was more comfortable with you and loved you like my son. I recall asking you about marriage because it seemed to me that avoiding girls could be troublesome, but more obvious, your believing children could do more eternal good in short years than many lifetimes of unbelieving children. The world is dark and children of the light shine. Little did I know that your children would be Crystal’s and that they would call me Papa.
    I realize this is a comment to your article and should be short and directed to you. So first, let me say thank you for your “beautiful babies” who call me Papa and thank you for being a good husband to your Crystal.
    Just yesterday a young pastor asked me if we considered your LDS when you asked us to marry Crystal. While he was engaged, his fiancé was diagnosed with insulin dependent diabetes. His future father-in-law told him it was okay if he changed his mind because he had a lot of wood and could build an addition to the house for her and use the left-over wood for a box about his size. After we laughed, he asked what we considered when you asked for Crystal’s hand.

    Your health was never an issue and neither was the possibility of your affected children. Your article already sufficiently and so eloquently addressed the topic. But we did say no at first. We said no because you had so sharpened your skills to avoid girls that you developed qualities which may have been harsh to our tender Crystal and not helpful to her growth in Christ. You worked hard during the couple of weeks of “negotiation” to assure us of your desire to honor God as a husband. We are ever so grateful for the fruit of your marriage.

    Why should we choose to have beautiful babies? Why should we choose to get up and face the day? Why should we do anything? Because everything is about Jesus. I am so grateful and overjoyed to be your children’s Papa. May we all beg for the work of God to make us more like Christ (Phil 1:6) and for the strength to do His will as we proclaim Him to all everywhere (Col 1:28).

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  • Caleb Kolstad

    Good stuff! Thanks for sharing.

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  • http://www.facebook.com/paulbyoon Paul Yoon

    I’m challenged and encouraged. Thankful for your bold trust and faith in the Lord. May the Lord bless your family and bring many to Christ because of your testimony.

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