About the Guest
What's keeping you from starting your family? Today, Steve and Candice Watters, parents of four, tell why having children is a good thing for couples and for the Kingdom.
What’s keeping you from starting your family?
Bob: If you’re thinking that you, someday, would like to start a family, you need to know—the longer you wait, the greater the risk. Here’s Steve Watters.
Steve Watters: Two percent of people deliberately don’t want any children, but 20 percent of couples end up not having kids at all. You know, its one thing to lose these babies through miscarriage, and through still births, and other tragedies—but another tragedy is how many lives don’t even get begun because the timeline, the economy, the culture, or the pressures around them are keeping them from even being able to pull the trigger to try.
Bob: This is FamilyLife Today for Tuesday, February 21st. Our host is the President of FamilyLife®, Dennis Rainey, and I’m Bob Lepine. If someday you want to have a family, Steve and Candice Watters say, “The sooner—the better.”
And welcome to FamilyLife Today. Thanks for joining us. You remember—this was many years ago—I brought in an article to the studio one day—a couple that had written about their decision, as a Christian couple, to be childless.
Bob: They’d decided that—in fact, what they were saying was, “We believe we can serve God in our ministry more effectively if we choose to be childless.” Now, they were not infertile. It was not an issue of infertility. It was just a choice not to have kids.
Bob: I remember you looked at that and said, “I don’t think that’s right.”
Dennis: You want to begin the broadcast on that controversial note? (Laughter)
Bob: Yes, I thought we ought to just roll it out here; don’t you think?
Steve: Let’s start digging.
Dennis: Well, as I look back at the Scripture, one of the first commands in the Bible, “Be fruitful and multiply, and fill the earth.”
Bob: And so the couple that says, “Well, we’ve looked at it. We don’t think we’d be good parents.” In fact, that’s one of the things a lot of couples today are saying, “I don’t know if we want to have kids because we’re afraid of what kind of parents we’re going to be, given the background we have.”
Dennis: Everybody’s got the choice. You’ve got to place your faith in the right object of your faith. To me, I’m going to err on the side of Scripture. I’m going to err on the side of trusting that what God said, when He commanded us to be fruitful and multiply, that it is, as I’ve found it, very redemptive.
Bob: And you would say the command to the man and the woman in Genesis 1 is a command that follows, not just to them, but goes to the rest of humanity—to all of us; right?
Dennis: I don’t see an exception clause there in Genesis 1—that it was just to Adam and Eve, in the Garden. I think it’s a part of the church. I think we need to be talking more about how children are a blessing.
We are not bullish on children today. They represent the next generation of those who carry the light and who are salt to the next generation. If we don’t multiply, then I promise you—there’s what?—two billion, who are in the Muslim faith, who will carry their torch. I think Christians need to be the most fruitful, multiplying people on the planet.
Bob: Okay, I got him started here. So, now that we’ve stirred it up.
Dennis: Well, we—
Bob: We’ll introduce our guests.
Dennis: I will, in fact. They have written a book called Start Your Family. Undoubtedly, they now have a different perspective of children, as well. Steve and Candice Watters join us on FamilyLife Today. Steve, Candice, welcome to the broadcast.
Candice: Thank you.
Steve: Thanks a lot. This is fun.
Dennis: What’s your attitude toward children today? You now have four.
Candice: We have four.
Dennis: You didn’t start out with a positive attitude, Steve. You expressed you were all about, really, the balance sheet of the checkbook—trying to figure out how you were going to pay for a family. You didn’t start out bullish on children; did you?
Steve: No, I didn’t. I’m glad you used that phrase because that’s one I’m using more these days. I realize I was in a bear market, you know; and I think a lot of my peers are in a bear market because you do the cost-benefit analysis, and it doesn’t add up. You think about all the headaches, and the frustration, and all the things you see in the mall—you know, haggard parents. It’s not exciting to sign up for—the way it’s laid out to you.
And then you go to people in the church; and you say, “Well, why should we do it?” It’s hard to find a parent, a pastor, somebody else out there, who will give you a great Christian reason other than, “Well, that’s what we did.” Or you know, maybe they’ll say, “Well, the Bible says be fruitful; and it’s a blessing,” but they won’t unpack it for you in light of all your financial questions, all of your fears, and—
Steve: —broken homes, and all those things.
Dennis: I said, as Bob was asking me the question, “...children are redemptive.” They redeem us from ourselves—from a self-centered life. They call us to live our lives on behalf of a person who has profound dignity and has the image of God. Candice, how did your attitude toward children change?
Candice: I started to realize that, as I became a parent, that God is a parent. I think we see God differently when we have our own children because we realize we are to God the way they are to us. We are a handful to God the way that children can be a handful to us. And yet, we are His dearly-loved children; and He calls us to be a conduit of that love, then, down to our children—and that He can flow through us to them.
They are my Great Commission. They are the ones that I want to share the good news of the Gospel with. They are—really, children are the opportunity that most Christians have—because most Christians eventually marry—to take a part in a creative act, to be like God, to demonstrate that they were created in His image, and to create new life and then to pour themselves and their faith into those kids and evangelize them for the future. They are the hope for the next generation.
Dennis: They really are and I fear, Candice, that there’s a generation of young couples, starting out their marriage—that they’re really back to the bull market again. I think they’re really selling God short here.
Dennis: They don’t realize the tremendous privilege that He’s given parents—and I love the way you put it—that we have a chance, as a couple, to join with God in creating life. What an unspeakable privilege! I mean, I’m looking at our family photo—where once there were two people, there’s now this wide-angle photograph of our family get-together.
Candice: Color-coded shirts.
Dennis: Yes, oh, yes, you got it! It’s all these human beings. It’s now 28 human beings.
Candice: For the Kingdom. You know, who understands that principle better than anyone is the Enemy of our souls. He doesn’t want couples to have children and raise them up for God’s glory. He wants couples to stay selfish and to stay focused only on them. That’s not to say that a couple, who can’t have children, can’t be fruitful because God gives us the ability to be fruitful wherever He has us. He is sovereign.
But for the couple who is able to have children, who says, “No,” to that, they are missing out on one of the best parts of being married. It is one of the main reasons God gave us marriage. We used to understand that—even our marriage vows talked about that.
Steve: Well, they said that we were ordained in marriage for the procreation of children. You know, I think it’s one of these things where there’s a design flaw in current marriages. There was a period after the Industrial Revolution where marriage experts realized, “We’re going to have to rethink the family here and rethink marriages.”
They pitched this idea that marriage should really be about this companion—a high, intense, emotional connection between this couple. “Let’s downplay those other aspects.” Ever since then, we’ve got this concept of the soul mate and, you know, your marriage should be about this person completing you and all these things. We’ve lost this sense of how children are a part of the design and were meant to bring a new life and depth to the relationship.
Bob: Mary Ann and I had friends who decided, early on in their marriage, that they were going to be a childless couple. In fact, the husband—I think he was in his late 20s when he had a vasectomy so that they could make sure that they would be childless.
I remember talking with them about it; and she said to me, “If you knew the childhood I grew up in; if you knew the damage that had been a part of my childhood.” She said, “I don’t have any frame of reference in terms of modeling; and I have such a level of emotional baggage in my own life, I’m afraid of what kind of a mother I would be.” If you were sitting down with a young woman who is 28 and going, “I would just not handle children well.” What would you tell her?
Candice: I would start by saying God calls us to be fruitful, not fearful. That’s the starting point. Once you embrace that and say, “Okay, Lord, I’m in this to do it Your way; but God, I need You to get me healthy.” There are so many resources to help someone like that get to the point where she can be a good mom. I think God wants to redeem families, and He often redeems the parents through the children.
Dennis: He really does. That’s a good word.
Steve: We saw that happen with a co-worker at Focus on the Family. He likes to tell the story. He draws this family tree between him and his girlfriend, who he got pregnant. He shows all these broken branches and these bad apples on this tree. He said, “This is what we brought together. When I found out she was pregnant, we went to the abortion clinic. They said, ‘You just need to abort this baby.’”
God did something—inspired them to keep this baby. As God started doing a redemptive work, they got married. They now have five kids, but the neatest thing is what God’s done—not only to start a new chapter in this new life—but it went backwards. Now, there are branches on that tree that have been restored—
Bob: Parents and siblings—
Steve: —bad fruit that has been turned into good fruit.
Candice: The mending.
Steve: It is not the end of the story. I mean, you look at the Bible; and so often, God is having to do a redemptive work in a family. He’s not just looking for perfect families to commission His spiritual work around the world.
Dennis: We can get a good picture of our 28 human beings, if you take enough pictures; but the reality is, “They are all selfish, sinful broken people.”
Bob: Works in progress.
Dennis: They are works in process. When you started talking about the Bible, I was picking mine up. I was going, “That’s what this Book is all about. It’s about imperfect people; people who have failed.”
Candice: You talk about family dysfunction.
Dennis: Oh, yes! I mean, from Genesis all the way to Revelation. It’s all about God intercepting broken lives. I like the way you said it earlier; and if I might, I’d add this to it, “God doesn’t call us to fear. He calls us to faith.”
He calls us to risk stepping out and trusting Him. To that woman, Bob, that you were describing—I’ve looked those women in the eye, and I’ve looked some fathers in the eye, who are really terrified at the thought of bringing a child in and not knowing if they’re capable of doing it. The Scriptures promise His power is perfected in what?
Dennis: Weakness; weakness. I don’t want to just sound trite here. I’m not minimizing the fear, but I am trying to maximize the faith.
Steve: The sad thing is that so often the faith is not what is carrying us—that, so often, in the Christian body, the things that are forcing our decisions about children aren’t God tugging at our hearts as much as it is our hearts being conformed more to the image of the culture around us, that doesn’t like kids—that sees kids as the threat.
Candice: A consequence.
Steve: The threat to all the things fun in life to the consequence that you want to avoid from your sexual pleasure. We just hope to call more people to reflect deeply—to actually go back to God and say, “God, what is Your heart here?”
If you look at the Scriptures, God is not threatened by kids. It was Herod who was threatened by babies; it was Pharaoh who was threatened by babies. It’s always our spiritual Enemy who is trying to create fear and antagonism towards babies. It’s God who’s using babies to bring new life to the world.
I read somewhere that there’s no holy book that has more examples of specific details of babies as the Bible does. It points to the fact that, when God wants to do something new and hopeful in the world, He uses babies. The Enemy doesn’t like that at all.
Dennis: No, and I have my Bible open to the page that reminds me of babies.
Psalm 127 has two footprints in it—little ink footprints of my granddaughter, Molly, who lived seven days in the summer of 2008. You wouldn’t believe the power of a little life of seven days. The reason I have it in Psalm 127 is it says, “Behold, children are a heritage of the Lord; the fruit of the womb is a reward.”
Later on in Psalm 128, the last verse in that chapter—it says, “May you see your children’s children. Peace be upon Israel.” I’ve seen my children’s children. I’ve held my granddaughter, just hours before she died. I nicknamed her Mighty Molly because her life was mighty, even though short. Candice, when I opened my Bible and showed you that Scripture and the footprints, you began to cry. There’s a reason for that; isn’t there?
Candice: I just am stunned by the stories from moms who have had babies who haven’t lived long and whom doctors said, “You need to end this pregnancy because your baby won’t make it.” Some of the babies did die in the womb and were stillborn; and yet, like Mighty Molly, they have changed lives. Some of these babies lived a couple of hours.
A friend of mine—her daughter lived a couple of hours. She has ministered to millions of women through her story, and I’m just amazed. God does not despise life at all. It’s the Enemy who despises life in every form. A baby that lives seven days, or seven minutes, or 70 years—God has an idea when that life is conceived, and He has a plan for that life—no matter how short or how long. It is all for His glory.
Dennis: One of your four is in heaven?
Candice: One of our five, yes. We had a baby in between our first and second. He would have been our second, Griffin George, and I had a miscarriage at 14 weeks. So many lessons learned through that. What’s so neat is that we did a little baby book for him. We had the ultrasound pictures, and we named him, and wrote Scripture for him. Our kids talk about him; and they know they have a brother in heaven—waiting to meet him.
What a powerful thing for little kids to think, “I need to get to heaven because I need to meet my brother.” To God be the glory that they have an added incentive to be there for eternity. My prayer is that all these little ones, who are given life, even short lives, will challenge our abortion culture because they are making statements on behalf of all the babies who aren’t given a chance.
Dennis: Yes, they have no voice. I just want to speak to the couples who only have one child or two. It seems like the mantra of two and no more has been around now for three or four decades. I’ve traveled overseas. I’ve been to countries where they have a one-child policy. Let me tell you something. That’s not what you want. You don’t want a country of families that only have one child because it’s within a family that you learn the art of relating to other selfish, sinful people. You learn the art of how to resolve conflict. You learn how to give. You learn how to share. You learn how to love.
I would just encourage those who are listening to our broadcast, “It’s not a matter of us dictating to you how many children you have. That would be arrogant, but it is a matter of challenging you to pray.” Go to God, and say, “God, do we have the right number? Is this what You want us to have?” Be open and be available to be obedient because children really are a blessing.
Bob: Are you trying to break the news to us? You and Barbara?— (Laughter)
Dennis: What did Abraham say? (Laughter) If Barbara came in and announced that—I don’t know, man. It is like, “Whoa!”
Candice: You know, Dennis, when we had three children, I thought we were done. My plate felt full, and so we were talking about, “Maybe we won’t have any more.” Then I got word from three different doctors that we were done because I was in premature ovarian failure. Having that imposed on me from someone else was a totally different experience.
I had a deep grief and sadness, thinking at age 37, I couldn’t have any more children. And suddenly I thought, “I don’t want to be done. I want more blessings. I want more of what God has for me.” We told the kids we didn’t think we could have any more, but we could certainly pray. We prayed and God, in His miraculous power, blessed us with another pregnancy. I found out I was pregnant just after I finished writing the window chapter of the book, where I talk about my window slamming shut.
To God be the glory, and for our kids’ benefit, to see God at work and to do something so miraculous. It is one thing to think you’re done and to make that call yourself, but you have to remember that your body will do that for you at some point. Are you really ready to turn it off before you have to?
Steve: It’s also a reminder for the women out there—because we know the frustrating struggle of infertility—and we see so many stories—and our friends—and we’re reminded that God opens and closes the womb. That’s hard to grapple with. It’s hard to understand His sovereignty; but as we experienced it, we know He is able and that we know that He can bring fruit from our lives—spiritual fruitfulness, while we are trusting and believing. But know that He is also the same One Who says, “He puts the barren woman in her home as the happy mother of children,”—that He is able.
Dennis: Yes, and as you were talking, Steve, I just thought of my life verse, which has the handprint of Mighty Molly. It’s where I got the concept of her life being mighty.
“Praise the Lord. Blessed is the man who fears the Lord, who greatly delights in His commandments. His offspring will be mighty in the land. The generation of the upright will be blessed.” Who wouldn’t want to have that written on their tombstone?
Dennis: I mean, to have attempted to have walked with God, and generally been obedient, and then to have had the privilege of having a herd of children that He helped direct, and had the privilege of shaping their conscience and the spiritual direction of their lives, and letting them go, and letting God use them. What a privilege.
I’m just grateful to God for you two, Steve and Candice, for your work on this book. I think this really is a timely book. The subtitle is Inspiration for Having Babies. I do think this is a generation that needs to be inspired.
Bob: You think there might be a baby boom out of this?
Candice: I hope so.
Bob: Is that what you’re thinking? You’re hoping?
Steve: We’ll take it.
Bob: We’ll look back on this and they’ll go, “What happened back there that caused all those babies to be born?” They will say, “It was when Steve and Candice were on FamilyLife Today. (Laughter) Nine months later, “Look at what was happening!”
Candice: Praise God!
Steve: We hope that. You know, it will be parents who have vision for it because I was surprised to hear, even in marriage, a third of pregnancies are unplanned. If nothing else, just to be able to go into family with vision, with preparation, so that when all the joys and challenges come your way, you’re prepared, and you realize, “God wants me to do this. This is part of His plan, not only to how He’s going to shape us, but what He’s going to do in the world.”
Dennis: What a great way to end a broadcast. To all the married people, if you can, according to God’s will, go make a baby! (Laughter)
Steve: Be inspired—(Laughter)
Bob: In fact, here’s the assignment. (Laughter) First, get a copy of the book, Start Your Family—
Dennis: Oh, no, no, no!
Bob: Don’t do that first? (Laughter) Okay, after you’re done, go online at FamilyLifeToday.com.
Candice: Don’t walk! Run!
Bob: We have copies of the book in our FamilyLife Today Resource Center. I think I’m blushing.
Our website is FamilyLifeToday.com. You can go online for more information about the book. Again, it’s called Start Your Family: Inspiration for Having Babies by Steve and Candice Watters. Our website is FamilyLifeToday.com. If it’s easier, just call us toll-free at 1-800-FL-TODAY, 1-800-358-6329, that’s 1-800-“F” as in family, “L” as in life, and then the word, “TODAY”. We’ll make arrangements with you to have a copy of Steve and Candice’s book sent to you.
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And we want to encourage you to be back with us again tomorrow when Terry Hargrave and Shawn Stoever are going to be here.
Terry: I think it’s a strategy of the Enemy that when you’re in your deepest crisis—you look around and you only see two options. You see some couples in crisis that just throw in the towel. “They give up. Why shouldn’t we just give?” Or you look the other direction and you just see couples that look like they’re laughing, and happy, and having fun. You feel like, “I’m the only one, here, stuck.”
Shawn: Couples come to us and say, “You know, I cannot imagine dealing with what I need to deal with in front of other couples.” At the end, they say, “I can’t imagine doing this any other way.”
Bob: Shawn Stoever and Terry Hargrave are going to join us. We’re going to talk about what they do when they get away with couples who need some intensive time, working on their marriage, getting through some of the issues that have been hanging them up. I hope you can tune in for that.
Bob: I want to thank our engineer today, Keith Lynch, and our entire broadcast production team. On behalf of our host, Dennis Rainey, I'm Bob Lepine. We will see you next time for another edition of FamilyLife Today.
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