There’s a widespread assumption in many Christian circles that faithful families must be large. Big families have obviously been open to life, open to God’s will for their lives. They have been blessed by God, the reward for their faith and trust in God. And if you’re a Christian whose church denomination teaches against the use of contraception, a large family is obvious proof that you’re not breaking any rules.
That makes it really hard to be a small family in the Church. You might try to steel yourself against the judgmental stares and comments, but they can still hurt. You might tell yourself that no one else’s opinion matters but your own and God’s, but saying that is very different than actually believing it. The truth is the truth regardless of who knows it or believes it, but the truth can hurt. Especially when it’s a secret.
But the truth is that Christian families come in all shapes and sizes. Many are big, but plenty of them are small. Many of them are made of a mother and father and their biological children, but plenty of Christian families include stepparents and stepsiblings, grandparents, or fostered or adopted children. Some Christian homes are filled with many children, while others have none at all. Christian families are as varied as the snowflakes in the winter sky or the grains of sand on the seashore.
There is no perfect size for a Christian family. We are not all supposed to have four, or six, or twelve kids. Mary and Joseph only had one. Plenty of couples in both the Old and New Testaments only had one son. Even Jacob, with his twelve sons, needed four women to get to that number. Not all good Christian families will be large. Ours is small, through no fault of our own. I gave birth to two children before secondary infertility struck. We do not need to adopt or foster children to get to some ideal number of kids. We could foster or adopt if we wanted to, but there is no moral obligation to make our family bigger than it currently is. Even the holiest family in history only had one child.
There is a lot of beauty to be found in large families. The constant presence of laughter and noise that fills a home with so many kids. The joys of sharing your life and love with so many children. The knowledge that one day, decades from now, you will be surrounded by countless grandchildren and maybe even great-grandchildren. The gift of being able to cradle so many babies in your arms. So much love, and so many little lives to cherish.
There is a lot of beauty to be found in small families as well. Seeing the strong bond between two siblings who only have one another. The freedom to travel easily to see friends and family and to dive into time-consuming extracurriculars like baseball or ballet. The ability to serve the community with gifts of meals and cards for those who are ill, celebrating new life, or mourning a recent death. The great gifts of full nights of sleep, hours spent in prayer, and the peace and quiet that come with a small household.
Not every good Christian family will have ten kids. Some won’t have any at all. The reasons why families might be big or small are many, and most of those reasons won’t be immediately apparent. You just can’t judge a family’s holiness based on the number of children they have. In the end, you just have to accept that God sees the hearts of us all, and good Christian families come in all shapes and sizes.