What Is A Full Quiver?

“The Bible calls debt a curse and children a blessing; but in our culture, we apply for a curse and reject blessings. Something is wrong with this picture.” ~ Doug Phillips

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Something is wrong indeed!

Over the past year or so, I have started to come across more and more people – families – who would align with, or define themselves as “Quiverfull.”  If you have access to cable television, you have probably been introduced to one such family through the show “18 Kids and Counting.”

If this term is unfamiliar to you, Quiverfull is a movement, or philosophy, based on Psalm 127:3-5, which says “Lo, children are an heritage of the Lord: and the fruit of the womb is his reward. As arrows are in the hand of a mighty man; so are children of the youth. Happy is the man that hath his quiver full of them…” (As many of these families also tend to be from the KJV-only camp, I am quoting this verse from the good old King James Version, but it is basically the same in any other translation.)  Basing their convictions mainly on this passage, these families choose, and rightly so, to view children – expected or not – as blessings from the hand of God.  In many of these families, this conviction leads to the complete abandoning of all forms of contraception (including natural family planning and sterilization).

And, I’ll let you in on a little secret.  I agree with them!

Surprised?  Maybe it is because I am a the mommy of only one child.  Most that align themselves with the Quiverfull philosophy have more than one child – many more!  But, I firmly believe that God is sovereign and that He is the ultimate authority over every area of my life.  (And, as hard as His ways are to understand sometimes, I believe that sovereignty includes the size of my family – large or small.)  And, my husband and I firmly believe that children are a gift from God.

But, I think that a truly biblical view on the blessing of children goes beyond simply viewing your own children as blessings.  That is the easy part.  In his book When You Rise Up, R.C. Sproul, Jr., says that if we actually believe that children are a blessing from God “we not only will pray, ‘Lord bless us with many children, fill our quivers, increase our territory…,’ but we will likewise say of our children and to our children, ‘I’m glad you’re here. You are a joy in my life.  I miss you when we are apart.’ This is an important part of what it means to see children as a blessing.  Note, however, that while this may be most true of your own children, it is true of others’ children as well.” (pg. 66, emphasis added)

But… (Oh, you knew it was coming!)

While I agree with the basic tenants of the Quiverfull philosophy, and the scriptural foundation on which it is based, I am often hesitant to publicly adopt that label for myself, and my family.  As I have read more about this movement, I have observed that “…sometimes those who see [children] as a blessing take this promise of God into their workshop and with their lathe fashion out of it a baseball bat, so they can whack around other folks who won’t (or, worse, can’t) have children.” (pg. 65, When You Rise Up)

The ability to plan or prevent pregnancies and family size (seemingly) at will has become the norm for most Christian couples today.  Leaving a pregnancy “to chance” (and, by that, I mean in the sovereign hands of God) is virtually unthinkable to most young couples on the brink of marriage.  And because birth control (of any method and variety) is readily available, most people assume that the number of children a couple does or does not have to be intentional, and by choice.

That assumption is not always correct.

As our daughter gets older, I am finding that the “baseball bat” tendency R.C. Sproul, Jr. describes, is not exclusive to Quiverfull families.  Even within most mainstream (conservative, evangelical) Christian circles, there is a pre-determined amount of time in which it is acceptable for a couple to have only one child.  But, beyond that unspoken limit, the comments and questions start…

  • “You’d better get her a little brother or sister!”
  • “When are you going to have another one?”

Or, my (least) favorite…

  • “Do you (or, worse, Why don’t you) want more children?”

Well, I am only capable of giving the answer to one of those questions.  And, that answer is a resounding “Yes.”  Yes, I do want more children…more than words could possibly say.  But, as to when – or if – that desire is fulfilled, that answer is not up to me – it never was.  I agree with those who follow the Quiverfull philosophy, that it is God who “opens the womb.”  But, what if He doesn’t?

There are some within this movement (though it seems to be a relatively small minority), who imply that if a couple has only one child (or none), then they are somehow ungodly, or inferior Christians, or defiantly disobedient to Scripture! (My husband was told that it could potentially hinder his fitness for ministry!)  Some will even go so far as to say that “barrenness” (infertility) and/or miscarriage(s) are a curse from God – a sure sign of divine punishment for sin.  While I believe that these things are a result and consequence of living in a fallen and sinful world, calling them a direct and active curse for some unknown sin is taking it too far.

Yes, in some cases, Scripture does call barrenness a “reproach,” or a “disgrace,” and even records occasions where it was intentionally inflicted on a person or nation as the result of sin or disobedience.  But, stop for just a moment and consider SarahRebekah, RachelHannah, and Elisabeth.  Scripture gives us a glimpse into the lives of these godly women, who, at various points in their lives, were (humanly speaking) inexplicably denied the blessing of a child.  I could name other godly couples whom I have the privilege of knowing, who desperately long for children, but whether by miscarriage(s) or an inability to conceive, they have not been blessed in that way.  While others, it seems, easily conceive children as a result of sinful behavior (whether a one-time lack of discernment, or a lifestyle characterized by sinful choices) and carry them to term without a problem.

It is often assumed that larger-than-average families are part of the Quiverfull crowd because they have more than 2 children (or 6, or 10, or whatever the magic number may be).  But, simply having several children does not make a family “Quiverfull”.

Stacey McDonald (co-author of Passionate Housewives Desperate for God) describes it well

“As long as someone has a lot of children, they may appear to embrace the call to train up more children for the Lord; we assume that they are “quiverfull.” But by doing so, we are looking at outward expressions (which can be deceptive) and assuming deeper, spiritual attitudes. Just because a woman has given birth to many children doesn’t mean she’s quiverfull. Likewise, there is no way we can assume that a couple is not quiverfull, simply because they have no children; and we should not make any such assumption.

We believe that a couple can be quiverfull with no children at all! In fact, a single person can be quiverfull! It is a Scriptural mindset. When we welcome children into our families; when we are grateful for the precious gift of life, then we are quiverfull!

Perhaps we should define quiverfull as having a sovereign view of God’s gift of children. That being said, I think we can prove ourselves to be NOT quiverfull by being obsessed with having MORE children, when God has closed the door.”

I have always wanted several children.  And, if that were the Lord’s plan for us, I would welcome it with an open heart and willing arms!  But, what if it isn’t?

Children are a gift from God.  We live in a culture that seems to have forgotten that.  But, as Elisabeth Elliot often reminds her readers – we do not choose gifts.  And, contrary to what modern medicine, technology, and society would have us believe, we also do not get to choose how many gifts we are given.  Frankly, if the Lord chooses to bless a couple with a child, no form of birth control is going to prevent it!  And as the source and giver of all blessings (including children), is He not fully within His rights (as God) to withhold those gifts as well?

But, this side of Heaven, we may not be granted to understand just how being denied such a blessing has a purpose in God’s plan as well.  If we truly believe that our fertility, and the ultimate size of our “quiver,” is in God’s hands, then we must trust Him to determine the final number – large or small.  God is just as in control, just as sovereign – just as much God – over the godly husband and wife who willingly and joyfully welcome one little child into their home, as He is over the godly family who welcomes 10 (or more) little ones!

Regardless of how many children the Lord ultimately gives me, my job is to rejoice, to be content, and to rest in His sovereign plan.

———

**Updated on July 29, 2011 to add:

Our desire has always been that God would give us the family that would best glorify Him – large or small.

He has faithfully, and sometimes painfully, spent the past 5 years teaching us to trust Him in this area, and to be content with what He has seen fit to give.  Some of these lessons have been easier than others…as we have sought to patiently and graciously respond to the well-meaning questions and comments…not fully knowing the answers ourselves. We have struggled with joy, contentment, and confusion as we wondered what His plan for our family would be.

But, today, we are even more convinced that this is not ours to control…it never was.  Children are a gift…given from the sovereign hands of the the all-knowing Giver.  It is His, and His alone, to determine how many gifts He will give, and when those gifts are to be received.

Even so, it has been our family’s constant prayer that He would, someday, bless us with more children…

And, in direct answer to these prayers, we are thrilled to announce that we are expecting another little blessing to join our family…on, or around, February 6th, 2012!

Truly God is gracious.

(Taken from this post.)

 

 

18 Comments

Filed under Miscarriage, Mommy of One, Mommyhood, Secondary Infertility, Thinking Biblically

18 Responses to What Is A Full Quiver?

  1. I’ve been whacked by a quiverfull bat before. Your presentation of the doctrine of God’s sovereignty being the primary point was delightful to read. Submitting to His plan and His numbers of children is the why and wherefore of their being His blessing and reward. Thanks for this post.

  2. Love your thoughts on this! Isn’t it so funny how easy it can become to focus on the external when it is really a matter of the heart! I am mostly overwhelmed by how people fear children and how hard it may be, and then they call it being WISE when choosing not to have more than one or two. Wisdom is seeking God in all things and looking to Him for the strength and joy to handle whatever He gives.

    I will continue praying for you and Jason…Love you and miss you. I praise God He has given you precious little Hannah:)

  3. I’ve just started thinking more about this whole issue so I appreciate your thoughts and honesty! And as I face the MANY challenges of 3 little ones I needed to hear: rejoice, be content and rest in the Lord!

  4. Wise thoughts here. Thanks for sharing them.

  5. It seems there are two spectrums on this subject that I have been witness to. I am single so I have not had the “When are you going to have children?” bat applied to me yet but I do get the “When are you going to get married?” or the “You’re next.” since my little sister got married this summer. However, back to children. I grew up Southern Baptist & in a very small community church where the average number of children per household was 2 & anything more than 3 was just absurd. We had a pastor family who after their 4th, I remember people making jokes about whether they knew what caused children. At the time, I was of the same opinion but also felt a little odd at laughing at the jokes or even making them myself. I now belong to an independent church where many of the families have about 5 children. One woman was so thankful to find our church because she had been the victim of such jokes as my former preacher’s family had been. That was an eye opening realization as to how we must have hurt that wonderful family. Since coming to this church my thoughts on children have changed. Even in the last few months they have changed. This time last year, I was pretty sure I didn’t ever want children. But, now, without much explanation, I am beginning to feel an odd emptiness in this quiver I carry. I believe, at least right now, if I am blessed with a husband, I may not practice contraceptives. If this ever happens in my life, I fear what my family will think/say. No one on my mother’s side of the family has any more than 2 children, even dating back to my great-grandparents, so you can imagine my anxiety. But it is in God’s hands & maybe He will use me as a way to educate my family on tolerance & love (which they are already fabulous at…I don’t want to give the wrong impression of my WONDERFUL family).

    Anyway, those are my thoughts. Great post. 🙂

  6. Hello! I found your blog through Everyday Mommy. So many of my friends are struggling right now with this very thing…and your post actually made tears come streaming down my face. Thank you for taking the time to present Truth in such a clear and loving way. I have passed on your blog post to a friend hoping that it will minister to her during a struggle she is going through. God is using you, sweet sister – be it through the waves of cyberspace or probably amongst your friends…I am blessed to have found your blog!

  7. Connie

    Very insightful post. My daughter’s preschool teacher had three children. When she became pregnant with a fourth she received all sorts of comments ranging from teasing to downright mean. She was accused of being selfish bringing another child into this world. That child ended up dying in her womb a few days before her due date. She tried again a year or two later and the same thing happened. I have often thought of how much more painful those comments made her situation when she lost the children.
    As for me, I am 47 and past the time of bearing children. A few years ago I began to believe in the quiverful philosophy and have grieved over the children we did not have due to our short-sightedness. My husband barely agreed to two and was fixed a year after the birth of our second. I would like to adopt but he is not interested. Thank you for mentioning in your post that it is not ok for the quiverful mindset to criticize either. Sometimes people don’t realize the pain they inflict with their comments.

  8. a friend of mine linked some posts of your on homeschooling (which were great reads) and then i started browsing the rest of your blog and ended up here at your Quiverfull post. i actually blogged from a different perspective a little while back. feel free to read it and let me know your thoughts.
    http://aprilemery.blogspot.com/2010/08/exposing-holes-in-quiverfull-movement.html

    • April,

      Thank you for your comment. I did read your post, and I share your concerns about factions of the Quiverfull movement who do twist and take Scripture out of context in order to defend or support their point. If their position is biblical, twisting, contorting, or ripping passages out of context is unnecessary.

      In your post, you raised the question “Are singles and infertile couples less blessed by God if they don’t have children?” I think I addressed that in this post, but in case I was unclear, no they are not. As you said, children are not the only indication and measure of God’s blessing.

      You also said that the argument from the Quiverfull community is that it is not our job to decide the size of our family, but God’s. While I agree with that statement, I would differ with many in the Quiverfull movement, in that I do believe that there are legitimate reasons for limiting the size of one’s family. However, most do not limit their family size due to a doctor’s warning against further pregnancies. Again, I believe the quote from Stacey MacDonald addresses this, when she says that we can prove ourselves to be NOT quiverfull by being obsessed with having more children, where God has clearly closed the door. Personally, in my case, as I shared in the above post, God has closed the door to more biological children, whether that is for now or forever, I do not know. Mine is only to be content, and to joyfully accept what He deems best.

  9. Demetria

    This is an issue that has been on my heart for the last several years. I have three beautiful children, and I have wanted to surrender every aspect of my life to God as well–especially in the area of birth control. That said, we had given this part over to the Lord last year prior to conceiving our third baby. I nearly lost the last two kiddos during the pregnancies, and I have had other health issues arise that would make it extremely challenging for me to carry another child to a decent age of gestation. Next week, my husband is going to get a vasectomy. I mourn the idea that my baby years are done, and I even feel guilty because it’s my body that does not like to cooperate with pregnancy. I have been deeply torn–trust God with the possibility of getting pregnant and hopefully seeing the pregnancies to term, or trust God that making the decision to end our child-bearing days in our 20s as the best move for our family. We have not wanted to make this decision, and I am very sad this week because of it because I still have a question of whether this is what God wants or what we want. The pros will be that I will be able to be healthy again and care for my family. A combined total of 6.5 months of bedrest between the last 2 pregnancies was incredibly difficult for our kids, our marriage, our friends, and our other family members. I cannot raise my kids from bed, let alone see them much at all if they are being cared for elsewhere. Yet, I am worried that maybe I don’t have enough faith to trust God. I read in the Bible that God opens and closes the womb. I know I have trusted him with this, but my health has deteriorated and caused my family great stress over the past 3 years during the two difficult, high-risk pregnancies that I’ve had. A touchy subject for me, but bottom line, I just want to be in agreement with God about what the right thing is to do even if it’s the hard thing. Either decision causes me to mourn something lost.

  10. THANK YOU so much for this Veronica! I’m so glad I discovered your blog! I also am with you on having only one child, not by my own choosing, but God’s sovereign planning. He is now 4 years old and I now dread those comments. But God is using this to refine me and make me more like Him. We are now in the process of adopting, which we are so excited about, but it is all still in the hands of our loving, sovereign God. Praying that you will continue to find contentment in Him! (by the way, your family is adorable!!) 🙂

  11. Catherine

    As the mom of an “only,” and not by choice, the questions you describe break my heart nearly daily. Just last Sunday, a Godly woman at church asked if we wanted a second child and when we said we had left it in God’s hands after many years of trying (everything), she suggested we adopt as “that always works to get pregnant.” She had no idea how hurtful she was.

    Thank you for your comments, and your blog. I do not know any other home schooling moms of onlies and look forward to reading your past posts.

    • Catherine,
      I have heard that one myself – on more than a few occasions! I know they mean well, but… Like you said, the comments and questions can be heartbreaking.
      I am so thankful that there is another homeschooling mom of an “only” in our new church. I’ve never had that before! And, there is an older (than me) homeschooling mom whose oldest child was 6 before she had her second…again, not by (her) choice, or any known medical reason. It was encouraging to hear her say that it was the Lord’s plan for their family! (And, I’m sure she has no idea how refreshing that was to hear!!)
      It is encouraging to finally meet/be with others who have, or are walking this same path. Having given this area to the Lord, I pray that we will be content with HIS plan for us. 🙂

  12. shelley armstrong

    I just want to say how much I love you for writing this! I just found your blog through 5 minutes for books. I have an only son that I homeschool. He is six. I was obessive about having more children for many, many years and tried everything! After many doctors and much money, I have learned to be content, to rest in the wisdom of the Lord. I have many families in my church that have 5 or more children and always felt that I was less godly because of it. Thankyou for your wise words and I really like your blog. It does one good to know their are kindred thinkers out there.

  13. Cristy

    I found your post through “Raising Homemakers”. I am the mother of an only child, whom I homeschool. She is 10 years old and most desperately wants a sibling. We lost a child to a genetic illness before the birth of our daughter. Shortly after this pregnancy, my husband decided he wanted a vasectomy. We were sinners and didn’t know the Lord at this time. We have regretted this decision, daily.
    Your blog touched my heart. I especially liked your comment about God being able to give the blessing of a child regardless of whether or not you use a form of birth control. God knows my heart, this has been my secret prayer.
    I am always asked the questions that you and some of your other readers have addressed and many more of them that are equally hurtful. Thank you for sharing your thoughts.

  14. Hello, what an interesting post. We too only have 1 child & so I really enjoyed your writing from another only child family. I stand in agreement with all your points.

    I wanted to add another element to the discussion that I have had to deal with meeting Christians with mental illness…

    Due to Adam & Eve’s first sin our bodies are becoming more and more prone to sickness as time goes on. One of these difficult aspects is anxiety/depression – mental illness. Sometimes God does not heal us from these afflictions but instead allows to walk the path through them.

    I just wondered if anyone has thought about whether one of our Christian sisters is afflicted by a sickness or difficulty like anxiety/stress & whether God may actually not desire that family to have children or more children.

    In my experiences dealing with people who are afflicted with stress or anxiety/mental illness it may actually be God’s will for them to not have more/any children. From my experience, women/families may not be able to cope with more children/any children. The stress on them due to their illness, causing them to not be able to control their emotions and display negative behaviour (out of their control).

    So, by not having a quiverfull family may actually be the best thing for them. It keeps them from sinning. They are not having to deal with stress & chaos that comes with having kids, and that in turn causes them to have sinful attitudes and behaviour. Even just the simple stresses of everyday life can cause someone who suffers from serious mental illness to sin.

    The reality is we live in the end times, when Christian brothers and sisters do suffer from mental illness & refraining from having a quiverfull may keep them in the right place and attitude with the Lord.

    Matthew 5:30
    “And if your right hand causes you to sin, cut it off & cast it from you; for it is more profitable for you that one of your members perish, than for your whole body to be cast into hell.”

    Just another thought to add to the discussion. Of course I am not saying everyone is in this category, but I feel we should remain mindful that we do not what is best or God’s will for everyone.

    Bless you

  15. I am so very interested in points of view you have shared here. I just wanted to ask you a few questions not to e difficult but because I am genuinely interested in the “quiver full” movement.

    Do you interpret the scripture to mean than a woman who is struggling to conceive should not seek fertility treatments as that would be forcing her womb open when the Lord may have closed it?

    What of the case for a family that cannot afford many children? My husband serves in the military which means we are on a fixed income and while we can care for the (2) children we have it would be a real struggle to support the 4 or 5 we might have had, had I not been on BC. While I believe that God will provide, I also believe He teaches us to be good stewards of what He has given us and having more mouthes to feed than one can afford seems like poor stewardship.

    I am very interested to hear your response as these are both things I have wondered about since first hearing about the quiver full movement.

    Thank you for sharing your point of view, you have reminded us all to be gentle to the women we meet. Well meaning remarks can be so hurtful, it’s good to be reminded that there may be more going on than meets the eye!

    • Veronica, (It is always fun to “meet” another Veronica!)

      You have posed some good questions.

      Personally, I would not – and did not – seek fertility treatments. There are too many ethical questions raised by medical fertility intervention. And, I do believe that most medical fertility treatments would be, in effect, saying that God does not know what is best. This is a personal conviction, and I know many godly Christian couples who would disagree with me.

      As far as the inability to “afford” more children…I think more often than not, that is an excuse, rather than a genuine concern. You are right, we must be good stewards of our finances. But, I think we have come to believe that our children “need” certain things, rather than viewing them as “luxuries,” or “extras.” The truth is, food budgets can be stretched, menus can be simplified, clothing can be passed down (or purchased from resale, thrift, or consignment shops), bedrooms can be shared, toys can be simple… I am not saying it is easy. I don’t have a large family. And, I can’t pretend to know the extent of the sacrifice that some families make to have more children. But, I know they do it…so I know it is possible. (While I may not understand the dynamics of large-family-finances, I do understand what it is like to live within the means of limited income. My husband is a pastor. Our church is generous, and our income is sufficient to meet our needs. But, it is not always sufficient for all of our wants.)

      ~Veronica