I nudged the door open with my shoulder, hands holding carryout (again). I made my way through the dark living room and set dinner on the table. I could hear the kids playing in the basement as I peeked into the bedroom to find my wife lying there, doubled over with nausea. She felt too sick to think about eating, nonetheless preparing food for the rest of us, and so for the fourth time in as many nights, dad was dishing dinner for the fam.
This is how it goes in wartime, and for a few months now at our house, we’ve been in the battle zone. My wife is pregnant with our fifth child.
As many mothers could attest, sometimes it’s not so much morning-sickness as just plain sickness. She hasn’t felt well since the newest member of our family came into existence at the end of last year. But it’s okay — we get it. It comes with the territory. Nausea, in fact, is just one piece of the larger struggle. We’ve learned by now that wrestling demons isn’t supposed to be easy.
Satan Hates the Little Children of the World
In his book Adopted for Life, Russell Moore says that Satan hates children and always has. History would say the same. In Scripture alone, we see the slaughter of the infants in Pharaoh’s Egypt and Herod’s Bethlehem. Every time the demonic powers forcefully oppose Jesus, “babies are caught in the crossfire.” Moore explains,
Whether through political machinations such as those of Pharaoh and Herod, through military conquests in which bloodthirsty armies rip babies from pregnant mothers’ wombs (Amos [1:13]), or through the more “routine” seeming family disintegration and family chaos, children are always hurt. Human history is riddled with their corpses. (63)
Whether we look back over the pages of world history, or just around us today, the point bears true. Children are so often caught in the crossfire, so often hurt, so often the victims of a larger conflict in which they have no say, no influence, no responsibility. It happened back when primitive peoples thought slaying their children would appease the gods, and when war meant burning homes and sacking villages. And it happens still today when deranged citizens carry guns into elementary schools, and when abortion clinics welcome terrified teenagers with open arms, or when Boko Haram pillages another Nigerian village, or a young couple decides Down syndrome will disrupt their life plans. There is an orphan-making urge among us, Moore says.
The demonic powers hate babies because they hate Jesus. When they destroy “the least of these” (Matthew [25:40], 45), the most vulnerable among us, they’re destroying a picture of Jesus himself. . . . (63–64)
There is a war on children, and we are all, in one way or another, playing some role in it. Every time we move forward as faithful parents (or care for kids in any capacity, including advocating for the voiceless not yet born, and volunteering for nursery duty on Sundays), we are wrestling demons — because there is little the demons hate more than little children.
The Shift in Perspective
This calls for a shift in our perspective as parents. If we go into the work of parenting with a Precious Moments romanticism, it won’t be long before despair sets in. It’s just too hard if we think it’s going to be easy. It’s essential to know, especially when the going gets tough, that we are fighting hell.
It’s essential to know, especially when the going gets tough, that we are fighting hell.
When we begin to see our parenting through the lens of spiritual warfare, it reconfigures our work in at least five important ways.
1. We are more surprised when things go well than when they go badly.
You thought parenting would be easier than it is. Yes, you did. So much of this has to do with how the role of children has changed in our society. In past generations, children were mainly born into three contexts: 1) economic necessity (more hands on the farm!), 2) moral obligation (Christian influence), and 3) customary structure (part of the American Dream) (Jennifer Senior, All Joy and No Fun: The Paradox of Modern Parenting).
Today, however, child labor is taboo, the church’s voice has waned, and the American Dream has increasingly become the celebratation of the self-made successes of unconventional entrepreneurs. The “necessity” for children is not as intense as it once was — though children are obviously still being born. The question then becomes why. Into what context and mindset are American children being born in the twenty-first century?
Jennifer Senior says that today, rather than understood as necessary, children are more often viewed as a high-valued commodity. She explains,
[Parents] approach child-rearing with the same bold sense of independence and individuality that they would any other ambitious life project. . . . Because so many of us are now avid volunteers for a project in which we were all once dutiful conscripts,we have heightened expectations of what children will do for us, regarding them as sources of existential fulfillment rather than as ordinary parts of our lives.(emphasis added)
In other words, as a commodity, the majority of society says that children exist to make us happy, to boost our egos, to procure pats on the back by the watching world. We have children because we think children will make our lives better.
But if we push our strollers with these ideals in tote, we’re not quite sure what to do when things go sideways — like when our kids pee on the floor while we’re grocery shopping, or refuse to stay in their beds at night, or spray air freshener in their eyes after they broke into the bathroom cabinet, or when, in a much more serious event, the ultrasound discloses an abnormality.
None of these things are “fulfilling.”
Written by Jonathan Parnell
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