About this Blog

After banging my head in frustration over the obsession everyone around me had with procreation, I went online to find a community of people who were more like me. I have met some fascinating people along the way, but I have also found that many in the childfree community are quite hostile toward Christianity and a Christian world view. I understand that, unfortunately, many of my Christian sisters and brothers have given them a lot of ammunition (undoubtedly, I have been guilty of this at times too). Not wanting to be perceived as "trolling" for expressing my Christian perspective on other people's forums and blogs, I use my own blog to share my musings on childfree life while at the same time expressing my faith.

My intention is to show support to childfree people, both Christian and non-Christian, but from my own Christian perspective. Questions and constructive comments are welcome; negativity and intolerance are not.

Friday, April 27, 2012

Pondering “Gifts from God”

I’ve heard it from sappy people gushing over someone’s impending motherhood, and I’ve heard it as a bingo, so I have been pondering, “What point are people trying to make when they yammer on about babies being a gift from God? What is a gift from God anyway? And how do you know?”

Actually, most of this thought process has nothing to do with children but more to do with my search for objective reality, my desire to understand the nature of God, and my attempt to make sense of the spiritual and physical world. I often wonder, what is a blessing? What makes something a gift? What is the will of God? When X happened in my life, was that divine intervention or mere coincidence? Undoubtedly, some of these questions are unanswerable, at least in this life. And sometimes I wonder, does the objective answer even matter? Is there a meaningful difference between God doing something and me attributing significance to that something?

I think, for example, about the word “holy.” In some contexts, that word means “set apart” for a spiritual purpose. That is, something is not holy because it is inherently good or godly but because we have imbued it with some special significance. I have come to believe that some of what we call “spiritual gifts” are an example of this. Suppose, for example, that I have the spiritual gift of compassion. Would I not have that gift regardless of my religious persuasion? Do not many non-Christians have a talent for compassion? As I explored the idea that most of these gifts are the natural talents that we share with non-Christians, I wondered what exactly made them “spiritual” gifts. The only conclusion I could draw was that we (i.e., Christians) attributed this significance to our talents; we chose to see them as such and to devote the use of those talents to God’s work. I suppose those talents might be enhanced by the Holy Spirit, but still it was a choice to interpret them as gifts from God and to treat them as such -- that is, to see them any differently from the talents God gives to all people of all faiths. (I’m sure plenty of other people have struggled with these questions, but having rarely encountered people who like to philosophize about such things, these thoughts are all very new to me. Others probably now think I am a heretic.)

What about other things that we might consider blessings/gifts? I have always considered my good health to be a blessing/gift… precisely because it is good. Of course, this led me to other questions -- are all blessings good? Are all good things blessings? (Is the stability I have with my job a blessing because of its security, or is this good thing not a blessing because of the boredom and discontent it causes me?) If I consider something bad, does that mean it cannot be a blessing/gift? (Just because my mental health is not as good as my physical health, does that mean my mental challenges are not a gift?)

In an attempt to understand gifts, I began considering analogies. Imagine you tell a friend that your workplace is chilly and you could really use a nice sweater to wear at the office. A few days later, a sweater shows up on your doorstep. It may be a wonderful sweater, your favorite color and a flattering fit. Or, perhaps your wise friend knows that the bright yellow sweater you would prefer is not the best choice for your office environment, and she gives you a practical, professional, and versatile sweater that you don’t much like. You perceive one gift as good and the other as bad, but all the same, they are both gifts.

Or suppose you thank your friend for the sweater and gratefully wear it to work, but in reality a passerby found it on the sidewalk, assumed it was yours, and left it at your door. It wasn’t a gift after all, just a coincidence. Your belief that it was a gift might affect your attitude toward it but does not make it a gift.

What if you did not want or need a sweater at all? I would surmise that a friend who knows you well enough would not give you a sweater (good or bad) that you did not want… and a coincidental sweater would still be a coincidental sweater.

Going back to the cliché that prompted this post -- this insistence that babies are a gift from God -- I would have to say I don’t know. They could be like the good sweater, the bad sweater, or the coincidental sweater. Someone who wants a baby has reason to see it as a gift, whether it was truly a gift or whether the parent imbues the baby with that status. For others, a baby could be nothing more than a biological result (just as exercise produces sweat) or the consequence of careless or unwise decisions (just as one could get a blister from wearing ill-fitting shoes). For me, it would be the ultimate curse.

Regardless of whether or not it is a gift, not all gifts are meant for all people. This goes for spiritual gifts as well as physical gifts like wealth or enjoyment of our jobs. Not all of us want or value the same gifts (I don’t wish for the gift of evangelism, nor do I desire great wealth), and I can’t help but think that God knows this -- that God made us that way and that God will give to us accordingly. At least, that is what Christ said: “Or which one of you, if his son asks him for bread, will give him a stone? Or if he asks for a fish, will give him a serpent? If you then, who are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father who is in heaven give good things to those who ask him!” (Matthew 7:9-11)