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A Quiverfull of Thoughts

Due to the fresh attention to the Quiverfull lifestyle and recent publication of the book Quiverfull: Inside the Christian Patriarchy Movement by Kathryn Joyce, there are a few things I'd like to address.

The Quiverfull movement at large is based on the verse in Psalm 127 which states:
Behold, children are a heritage from the LORD,
The fruit of the womb is a reward.
Like arrows in the hand of a warrior,
So are the children of one’s youth.
Happy is the man who has his quiver full of them;
They shall not be ashamed,
But shall speak with their enemies in the gate.

Many proponents see this as a call to bear an army for the Lord by raising a multitude of those who will call upon His name. In the war against culture—so prevalent within Evangelical and Fundamentalist circles—the understanding is that through sheer numbers of godly offspring, our culture can be redeemed in the name of Christ. In the interest of balance, I would like to issue a humble reminder.

2 Corinthians 10
3 For though we walk in the flesh, we do not war according to the flesh. 4 For the weapons of our warfare are not carnal but mighty in God for pulling down strongholds, 5 casting down arguments and every high thing that exalts itself against the knowledge of God, bringing every thought into captivity to the obedience of Christ, 6 and being ready to punish all disobedience when your obedience is fulfilled. . . .For we dare not class ourselves or compare ourselves with those who commend themselves. But they, measuring themselves by themselves, and comparing themselves among themselves, are not wise. 13 We, however, will not boast beyond measure, but within the limits of the sphere which God appointed us—a sphere which especially includes you. 14 For we are not overextending ourselves (as though our authority did not extend to you), for it was to you that we came with the gospel of Christ; 15 not boasting of things beyond measure, that is, in other men’s labors, but having hope, that as your faith is increased, we shall be greatly enlarged by you in our sphere, 16 to preach the gospel in the regions beyond you, and not to boast in another man’s sphere of accomplishment.
17 But “he who glories, let him glory in the LORD.” 18 For not he who commends himself is approved, but whom the Lord commends.

Ephesians 6
10 Finally, my brethren, be strong in the Lord and in the power of His might. 11 Put on the whole armor of God, that you may be able to stand against the wiles of the devil. 12 For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this age, against spiritual hosts of wickedness in the heavenly places. 13 Therefore take up the whole armor of God, that you may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand.
14 Stand therefore, having girded your waist with truth, having put on the breastplate of righteousness, 15 and having shod your feet with the preparation of the gospel of peace; 16 above all, taking the shield of faith with which you will be able to quench all the fiery darts of the wicked one. 17 And take the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God; 18 praying always with all prayer and supplication in the Spirit, being watchful to this end with all perseverance and supplication for all the saints—

These Scriptures remind us that the war on culture, this spiritual battle against the principalities, powers, and the rulers of the darkness of this age, cannot be waged through the efforts of the flesh. It is essential to remain vigilant, for the enemy who prowls like a lion comes many times cloaked in righteous attire. When we lose focus upon the crux of our mission, replacing the commandments of Jesus Himself with that which has the appearance of holiness, the enemy has secured a victory, as temporary as it may be.

I do not suggest that all who ascribe the Quiverfull mindset do so with misplaced focus; however in our eagerness to live righteously, it is easy to fall into the trap of man-established doctrine and thus lose sight of the mandates which God has revealed through His Son.

Dear sisters—I know this presents a conflict within the soul, a battle if you will. Let this struggle be a vessel to draw you nearer to the heart of our Lord as you seek His will and His words. As you strive to lay aside every weight, and the sin which so easily ensnares, keep in mind that sin is anything that keeps us from God—or that from which, other than God, we derive our sense of life, security, or peace. For those raised within paleoconservative households, often this can take shape as religious "doings" or "not doings". To examine deeply and intensely the heart, motivations, and purposes for these things requires faith--but is this not one of the core philosophies of the Quiverfull movement?

Your faith will be rewarded; be comforted that you are known before God.

1 John 3
For if our heart condemns us, God is greater than our heart, and knows all things. 21 Beloved, if our heart does not condemn us, we have confidence toward God. 22 And whatever we ask we receive from Him, because we keep His commandments and do those things that are pleasing in His sight. 23 And this is His commandment: that we should believe on the name of His Son Jesus Christ and love one another, as He gave us commandment.
Redeeming the Blessing

In addition to "faith", another word that is commonly uttered with regards to the Quiverfull movement is "blessing". "Children are a blessing!" "Why would anyone reject the blessings of the Lord?" "We will take all of the Lord's blessings that we can."

I rejoice that there are those who regard human life as a gift from God; in truth, the sanctity of life is the most precious gift He can bestow—to grant a soul the opportunity to reflect His image in bodily form. What an exquisite honor and privilege!

My deep concern is that for many, the term blessing remains just that: a word. For scores of children, both young and old, sons and daughters, this adage is belied through subtle messages which infer:

  • you are a blessing only if you are a baby ("terrible twos", rambunctious pre-teens, and moody teenagers can be burdensome)
  • you are a blessing only if you obey instantly
  • you are a blessing only if you behave
  • you are a blessing only if you make us proud
  • you are a blessing only if you honor us
  • you are a blessing only if you perform well
  • you are a blessing only if you believe the way we believe
  • you are a blessing only if you pursue our vision
  • you are a blessing only if you don't ask questions
  • you are a blessing only if you are compliant
  • you are a blessing only if . . .
These are the shackles of death.

Curses

These inferences cause shame and fear to become rooted both deeply and unconsciously in the heart. Maturing "arrows", who reap the sighs and tears and mournful manipulations of parents towards the very personhood of their being can attest to the darkness and the torment which wrestles secretly within their souls. Curses, rather than blessing, they are. What a paradox! Seeds which are sown upon ripe young earth germinate and become the curses and burdens that are faced by many young adult and adult daughters: guilt, shame, low self-esteem, co-dependency, sense of inadequacy, self-hatred, denial, fear, and lack of motivation.

There are many portals through which shame can be introduced to the being of a child; it is impossible to suggest all the ways this can happen. A common method can be, surprisingly, prayer uttered aloud. "Lord, help Sarah to realize she needs to deny herself and surrender her rebellious ways. Forgive her for______." Alternatively, some other subtle ways are the deep sighs that occur, the disappointed shake of the head, and even talking about the child in front of others as though she doesn't exist: "What are we going to do with her, dad? She just doesn't get it" and so forth.

This does not imply, of course, that young adults are perfect or sinless--yet as impressionable creations of God, it is vital for parents to recognize that they are still tender and young. Even when a father or mother wishes to rip out what hair is left upon their own head.

In her blog Under Much Grace, Cindy Kunsman, RN, BSN, ND writes a thought-provoking message to parents who subscribe to the 'children as arrows' mentality:
With the imagery of children as arrows in the hand of the Lord, consider that they are in His hand and not in your hand. The Lord of Hosts aims and shoots those arrows, perhaps at targets that you would protest or perhaps ones that may even bring you great shame in your own flesh. But He is their maker and He is the archer that sends your children to the place and calling that He intends for them. Though children are arrows in the hand of the Lord and He blesses the man whose quiver is indeed full, what is the chief purpose of an arrow? Is it to remain in the quiver only? Is it only an ornament for the man who bears the quiver on his back? Or is the chief purpose and end of an arrow to be at the ready in the quiver for only a time? And should that arrow not be designed well, not to accommodate the convenience of the quiver but to be fit as a most effective weapon, designed to accomplish His intended purpose with expert precision as its Sovereign Designer intended?

For those dear daughters who have grown up within Quiverfull families and to whom these words strike a chord, I would like to leave a few closing thoughts.

1) A gentle reminder: all Quiverfull households are not as extreme as some. There are those who live balanced and humble lives, quietly maintaining their convictions with Christ as the center, while the father exhibits the servanthood of Jesus, who washed the feet of His disciples.

2) For the rest, who relate with alacrity the subtle messages of condemnation rather than blessing, know this: you are not forgotten before God. Your tears, your weariness, your doubts and confusion—He sees. He knows the dichotomy which tears within your spirit: the desire to follow Christ at war with the teaching and training you have received. Trust that He is bigger than your fears, bigger than your doubts, bigger than your questions, and He does not fault you for them.

3) He has promised wisdom to those who ask, and to be found by those who seek.
He has come to heal, to set free, and to bring light. . . ."work out your own salvation with fear and trembling; for it is God who works in you both to will and to do for His good pleasure." Phil. 2 "Do not fear, little flock, for it is your Father’s good pleasure to give you the kingdom." Luke 12:32

2 comments:

  1. Hillary.

    Thanks for quoting Cindy's words, and thanks for sharing your last two paragraphs.
    I'm struggling with much of what I was taught and much of my upbringing.
    Your words are encouraging, even if some are falling on hardened ground.

    God bless you!

    ReplyDelete
  2. Dear Hillary,
    Thank you so much for this, and for all you are writing. Cindy's blog has been such a source of comfort and advice for me in this journey.

    What you have written about the legalism made me think of a few verses from the Holy Scriptures

    "The fruit of the Spirit is Charity, Joy, and Peace in the Lord!"
    "Come to me all you who labor and are heavy burdened, and I will refresh you. For My yoke is easy and My burden is light."

    If we are living according to the Spirit, it will be made manifest by our Joy, Peace and Charity, no? Also, the whole tone of Our Lord's calling to the soul is one of offering comfort and peace...He said the burden is LIGHT, not that we should just deal with it!

    I know so many who are suffering from the same "virus of oppression," here, in the ranks of conservative Catholics. The exact same spirit of Patriocentrism is growing and is leading to almost identical problems. The most serious problem being that Our Lord is seen as secondary...I mean, if it is the number of children who give me holiness, what do I need Our Lord and His Grace for?

    Thank you so much to you and to Cindy, too!

    ReplyDelete

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