Rev. Joel Fritsche
Behold, children are a heritage from the LORD, the fruit of the womb a reward. Like arrows in the hand of a warrior are the children of one’s youth. Blessed is the man who fills his quiver with them! He shall not be put to shame when he speaks with his enemies in the gate. (Psalm 127:3-5 ESV)
My wife and I have three sons. I’d say my quiver is quite full, even though I don’t have seven or eight children. Arrows in the hand of a warrior? Yes, I’d say so, but I suppose I mean that a bit differently than the Psalmist. Of course, I agree with the Psalmist, too. Don’t get me wrong. My gates will be well-defended with my three Russian-born adopted sons and their genetic body-building physiques. Did you see Rocky IV? Enemies beware! You will lose! But sometimes the arrows are aimed right back at me. That’s what I was getting at. Honestly, I struggle as a father. It’s a weighty vocation with increasing demands, not just on my time, but on my patience, too. It’s tough raising three boys! Blessed is the man who fills his quiver with them? It’s true. In spite of the struggles and challenges of parenthood, there are many blessings.
As a pastor, I officiate at about five or six weddings per year. In premarital instruction I talk with couples about children: the blessings and challenges. Each time at the wedding service, I read those words in the opening sentences about marriage and the blessings that God gives along with it. The one that comes toward the end is this: “God also established marriage for the procreation of children who are to be brought up in the fear and instruction of the Lord so that they may offer Him their praise” (Holy Matrimony, LSB 275).
Children are only one of the many blessings of marriage. I always wanted to have children and I always thought I would have children. But I wasn’t devastated when my wife revealed before our engagement that she had known since childhood that she would not likely ever conceive and bear children. If children are a blessing from the Lord, then is being unable to have children a kind of punishment? The Gospel says no! Jesus bore the punishment of her sins, as well as yours and mine.
Seeing that my wife had a peace about her circumstances was comforting to me. Anticipating the other blessings God gives in marriage, like mutual companionship, help and support, and the delight husbands and wives are privileged to have for one another moved us forward into marriage. And it wasn’t long after our wedding that we started looking into the possibility of adoption. Five years later we were on a plane flying across Russia with two little boys. Three years after that, we were bringing home their brother from the same region in Russia—from the same birth mother even.
I can’t say that I never wonder what it might have been like for my wife and I to have had biological children. I know she wonders, too. Childbirth is an incredible miracle. Every birth is a living reminder of our Savior’s birth. But adoption certainly has its picture, too. It carries that image of new birth—our adoption by God’s grace in Christ (Galatians 4:5; Ephesians 1:5; Romans 8:15). My sons will always be a living reminder to me of that blessed truth. I pray that the reality of their adoption will hold that image of Divine grace before them throughout their lives also.
Speaking of images and pictures, I find that through my children, there’s a unique blessing to be received. A family of five living together under the same roof presents a picture of its own. As I recognize and confess my sins within my vocation of father, as I struggle with my lack of patience, as my anger sometimes gets the better of me, I see a brighter reflection of a heavenly Father who poured out His anger over my sin—not on me, but on Jesus. There’s hope for me, despite my failures and sins as a father, because I have a compassionate heavenly Father who loves me in Christ. As a father shows compassion to his children, so the Lord shows compassion to those who fear him (Psalm 103:13).
By God’s grace, the Holy Spirit increases my desire to be patient with my children and to show them the same compassion that God the Father shows me. It encourages me to be a faithful father, to bring these boys up in the fear and instruction of the Lord. And despite the challenge of that part of my vocation in the 21st century, the blessing of children abounds and overflows even into the lives of others. I see it as I look out into the pew and see my sons singing the Gloria or confessing the Creed. I see it when my parishioners tell me the joy that they experience when they hear my sons singing and praying. It’s yet another picture, a living testimony of childlike faith in Jesus.
A heritage from the Lord? Indeed! The fruit of the womb a reward? Definitely. My quiver is filled with the Lord’s blessing for my wife, for me, and for my neighbor, too!
Rev. Joel Fritsche is an adopted child of God, pastor of Zion Lutheran Church in Staunton, Illinois, and a member of the board of directors of Higher Things.
Created: May 13th, 2014