Quick! What is the first thing you think of when you hear the phrase, “…be fruitful and multiply”? For most of us we think of pregnant bellies and sweet squishy babies and obviously it is a right thing to think. After all, we know that is what God was saying to Adam and Eve in the first chapter of Genesis and the word multiply literally means to grow in number. Here, Adam. I made this woman for you. And I have made you both in such a way that you can make more of you. Now go fill the earth with more of you and take dominion over everything.
I want to point out a couple of things on the baby having side first and then back track to look at something I think is often overlooked or overshadowed in that verse.
Firstly, in this day and age that is abundant in birth control options (some that are outright sinful and others that aren’t) I do think as a society, even among Christians, childbearing has seemingly become an option that one can exercise or not depending on how you might feel about it. But I think it is pretty clear that choosing to be willfully childless is not the way of God’s people. Anyone can have babies. But for Christians, why we have babies and how we raise them, should be vastly different from unbelievers. In reality this is true about everything. We christians do the same life things, the same activities, as people who do not know Christ as King. But because we do know Him as King it is supposed to look different in our lives. It is glorified…we reveal Christ in what we do because we do all things for His glory, to make Him known.
I do, however, believe there is a lot more theology behind “be fruitful and multiply” than just having babies and that brings me to a second thing. I do not believe this is a command to everyone to have all of the babies. We have five children. To some that is a lot. To others that is about half of a lot. But here’s the thing. God doesn’t prescribe a specific number of required offspring. To some couples He grants life for one child. For another He opens the womb for more. Sometimes someone may wish they had more. For others God seems to let them decide how many and for still others He closes the womb and opens their hearts to adoption. I certainly cannot fully grasp His providence in these matters but I know that He graciously invites us in and allows us to use wisdom and discernment in planning the size of our families so that we can faithfully tend the children we are given.
I realize a lot more can be said and teased out on this subject but I’m going to leave that part of the verse now and back up to what I have been thinking through this past week. It’s the phrase, “be fruitful” that has been tumbling around in my head.
You see, I think it is a mistake to lumb that in with the multiply part as if the whole thing is only talking about having babies. It would seem to me that if we do that we are condensing down the mandate to what is a relatively few short years out of our lives. At fifty-one my child bearing years are done so if the mission God gave humanity all the way back in the garden is just about having children what does that mean for the rest of my life? What did it mean for the years before I could have children?
A definition for the word fruitful is abundantly productive. If we are looking at it through the Genesis chapter one lens then we know we are made in God’s image. God, the Creator, is telling us to be creative, to produce something. But what? We are not all artist or musicians and what have you. Not everyone is a gardener or an accomplished cook. Are we exempt if we aren’t talented or skilled? I don’t think so. I think we may just need to think a little outside of the box in ways we can be produce fruit in our lives.
I find this quote by Edith Schaeffer very helpful in thinking creatively in how we can produce fruit in our lives ~
“There are various art forms we may or may not have talent for, may or may not have time for, and we may or may not be able to express ourselves in, but we ought to consider this fact-that whether we choose to be an environment or not, we are. We produce an environment other people have to live in. We should be conscious of the fact that this environment which we produce by our very ‘being’ can affect the people who live with us or work with us.”
Can’t play an instrument? Cultivate an appreciation for music by listening to good music. The kind of beautiful music that has lasted for hundreds of years or at least four or five decades. Do the same with art. Expose your children to that sort of music and art. Read the classics to them and yourself. But I don’t think we should limit ourselves to just understanding and appreciating good art, music and books and not actually trying new things. We should challenge ourselves to do things that are difficult if even just slightly so. Go ahead and plant something in the dirt. Choose a new recipe to try. Learn to do a skill that you haven’t done before.
Create balance between those tangible and intangible ways that produce fruit in our life.
We create with more than clay and paint, or words or music notes, fabric or photographs. Everyday we create. And everyday we make choices to imitate what has already crafted by the Master.
We create homes that are a refuge the way He created an ark.
We create new culture when we resist the world’s culture, the world’s way of doing or being.
We create a world of reconciliation when we imitate the dark art of death in dying to ourselves that produces the kaleidoscope of color and light found in the resurrection.
We create peace when we turn the other cheek and offer the glorious poetry of forgiveness.
We create a symphony of mercy when we love and esteem others more than ourselves.
We create places of hospitality as we open our door and beckon in the poor and hungry.
We create a tapestry of grace when we weave longsuffering through our relationships with husband and wife, child and friend.
We all produce something. We all create. The question is whether it is worthy of presenting to our Creator.
In her book Loving The Little Years Rachel Jankovic makes the point that the more fruit we make the more of that fruit God will use.
“Some of those apples will fall to the ground and rot. But God uses rotten apples ~ to fertilize the ground, to start more apple trees after little animals plant them, and just to make the air smell sticky sweet. You cannot know the depth of His plan for your fruit. So throw it out there on the ground when you have no plan for its future. Waste it. Waste homemade pasta (and the mess it makes) on your family. Don’t save cloth napkins for company only ~ sew a dress your daughter doesn’t really need. Be bountiful with your fruit and free with it. The only thing you can know for certain is that God will use it.”
I don’t know about sewing a dress but I have spent some time over the last month buying up packs of fat quarters each week when I go to the grocery store. It’s probably been a dozen years since I tried to piece together a quilt and if I am honest my previous attempts, although well loved (it was a napping quilt for Claire when she started school) were less than lovely. We don’t really need another blanket either. But the fabric was so pretty and it caught my eye and on a whim I decided I wanted to do it again. It won’t be anything uber fancy but I want to work at it. I want to make sure my seams are straight this time and that my binding is even.
I’m going to use the new cake pan I got this weekend and make something pretty and delicious.
I’m going to keep taking pictures of anything and everything. I’m going to keep making cards and such with the pictures and putting them in my Etsy shop.
I’m going to keep stringing words together and blogging.
I’m going to drive Rob crazy picking out plants and flowers and designing garden beds.
I’m going to keep blowing bubbles for the puppies to chase and watch silly video clips with the girls and let Sam show me all the different bits and pieces to his latest LEGO creation.
I’m going to keep finding ways to produce truth, beauty, and goodness. And joy and laughter. And prayerfully it will also produce a deeper love and thankfulness for our great kind God who did it all first.
Join me, why don’t you? Tell me about the fruit of your hands.