I don’t watch the Duggars and don’t have an opinion on them other than holding the opinion that you shouldn’t be taking about “God’s Will” in relation to family size unless you are actually raising a baby the way we were naturally designed to do, which is extended and on demand nursing and weaning between ages 2 to 3 rather than at 6 months.

Google, I guess, seems to think I am interested in them as this article was suggested in my feed.

The headline: Jim Bob and Michelle Keep Calling Their Kids Servants

The uproar began over an update on the Duggar’s Facebook page that showed a couple of the boys helping out with the dishes. But wait, that’s not all. The accompanying caption included a comment saying that they have a “servant’s heart.”

Some people are ticked. Seriously.

If you read the Bible and understand the reference and context, you are probably laughing right now . . . But really . . . People are serious about this.

The author goes on to say that this has been an ongoing “controversy” with the Duggars and that one of the daughters raised a ruckus when she said a sister-in-law had a “servant’s heart.” Some think sis is being dissed.

The Culture We Live In

However, this article is an example of two things. One, a society that thinks that a child should not be expected to do anything other than play video games and be shuttled to soccer. There is nothing wrong with expecting kids to do housework and teaching them that life isn’t centered around them.

The second thing is it is a CLEAR illustration that Biblical references in general and Christian concepts in particular are completely foreign to large segments of our society. In an interview with The Atlantic, Michael Wear, President Obama’s former director of faith outreach efforts, talked about this unfamiliarity. As an illustration, he shared a story of a speech that he wrote which included the phrase, “even the least of these. 1 Wear’s reference, “even the least of these,” if from Matthew 25 and Jesus’ account of the Final Judgment where he will separate those who are his followers from the rest.. “Then the King will say to those on his right, ‘Come, you who are blessed by my Father, inherit the Kingdom prepared for you from the creation of the world. For I was hungry, and you fed me. I was thirsty, and you gave me a drink. I was a stranger, and you invited me into your home. I was naked and you gave me clothing. I was sick, and you cared for me. I was in prison, and you visited me.” When these righteous ones will reply, ‘Lord, when did we ever see you hungry and feed you? Or thirsty, and give you something to drink? Or a stranger and show you hospitality? Or naked and give you clothing? When did we ever see you sick or in prison and visit you?’ “And the King will say, ‘I tell you the truth, when you did it to one of the least of these my brothers and sisters, you were doing it to me!”” Other staffers kept editing it, they did not understand what it meant at all and thought it was a typo. 2 Emma Green. “Democrats Have a Religion Problem.” The Atlantic. Published December 29, 2016. Accessed January 10, 2017. https://www.theatlantic.com/politics/archive/2016/12/democrats-have-a-religion-problem/510761/ “Some of his colleagues also didn’t understand his work, he writes. He once drafted a faith-outreach fact sheet describing Obama’s views on poverty, titling it “Economic Fairness and the Least of These,” a reference to a famous teaching from Jesus in the Bible. Another staffer repeatedly deleted “the least of these,” commenting, “Is this a typo? It doesn’t make any sense to me. Who/what are ‘these’?””

A Transformed Worldview and A Servant’s Heart

If you’re a Christian and most of the people you hang with are as well, sometimes it’s easy to forget just how counter-cultural and opposite human nature some of the teachings of Jesus are. He was God, come as the Son of Man, yet he did not seek accolades or glory for himself. Everything he did was to bring glory to the Father. (John 17:1)

Jesus’ way is not the way of our modern celebrity culture which glorifies overexposed individuals. He tells us to help others, to encourage others, and to pray for others. Our focus, and to where we should be directing people, is always to be on Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith. (Hebrews 12:1-2) Even more than that, Jesus told his disciples repeatedly:

Whoever would be greatest among you must be servant of all. (Matthew 20:26, Mark 10:43, Matthew 23:11, Mark 9:35, Matthew 10:44)

When one looks at the context of the statement, saying that someone has a servant’s heart is not being dismissive. It is an honorific.

The Heart Motive

Sometimes people do things for others with an ulterior motive. I’m not talking about those who do for you either to manipulate you into doing something for them or to put you under obligation, although that does happen as well. I’m talking about people who are always doing for other people just so that everyone will see that they are always doing for others.

We all know people like that. They do it to be the “in” person. They do it to be publicly acknowledged and to get awards. They do it to fill a void in their lives. They do it to be accepted. The heart motive is not about the other person, but about themselves.

I have been that person. I used to overcommit and run myself into the ground volunteering all over the place.

Then one day when I was run down and feeling unappreciated and a little resentful, the Holy Spirit convicted me. Who was I really doing it for? Was I doing it for the other person? If that were truly the case and if it had been freely given, there would have been no resentment. If I were doing it for God, then it shouldn’t matter if I received acknowledgment or even a thanks.

God sees. He doesn’t forget and He will reward.

Now before I commit, I check my motives and emotions, is there any sort of feeling of striving or emotion other than a peace about it? If so, I need to examine what is going on. I try to check myself and check with God first to see if that is where he really wants me. Sometimes it is the good things that get in the way and keep us from God’s best.

The Walk with Christ

We are not only to have a servants heart, but to have a humble spirit.  Pride is always sitting there waiting for a spot in our heart and mind.  That is why we are to constantly keep our focus on Christ, submitting ourselves to him and allowing the Holy Spirit to transform our thoughts and minds so that we can truly be that reflection of him.

A Note on Natural Family Planning

In order to provide some context on my initial comment. I don’t watch the Duggar’s show, but I have read articles on the family over the time they have been in the public eye.

According to written accounts, their conviction that birth control is wrong came about after a miscarriage that occurred while Michelle was on the pill.3 “About Jim Bob and Michelle.” The Duggar Family. Accessed January 10, 2017. http://www.duggarfamily.com/about “Jim Bob & Michelle Duggar married July 21st, 1984. At that time, they chose to use the birth control pill. They thought, “We don’t want children right now. We can’t afford them. We want children in our timing, when we’re ready.” Four years later they decided to have their first child. Then, Michelle went back on the pill, but she conceived and had a miscarriage. At that point they talked with a Christian medical doctor and read the fine print in the contraceptives package. They found that while taking the pill you can get pregnant and then miscarry. They were grieved! They were Christians! They were pro-life! They realized that their selfish actions had taken the life of their child.” After that, they decided to welcome as many children as God gave them. Great. They are welcome to have as many children as they want. They seem like a loving family with well behaved children.

However, what bothers me is the implication that it is “God’s Will” that they have one child after another. I do not agree that is the case.

How do we know what God’s will is in this situation? We have evidence from how he designed our bodies to naturally function. Eve didn’t have a can of Similac. She breastfed her children, which is the natural and God designed method.

In Biblical times, and even up until the 20th century, children were nursed up until their second and even third year. The set-to between Sarah and Haggai occurred at the celebration for Isaac’s weaning, when he was three years old. (Genesis 21) Hannah brought her promised son, Samuel, to serve in the temple after he was weaned, when he was three years old. (1 Samuel 1) Traditionally, the time for weaning has between between two and four years. 4Weaning from the Breast.” Paediatrics & Child Health 9.4 (2004): 249–253. Print. Accessed online January 10, 2017. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2720507/ “Durations of breastfeeding were generally longer in ancient times (4) than in western society today. Aristotle stated that breastfeeding should continue for 12 to 18 months, or when menses restarted in the nursing mother. Mothers in Zulu societies have traditionally breastfed their infants until 12 to 18 months, at which point a new pregnancy would be anticipated. Ancient Hebrews completed weaning at about three years. Most children in traditional societies are completely weaned between two and four years of age (5).”

God’s natural design is for children to nurse past infancy. This has multiple benefits both for the child and the mother. One of which is this extended nursing delays the return of menses for anywhere between 12 and 18 months. This is often referred to as “breastfeeding infertility. 5Miriam H. Labbok. “The Lactational Amenorrhea Method (LAM): Another Choice for Mothers.” Breastfeeding Abstracts, August 1993, Volume 13, Number 1, pp. 3-4. Accessed on LaLecheLeague.org January 10, 2017. http://www.lalecheleague.org/ba/aug93.html This article present the LAM method as “new.” It is not new other than lining out how to implement age-old breastfeeding practices into our modern lifestyle.  “LAM is a newly developed interim family planning method that is based on utilization of lactational infertility for protection from pregnancy. LAM provides optimal infant nutrition, enhances immunity, prevents formula-related illness, and physiologically promotes mother-child interaction while simultaneously providing safe and effective temporary child spacing. It may be used for up to six months postpartum during full or nearly full breastfeeding and amenorrhea, and has been shown in clinical trial to be 99 percent effective.” ” The outcome of this is a God designed two to three year gap between children. The efficacy rate of breastfeeding as a way of delaying future pregnancies can be up to 98%, similar to taking the pill.6 William Sears. “Ask Dr. Sears: Breastfeeding as Birth Control?” Parenting.com. Accessed January 10, 2017. http://www.parenting.com/article/ask-dr-sears-breastfeeding-as-birth-control “Yes, as long as you, so to speak, play by the rules of natural child spacing. Breastfeeding can suppress ovulation and thus serve as a form of birth control. When you breastfeed, the same hormones that make milk, called prolactin, also suppress the release of hormones that cause eggs to mature and become fertile and the lining of the womb to nourish fertile eggs. This is why breastfeeding mothers usually notice a delay in the return of their menstrual periods. This delay, called lactational amenorrhea, or LAM, may be nature’s way of telling you that one baby is all your body can handle right now, and it’s too soon for a sibling. As a natural method of birth control, LAM’s effectiveness rate can be as high as 98 percent (similar to artificial methods), but only if you observe the following practices:” This is not true for all women, but many, including myself, have found it to be the case.

However, if you only breastfeed for three to six months and have sex . . . What do you think will happen? The odds are you will get pregnant. That’s just a given.

To make it really simple, this is the way God designed our bodies.

Nursing Historically

  • Two to four years. Three years according to Biblical accounts
  • Fertility resumes after a year to a year and a half
  • Two to three year spacing between children

It seems to me pretty clear that God designed us to have a break between pregnancies. If he designed us that way, it must be his will. So how are closely spaced pregnancies because the natural and God designed time for nursing was cut short God’s will? 7 I remember reading an article back when the Duggars first came on the TLC scene tha Michelle breastfed for 6 months. It stood out to me because, at the time, my children were young and we did extended breastfeeding and I remember thinking, “well that is why you have so many kids.” However, I can’t find an article that says that. There are a couple of articles/blog posts that reference a Time magazine article on Extending Nursing where she is quoted; however, the links are dead. This is an article on attachment parenting and extended nursing by Bonnie Rochman from 2012.  http://healthland.time.com/2012/05/10/extended-breast-feeding-is-it-more-common-than-we-think/ This is a blog post by a Dad with a commentary on the extended breastfeeding article and Michelle’s comments on breastfeeding. http://almostreadytogoamish.blogspot.com/2012/05/extended-breastfeeding-duggars-and.html According to this article, she thinks all the talk about breastfeeding infertility is a “myth.” I can tell you from personal experience that it is not. As noted in the journal article previously cited, this is not a new notion. It has been known from ancient times, Aristotle mentions it.  8 Lori Soard. “Duggar Family Interview.” Love to Know: Lifestyle. Accessed January 10, 2017. http://home-school.lovetoknow.com/Duggar_Family_Interview This article, as well as a few others I have read, make me believe that there has been criticism of the Duggars from the breastfeeding community for the short amount of time that she nurses. There is quite a bi of explanation within the answer of why she can’t nurse longer.  “LTK: You mentioned that you breastfeed your babies. How long are you able to breastfeed?  MD: I’m breastfeeding the baby until I can’t anymore. About a month into pregnancy, the milk dries up. The baby is not content and by about nine months of age (longest I’ve been able to breastfeed a baby), we’re done. The average length of time between my children is 16 to 18 months apart.”

The other thing that is interesting to me is that the Duggars have a strong connection to Bill Gothard and his Institute. I attended Gothard’s conference as a teen and I distinctly remember him mentioning that there are “God designed” methods of natural family planning.  9 Deb Martin. “The Duggars Promote Bill Gothard and the Pearls.” The Wartburg Watch. Published April 30, 2014. Accessed June 10, 2017. http://thewartburgwatch.com/2014/04/30/the-duggars-promote-bill-gothard-and-the-pearls/ This is an article on a watchdog site that details the relationship between the Duggars and Bill Gothard. Normally, I would refer to the original articles from the Duggar site directly; however, those have been taken down. Gothard was removed from his position in the Institute he founded for inappropriate behavior.  The point is, they used to use his materials.  It is a little odd to me that they seemed to follow his teachings for a significant period of time, yet not in this area.

Just to be clear, I am not condemning Michelle for only nursing for a few months. One of our pediatricians put it best when he said, “Every day you breastfeed is a gift.” And I believe that children are a gift as well.

I just don’t believe that one pregnancy following hard on the heels of another is a sign that one is following “God’s Will” . . . At all.

I would also hate for someone to read their statements, which the Duggars seem to present as Biblically based, and that person come away thinking that in order to do what God says they must have a baby every year and a half . . . Because God does not say that. That is a personal choice, not a directive from God.

 

References   [ + ]

1. Wear’s reference, “even the least of these,” if from Matthew 25 and Jesus’ account of the Final Judgment where he will separate those who are his followers from the rest.. “Then the King will say to those on his right, ‘Come, you who are blessed by my Father, inherit the Kingdom prepared for you from the creation of the world. For I was hungry, and you fed me. I was thirsty, and you gave me a drink. I was a stranger, and you invited me into your home. I was naked and you gave me clothing. I was sick, and you cared for me. I was in prison, and you visited me.” When these righteous ones will reply, ‘Lord, when did we ever see you hungry and feed you? Or thirsty, and give you something to drink? Or a stranger and show you hospitality? Or naked and give you clothing? When did we ever see you sick or in prison and visit you?’ “And the King will say, ‘I tell you the truth, when you did it to one of the least of these my brothers and sisters, you were doing it to me!”
2. Emma Green. “Democrats Have a Religion Problem.” The Atlantic. Published December 29, 2016. Accessed January 10, 2017. https://www.theatlantic.com/politics/archive/2016/12/democrats-have-a-religion-problem/510761/ “Some of his colleagues also didn’t understand his work, he writes. He once drafted a faith-outreach fact sheet describing Obama’s views on poverty, titling it “Economic Fairness and the Least of These,” a reference to a famous teaching from Jesus in the Bible. Another staffer repeatedly deleted “the least of these,” commenting, “Is this a typo? It doesn’t make any sense to me. Who/what are ‘these’?””
3. “About Jim Bob and Michelle.” The Duggar Family. Accessed January 10, 2017. http://www.duggarfamily.com/about “Jim Bob & Michelle Duggar married July 21st, 1984. At that time, they chose to use the birth control pill. They thought, “We don’t want children right now. We can’t afford them. We want children in our timing, when we’re ready.” Four years later they decided to have their first child. Then, Michelle went back on the pill, but she conceived and had a miscarriage. At that point they talked with a Christian medical doctor and read the fine print in the contraceptives package. They found that while taking the pill you can get pregnant and then miscarry. They were grieved! They were Christians! They were pro-life! They realized that their selfish actions had taken the life of their child.”
4. Weaning from the Breast.” Paediatrics & Child Health 9.4 (2004): 249–253. Print. Accessed online January 10, 2017. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2720507/ “Durations of breastfeeding were generally longer in ancient times (4) than in western society today. Aristotle stated that breastfeeding should continue for 12 to 18 months, or when menses restarted in the nursing mother. Mothers in Zulu societies have traditionally breastfed their infants until 12 to 18 months, at which point a new pregnancy would be anticipated. Ancient Hebrews completed weaning at about three years. Most children in traditional societies are completely weaned between two and four years of age (5).”
5. Miriam H. Labbok. “The Lactational Amenorrhea Method (LAM): Another Choice for Mothers.” Breastfeeding Abstracts, August 1993, Volume 13, Number 1, pp. 3-4. Accessed on LaLecheLeague.org January 10, 2017. http://www.lalecheleague.org/ba/aug93.html This article present the LAM method as “new.” It is not new other than lining out how to implement age-old breastfeeding practices into our modern lifestyle.  “LAM is a newly developed interim family planning method that is based on utilization of lactational infertility for protection from pregnancy. LAM provides optimal infant nutrition, enhances immunity, prevents formula-related illness, and physiologically promotes mother-child interaction while simultaneously providing safe and effective temporary child spacing. It may be used for up to six months postpartum during full or nearly full breastfeeding and amenorrhea, and has been shown in clinical trial to be 99 percent effective.”
6. William Sears. “Ask Dr. Sears: Breastfeeding as Birth Control?” Parenting.com. Accessed January 10, 2017. http://www.parenting.com/article/ask-dr-sears-breastfeeding-as-birth-control “Yes, as long as you, so to speak, play by the rules of natural child spacing. Breastfeeding can suppress ovulation and thus serve as a form of birth control. When you breastfeed, the same hormones that make milk, called prolactin, also suppress the release of hormones that cause eggs to mature and become fertile and the lining of the womb to nourish fertile eggs. This is why breastfeeding mothers usually notice a delay in the return of their menstrual periods. This delay, called lactational amenorrhea, or LAM, may be nature’s way of telling you that one baby is all your body can handle right now, and it’s too soon for a sibling. As a natural method of birth control, LAM’s effectiveness rate can be as high as 98 percent (similar to artificial methods), but only if you observe the following practices:”
7. I remember reading an article back when the Duggars first came on the TLC scene tha Michelle breastfed for 6 months. It stood out to me because, at the time, my children were young and we did extended breastfeeding and I remember thinking, “well that is why you have so many kids.” However, I can’t find an article that says that. There are a couple of articles/blog posts that reference a Time magazine article on Extending Nursing where she is quoted; however, the links are dead. This is an article on attachment parenting and extended nursing by Bonnie Rochman from 2012.  http://healthland.time.com/2012/05/10/extended-breast-feeding-is-it-more-common-than-we-think/ This is a blog post by a Dad with a commentary on the extended breastfeeding article and Michelle’s comments on breastfeeding. http://almostreadytogoamish.blogspot.com/2012/05/extended-breastfeeding-duggars-and.html According to this article, she thinks all the talk about breastfeeding infertility is a “myth.” I can tell you from personal experience that it is not. As noted in the journal article previously cited, this is not a new notion. It has been known from ancient times, Aristotle mentions it.
8. Lori Soard. “Duggar Family Interview.” Love to Know: Lifestyle. Accessed January 10, 2017. http://home-school.lovetoknow.com/Duggar_Family_Interview This article, as well as a few others I have read, make me believe that there has been criticism of the Duggars from the breastfeeding community for the short amount of time that she nurses. There is quite a bi of explanation within the answer of why she can’t nurse longer.  “LTK: You mentioned that you breastfeed your babies. How long are you able to breastfeed?  MD: I’m breastfeeding the baby until I can’t anymore. About a month into pregnancy, the milk dries up. The baby is not content and by about nine months of age (longest I’ve been able to breastfeed a baby), we’re done. The average length of time between my children is 16 to 18 months apart.”
9.  Deb Martin. “The Duggars Promote Bill Gothard and the Pearls.” The Wartburg Watch. Published April 30, 2014. Accessed June 10, 2017. http://thewartburgwatch.com/2014/04/30/the-duggars-promote-bill-gothard-and-the-pearls/ This is an article on a watchdog site that details the relationship between the Duggars and Bill Gothard. Normally, I would refer to the original articles from the Duggar site directly; however, those have been taken down. Gothard was removed from his position in the Institute he founded for inappropriate behavior.  The point is, they used to use his materials.