Different, Not Wrong

I believe that if a woman’s heart belongs entirely to God and she doesn’t long for children, she is probably called to childlessness in order to pursue other purposes for God. Beth Moore

A friend sent this quote to me the other day and I have not been able to get it out of my mind since.  I’ve shared before how I don’t feel called to have kids, however I haven’t shared the tremendous amount of disapproval I’ve gotten and/or felt from others because of this choice.

I’ve been told things like:

“You can not really know and experience God’s love until you’re a parent.”

“Parenting is the highest calling.”


While I don’t think people’s intentions when they said those things were malicious, they left me feeling inferior and incomplete.

Can others really make that judgment call about my life and what God has called me to?

What if that’s not God’s plan for me?

I think that we find ourselves so bound by societal norms that we can’t imagine different being ok.

We do the same thing (sometimes worse) to those that are single.  Our culture suggests that you haven’t arrived until you’ve walked down the aisle.  Somehow you’re incomplete.

Whether by choice or by circumstances beyond our control, singleness and childlessness are not wrong.  Different, but not wrong.

Be careful what you impose on others.  You never know what God has called them to.

** To my family – this post is not directed to you.  You have all graciously supported our decision and we are so grateful.

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  • Heidi April 21, 2010  

    I get sooo angry when people cast judgement on people who choose not too have children. It's your choice, it's your body, life, etc.__The amazing part like the quote above, God has given you an amazin job. Having kids would limit the time, the dedicated time you give Pete and the crosspoint campus (s)! God is using you as an instrument for change and influence in Nashville! How exciting is that… oHMYgOD EXCITING!____Your birthing is not in the flesh, it's in eternal!____~peace and prayers my friend!____

    • jcatron April 21, 2010  

      Heidi, you are so kind and encouraging. Thank you!

  • Laura Anne April 21, 2010  

    Ugh. I get stuff like that all…the…time. Did you not know that you aren't a complete Christian woman if you're not married? Things like 'one day you'll meet your husband' and 'you really need a man' and 'mr right is just around the corner' just make me laugh now.

    Because like not having children, it's perhaps the case that God has a higher purpose for me that would be much more difficult or impossible if I were to marry or have children.

    I already know that there is a good possibility I'm physically unable to have children anyway, and as much as I know God could heal me from that – with Him all things are possible – it may also be the case that He doesn't.

  • jcatron April 21, 2010  

    Laura Anne, be encouraged that God is doing so much through you!

  • Jonathan April 21, 2010  

    It seems that too often people unfairly equate marital or parental status to social status. It stinks.

  • Carrie G April 21, 2010  

    Totally agree with you in this today. Societal "norms" are not the arrival point for some. No marriage, FINE – you're called to that life. No kids, TOTALLY FINE – again, you're following God's will and that's tough when others look at you like you're missing out on something.

    Take it from an adult child who now realizes that her folks fell into the latter category but did not follow their hearts, it stinks. God's norms for you are not others' norms.

    You rock, Sister!

    • jcatron April 21, 2010  

      Thanks Carrie, you're so sweet!

  • bennettaj April 21, 2010  

    Jenni, thank you for posting this. I have to admit I've struggled with my best friend that does not want kids. I think the difference though is that she does not live her life for God. Her desire for no kids seems to stem from the fact she just wants to have fun her entire life and kids would get in the way. However, I love that quote from Beth because indeed, if you are called to God's purposes and children are not in that picture, then who is anyone to call you out on that? I would agree with those that say you see God in a different way with children. I'd like to blow that off, but I can't. However, I'm very sure that you will learn and experience so much more than me in different ways without kids and enjoying what God has for you. We all need to judge less and accept more as long as we are doing what God calls us to do. Thanks again for this post.

    • jcatron April 21, 2010  

      Amy, thanks for your perspective on this. I agree the key to Beth's quote is "a woman's heart belongs entirely to God"… I want that statement to be true about me.

  • Janice April 21, 2010  

    My sister went through the "I can't believe you're still single" and "you mean you're not married" routine. She did marry at age 48 to a wonderful gentleman who had also never been married and they have a blessed marriage. However, when she was younger she also would get a bit peeved that folks thought she was "missing out" on something.

    I have such admiration for you as you have followed God's calling on your life through what have been, unfortunately, many discouraging and thoughtless comments and/or judgements. It is obvious to most that God has indeed blessed you in pursuing your purpose and you have touched more lives than you will ever know in this life!

    • jcatron April 21, 2010  

      Of all people, I'm so blessed that you understand and support me. I'm so thankful for you!

  • Sherie April 21, 2010  

    Jenni, you referred to culture suggesting we are not complete until we are married (I am single). I am wondering the experience you and others have had regarding feedback and where it comes from. In my experience culture has been accepting of the fact I have not married and my stance that I will not raise childre in a single parent home knowingly. The criticism I have received is from within the church. I have faced resistance toward being allowed in leadership because I am female AND single. Is this coming from society, or is the church hurting itself by not embracing these groups that have more time, resources, and freedom for decisions because they are single and without children?

    This is something I am passionate about because I think these groups are being overlooked and immensely under utilized in our churches, and I think many of them are becoming disillusioned by how we are leading Christianity so they are turning from the church and sometimes even the faith in search of acceptance, value, and support.

    • jcatron April 21, 2010  

      Sherie – that's a really important point. Yes, I think the church can be the most guilty of this. The church is missing a huge opportunity to allow people who are single and without kids to invest their time in ministry. In the scriptures, Paul talks about this very thing. I'm so sorry that you have faced criticism. Keep pursuing God's purpose and place for you. He sees you complete (in Him) just as you are!

    • Anon. April 22, 2010  

      Wish I didn't identify with your post as much as I do. Maybe I was naive, but never thought it would be so hard to be a single female in leadership on a church staff.

      I see resources for pastor's wives and such, but being a female staffer can almost seem isolating when it comes to pastor's wives…with fact of my singleness bringing another level of separation. The desire to not serve in church leadership until I am married crosses my mind much too often!

      As for the original post, thank you Jenni for being honest about who God created YOU to be!

      • Sherie April 22, 2010  

        I believe God has you there for a purpose. Don't loose heart. Your voice and presence is needed. Thank you for being an example and a witness in your role as you serve. I am sure it is hard at times but I believe the time is coming soon where some of that will change. I am now in a church where singles and women are valued, and although I have never asked I am sure those without kids are also. I shared this issue with two of my leaders tonight (both men – one young married without kids and one single). They were not aware of some of the struggle women face in these areas. The more we speak up and raise awareness the more things will change.

        • jcatron April 24, 2010  

          Sherie, thank you for your encouragement!

      • Brandi April 23, 2010  

        I absolutely identify with this! Being a single woman on church staff is one of the most lonely places to be. I cringe when I see ministries for "Pastor's wives" with "and women in ministry" tagged on almost as an afterthought, then 90% of their discussion revolves around their husbands ministry, their kids, etc. I wish a ring on the finger weren't so divisive or that there were places for conversations about leadership & balancing our relationship with Jesus rather than balancing our relationship with our husband/kids. It's tough, for sure, especially when adding the abundant comments that come from well meaning people about why I'm not married or who I'm dating or how much it sucks that there isn't a small group in my church for young singles so how do I think I might meet someone?

        Ah, as you can see you've struck a chord with this post, Jenni! Thanks for writing!

        • jcatron April 24, 2010  

          Thanks for sharing your experience Brandi. We're hoping to broadcast our Cultivate Her (women leadership events) soon… that might be a great resource for you. Praying for you!!

      • jcatron April 24, 2010  

        Praying for you! Don't give up on what God has called you to and the desires he has placed in your heart for ministry leadership!

  • JasonWert April 21, 2010  

    The most important thing is to truly understand God's will for you and put all of your personal desires aside. Amazing how many times people don't really want to accept when people do exactly that.

  • Chelsea April 22, 2010  

    I've had the same situation with not being married. I have four siblings, all married and all have children. I just turned 26 but for years people have made comments. Every time I come home, everyone at my parents church ask if I'm dating anyone, and when I reply no, they want to know why. I simply state it's not in God's plan yet. Would I like to get married? Yes. Is that in God's plan? I have no idea. But I'm not worried about it. I have a wonderful family who support me and love the fact that I'm pursuing my career and my relationship with God. They love that I'm not worried about marriage and they aren't worried either. They know it's in God's timing. I'm sorry people have said things to you. I think that if that is the decision you have made that's a beautiful decision! God will do some incredible things with you and your husband. Being single God has been able to use me for mission work, traveling for family, and other things that I wouldn't be able to do if married right now. Just think of the possibilities that God has and how He can use you! I am excited for what He has in store for you. I hope you are encouraged and I hope others stop making comments that make you feel inferior. God bless you!

    • jcatron April 24, 2010  

      Chelsea, my heart always aches for my single friends who get asked the "why aren't you dating?" question all the time. I'm so thrilled that you have good support and great perspective on this season of your life. Thank you for your kind words of encouragement!

  • Deanne April 22, 2010  

    I so appreciated your putting this out there. There are women like yourself who have chosen a life focus that doesn't include children and there are women, like me, who probably would have had kids but married someone who that didn't work with. It's painful at times being a woman in the Christian culture without kids, you often don't feel you fit anywhere–there isn't a "catagory" for that! But I am so grateful to have the marriage I have, the ministry I have and a relationship with a God who doesn't define me by whether or not I have children. I respect your decision and God has obviously chosen to use you to influence the lives of others in ways that are unique to you. Blessings on you as you continue to serve your Lord!

    • jcatron April 24, 2010  

      Thank you so much for your kind words and encouragement Deanne. Praying for God's blessing on you too!

  • Dad April 22, 2010  

    Being the Father of both of these situations I can tell everyone with out a dought I think nothing less of either of these positions. I believe it takes more strength to defend your position then to submit to what others believe are the norm. I am very proud of my daughters and the path they have chose in life. I feel nothing less on these choices and they are their choices. I love them both very much.

  • DawnBryant April 22, 2010  

    Wow. I've totally felt like this. In fact, I've avoided specific groups of people just because I was sick of all of the non-solicited advice. "Advice" that is hurtful (albeit, not malicious), and even elitist (in moments). The fact is, having our own children isn't as easy as one would think. And, frankly, my husband and I are in a really good place with it. So much so, that the desire has diminished…but in it's place a desire to serve is overflowing from us…like we cannot turn it off. And, really, if we had children right now, we wouldn't be able to do what we're doing now. And, looking backward, we know that God knew. God knew how He was going to use us…and maybe, just maybe…kids were not meant to be in the picture (at least not right now). Who knows what the future holds, but right now, there is no doubt we're living God's plan for us…not a plan built by societal expectations. And, I refuse to feel smaller because of it…

    • jcatron April 24, 2010  

      We have way too much in common, Dawn! Love your perspective on this! God is definitely using your time and energy for his work!

  • Chrstopher Hopper April 23, 2010  

    God bless Beth More; what a poignant word. And God bless you; great insight on the ramifications of bogus impositions. ch:

  • carriebrowneyes April 25, 2010  

    What a cool post. I love that you can write this without bitterness.

    I remember feeling this way, but with a boiling-over anger and bitterness. For years after I was married, I didn't want to have children. I wanted to focus on my career. I served a lot at church. And oh, how I hated the comments. I wondered why I could be better accepted in the world than in the church. (!) I still feel like there are very few voices of career-oriented Christian women out there.

    God did change my heart on having children and 7 1/2 years into our marriage, our first son was born (we now have two). I love my boys to pieces (though I still don't feel like I was "born" to mother – like I am missing a gene or trying to write with my "opposite" hand – compared to what I think mothers *should* be like). I still pursue my career (though I have an 80% appointment now), and I still serve a lot in the church.

    Now I'm rambling, sorry. I just wanted to say I can really identify with you. I do have children, but I still have this passion for excellence in my career that I can't help but think God put there. It's a daily struggle to figure out how the pieces fit together. There aren't a lot of role models out there.