Wendy and I have known the Duggars for about a decade, have shared the TLC spotlight with them, and couldn’t be more thrilled for the upcoming marriage of their daughter Jill on Saturday. You may think our connection with them has something to do with children and family size, but it’s deeper than that.
But children is where it all seemed to start. Eight years ago we were approached by TLC to be a part of a mini-series called Kids by the Dozen. We were skeptical at first, weary of New York hotshot producers. All reality TV involves a strict contract. Whatever they capture on camera is fair game for producers to do what they will.
So I called Jim Bob Duggar to get the inside scoop of what it was “really” like on a reality TV show. Getting in touch with him back then was fairly easy. Jim Bob and I had an hour-plus conversation about what it would be like inviting the cameras into our home to catch a glimpse of life with so many children.
I recall our conversation fondly. He had a lot to do with our final decision to move forward with the show, and the rest is history. Our show aired in 2007 (you can watch it on YouTube), we published a book on it (which the Duggars endorsed on the back cover), and we now speak publicly (when we can) about love and family.
When we received an invitation to Jill and Derick’s wedding, we dropped everything to make it work. Today we’re loading up the van and trekking to Arkansas for a hot summer wedding. We look forward to celebrating the marriage with them and their friends.
Millions love and adore the Duggars. They’re an oddity just like we are — which makes for good reality television, I suppose — but I believe there is one underlying value that make the Duggars over-the-top awesome: NONCONFORMITY.
Of course we’re not conformists. We have 16 children, they have 19, and both of us say with smiles that we would love to be blessed with another. Yes, we know how this works, and you don’t need to send us links to birth control websites. We get it. We just choose to ignore the more popular choice of few (or no) children.
Here’s the deal: We do not aspire to the patterns of this world. People may think we’re crazy, but we’re really just walking in faith. At some point in both of our lives, we were dealing with the conviction to either have more children or not. Like the Duggars, Wendy and I have been quite transparent about our personal struggle with the same modern choice all parents deal with eventually: should we welcome another child?
Number two or twenty. The conviction is the same. Can we, should we, would we Love Another Child?
The road of reason was wide on why we should have limited our family size. Kids are burdensome and expensive, they weigh on us and consume resources, they make messes of our homes and our emotions. At one point in the 90s when our children’s births were closest together, Wendy and I had not one close friend to turn to for guidance or support. And we didn’t have a reality TV series from which to take notes.
We felt alone in our conviction to have more children. That is our similar testimony. Before the cameras and television, we struggled with the idea of more children, felt genuinely called to love another child, and stepped forward in faith.
So we chose children, one (sometimes two) at a time. They kept coming. And the blessings have been overwhelming.
“Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind” (Romans 12:2). That’s a biblical mandate that both of our families have applied. Not perfectly, but when it came to children, we were nonconformists.
You, too, should not conform. Make this verse your personal verse. It may be scary or seem crazy, but nonconformity is your own personal connection with the will of God. The verse concludes, “Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will.”
People often mistake this message with a condemning, finger-pointing judgment on all other parents. “Shame on you for not having more children.” None of us believe such a thing. Sure, we may push back on modern ideas that try to say children aren’t blessings (they’re out there, more today than ever), but the conviction for you and your marriage is between you and God. The real shame is on anyone who gets in the way and tries to manipulate that.
Instead, our message is one of faith, hope and love. The road God has for you is a unique journey you need to figure out in this short life you live on earth. If all of life can be narrowed down to one central purpose, it would be this: figure out what your journey is and do it.
In faith. With hope. Bathed in love. Do it.
And ignore those who try to get you to conform. If you seek God and transform your mind, the blessings will flow from it. There is no better way to live.