I know I love the Church. I think I will love my kids.
My call to the Church has been just as strong … if not stronger … than my call to motherhood. And so I’ve waited. I put off having kids. I know a lot of young people don’t feel the urgency and are waiting to have kids, too. But my waiting has truly been all about the Church.
You see, I already know I love the Church. The people who have been the Church to me have taught me about God, have shown me how to live meaningfully, have affirmed my value, have fought injustice around them, and have lived in true community.
And I love what God thinks of the Church – it’s his bride, the hands and feet of Jesus, the hope of the world. I’ve been hurt enough times by church people to get mad now and again, but I’ve always kept those episodes separate from the greater Church – the true Church – in my mind. And so I am just overwhelmed with passion for the people of God.
I got married pretty young. I was 22. And I’ve always known I’d want a family eventually. But my husband and I set our eyes on seminary and becoming better equipped to serve the world by serving the church. Kids could wait.
My mother knew from the moment she was married she wanted to build a family. She wasted no time getting started. But I waited seven years. Several of those years were spent earning my Master of Divinity.
And then after all that hard work, I couldn’t imagine not giving my complete devotion to a local church for at least a little while. I needed to work as a minister full-time for at least a year, I decided. But then finding that full-time position as a woman in a new town proved difficult initially. So the timeline was pushed back a bit more.
I was loving the church; I was loving my life. But I was nearing 30, knew I’d eventually want more than one child, and there were biological factors to consider.
So I scheduled it. I was plenty busy serving a church at this point, but the timeline had to be considered, and so I believed God would make a way.
I haven’t known many mother-ministers. I figured it would be hard. It didn’t help that – in the midst of me quietly trying to get pregnant – my lead pastor told me not to get pregnant. It was a completely inappropriate comment. I knew he should never have said it. He didn’t have to elaborate for me to know he believed that I couldn’t give my all to the ministry objectives I shared if I had a baby in tow.
And while it made me angry that he would make such a pronouncement, it also voiced the inward fear I’d been harboring for years. Could I be effective in reaching people for Christ, in making disciples of new Christians, in equipping leaders to take Jesus into their workplaces – if I was preoccupied with a little one who was completely dependent on me?
Thankfully, I am now serving in a church where the lead pastor believes I can still be effective with a child. She hired me as her associate pastor with full knowledge of my pregnancy. She sees I am determined to serve. She believes I can be both mother and minister. She did it. She knows it’s possible.
So her beautiful budding church – only a year old – hired me when I was 30 weeks pregnant. They call me their Pastor of Multiplication. The plan is that in a few years my husband and I will plant a second church – an offshoot of this church. My pregnancy gives them fodder for jokes about multiplication … when it comes to their church and when it comes to my family, and I love it all.
They let me preach my first Sunday with them. The pastor sees me as her partner, not her assistant. The church is excited for my expanding family. Barely having served the church for two months, they threw me a baby shower. They are giving me paid maternity leave. Their open arms and all of their generosity only makes me love the Church more.
And so when I say that I know I love the Church and I think I will love my kids, I mean it.
I’ve never been a baby person. Kids make it harder to schedule meetings or parties or ministry events. I hear about how exhausted I will be, and I’ve witnessed the struggle of parenting rambunctious, rebellious little ones. But parents say it’s worth it. They say it’s the hardest-greatest joy one could experience. I’m told it will make my ministry deeper in ways I haven’t experienced yet.
Scripture says children are a heritage – a blessing – from the Lord. I am truly looking forward to teaching my son about Jesus. I look forward to growing the Church in this very personal way. And with the confidence of my church community – who believes I can serve both them and a child – as well as the example of my lead pastor and the friends and women who write for this blog – my faith is strengthened.
So here I am, writing this on my due date – truly believing that God equips those whom God calls. God makes us complete in everything good so we can do God’s will. God has prepared us to do good works, and God will see it through. It’s all for the glory of Jesus, after all, and not for me.
I waited to get pregnant. I put off having kids. It looks like my baby is now making me wait a little longer for him to come into the world. Perhaps greater patience is one of the first things God is going to teach me through this new experience of motherhood.
And I will take whatever lessons I learn from God through this baby and pass them along to my congregation. Because I love the Church. And I will love my kids.
Chansin Esparza is the Pastor of Multiplication at Life In The City in Austin, Texas. She has served in connection ministry, young adult ministry, and youth ministry. She and her husband both have Master of Divinity degrees from Baylor’s Truett Seminary. Their first child is due in January 2016.