“You’ve become a father.”
I was going about my day when I seemed to hear a still, small voice say this to me. I wondered if it was God. This happened two months after my wife and I had gotten married. But since I wasn’t sure if that whisper was Him speaking to me, I pondered it in my heart.
A week later, my wife found out she was pregnant. I can still vividly remember the moment she texted me the news. I was on the train commuting to work. When I read her text message, I was surprised and beyond thrilled; words could not describe how overjoyed I was!
Why Our Words Matter
“You’ve become a father.” What God said to me—before my child was born—got me thinking further about something that has been on my mind for a while now: the way Christians, including myself, tend to speak of preborn children seems to be in contrast with our beliefs about when life begins. I saw this in the remarks several Christians made to me when they found out my wife was pregnant.
“Congratulations! You’re going to be a father!”
“I heard the good news! I’m so happy you’re going to have a baby soon!”
“I’m excited that your child will be here soon!”
These words were expressed by well-meaning Christians who shared our joy and, like us, deeply held the belief that preborn children were human persons created by God—precious lives of inestimable worth.
There were also a couple of moments when I caught myself—despite my beliefs that my preborn daughter was a living human being—thinking and referring to her as an “it” or as less of a person because she was not yet born. I realized then that we may have unintentionally allowed our culture’s way of speaking about life to seep into our vocabulary, and perhaps, thinking.
I’ve learned that how we speak should always be consistent with our beliefs about reality as God sees it—because our words affect the way we think about and experience the world. How then, can we steward our words such that they are in line with how God conceives of human life?
The Word on Life
We get a glimpse of the way God views life through Psalm 139, which reveals that He sees our substance before they took shape (Psalm 139:6). This was brought home to me in a deeper way by an experience my wife had.
Several years before she knew me, she saw in her mind an image of a smiling girl with a French braid during worship, and felt that God told her she would be her child. Since then, she had always wanted her daughter to be a pure-hearted intercessor.
A few years passed. By this time, we had met each other and become friends. One morning, she woke up with a name in her mind that she had not even known existed before. It meant both purity and prayer. It was to be the name we would give our daughter.
The psalm also describes how God Himself “formed [our] inward parts [and] knitted [us] together in [our] mother’s womb” (Psalm 139:13), as we are “being made in secret, intricately woven in the depths of the earth” by Him (Psalm 139:15). He saw and shaped us as human beings even when we were in the womb.
When the angel Gabriel announced to Mary that she would conceive a son, Jesus, by the power of the Holy Spirit (Luke 1:26–38), Jesus was Jesus from the moment the Holy Spirit hovered over the waters of Mary’s womb to create Him in human form within her. He didn’t become the Son of Man only later on in Mary’s pregnancy or when He was born.
These are just some of the passages in the Bible that point to how human life begins at conception—a truth that has also been supported by science: at fertilization, the woman’s egg and the man’s sperm unite as one to give life to a whole new living human being who is genetically unique and distinct from his or her father or mother.
Changing the Way We Speak
Since I began discovering these truths about how God sees human life, I’ve given much thought to how Christians can reflect them in the way we speak about human life. Here are some ideas.
For example, since life begins at conception, we can start by recognizing that expectant couples are not “going to have a baby” or “going to be parents”. My wife and I already had a baby during her pregnancy. We were already parents because our baby was a living human person from the moment of fertilization.
Because of that, when asked how many children they have, expectant parents can rightly say that they are a father or mother of a preborn baby. I once said, during a time of introductions in a meeting, that I was a father of a preborn girl. It felt unusual, because it’s not commonly heard, but it’s nevertheless true to how God sees reality.
We can also have conversations about parenting that extends beyond children who are born. Just as parents would, from time to time, talk about their joys and challenges of raising their children according to their kids’ developmental needs through different ages and life stages, we can also intentionally start having conversations about how expectant parents are taking care of their preborn children.
During the months while my daughter was in her preborn days, my wife and I parented her by ensuring she received the right nutrition (through the food and supplements my wife consumed), talking to her every night before we went to bed, feeling her move in the womb, playing music for her, singing to her, and praying with and for her. I’d say goodbye to her when I left for work in the mornings and I’d greet her when I came home from work. In the same way, now that she is born, we are parenting her according to her needs as an infant.
A Call for Christians to Speak Life
As Christians, we are called to no longer conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of our minds (Romans 12:2).
To me, part of what it means to renew our minds in this area is to intentionally align the ways we think with the way God sees life, and to use words that reflect the patterns of God’s reality, instead of our culture’s. When we do this, we would have the opportunity to embody and express God’s kingdom truths in ways that invite the world to experience reality as the Father has intended it.
My wife and I have been blessed with the incredible journey of raising and getting to know our daughter for seven months now. As she grows up, one of the Father’s teachings that we will be eager to pass on to her (Deuteronomy 6) is to see and speak life in the ways God does, so that her worldview and words may become flesh in the world—in life-giving ways.