In the last century, a popular theory emerged about personality and birth order. Developed by Alfred Adler, it just posited that birth order directly impacts personality. More recently, child and family therapist, Meri Wallace, authored a book called Birth Order Blues, in which she agreed with Adler and elaborated on his findings.
There are other researchers who do not agree, but it seems to me that, at the very least, we’d have to all agree that parents change and mature between births of their babies, and so the parents of the youngest child in a family are different from the people they were five, ten or even fifteen years ago when the first child was born. They know more about what’s really important as more children come along. They know more about effective discipline. (Experience is a great teacher.) They have less and less time and propensity for selfish pursuits (and for the previously-born children). They should be more mature, introspective and wise. My daughter, who recently gave birth to her third child, says to me, whenever a doctor tells her something that’s elementary, or when a grandmother at the supermarket is critical of her discipline, “This is not my first rodeo.” I firmly believe that the best-prepared parent is the one who’s riding in a repeat “rodeo”.
It stands to reason that, environmentally, kids in the same families will not always be affected in the same ways by their common parents. I write about Providence a lot and I believe that God’s providing for His own families, His obedient parenting sons and daughters, even in the birth order of their children.
Take my brand new friend, Honour Able Hanna, who was born last week in Grand Bahama. His dad and mother, Tavaro and Shameika, who work with the church there are among our dearest family members in the Lord. When we first knew them, about ten years ago, they were on a very different trajectory through life than the one they’ve purposefully mapped out during those intervening years. I love talking to Shameika about the conscious decisions that took her from being an all-in career mom (having been brought up to be just that) with aspirations of power in the business world to where she is today: having the full realization of the relative unimportance of money and prestige when compared with the blessings that come with being all-in for Christ. I’ve never personally seen anyone make the transitions so swiftly and completely as Shameika has done. In the meantime, her husband Tavaro has completed preaching school in the U.S. and they have together returned to their native island to reach as many as they can for the cause that directs them heavenward. Genesis was their firstborn. Her name was purposeful and prophetic. She was the Genesis of a spiritual parenting journey through which they were vowing to leave a legacy for the Lord through their children. Thus, Legacy, their second daughter, was soon born and it was not too long after her birth that the little family set their sights on coming to preaching school. This is Genesis: At the time they came over, the mantra or family purpose statement using their children’s names was “ The Genesis of a godly Legacy.”
While they were in preaching school, baby #3 was born. Her name is Providence, and we watched God provide a path for the family to leave secular work and be full-time in evangelism, starting a congregation and bringing multiple souls to Him. The purpose statement was then “The Genesis of a godly Legacy by God’s Providence”.
Faithful Leigh was next and the family sub-title grew: “The Genesis of a Faithful godly Legacy.”
Finally these four perfect little girls welcomed a brother, Honour Able to the family last week. Honour is beautiful! Fresh from heaven, he fills what Shameika says, for now, is the last empty spot in her heart—a heart that’s full of a desire to glorify Him. She says the final family word is “An Honour Able Genesis of a Faithful godly Legacy, by God’s Providence.”
Now, back to birth order. God is amazing sometimes in what He is working through parents who are set on honoring Him. In this particular family, four sweet daughters have been learning to be meek and quiet spirits (I Peter 3:1-6), little women of wisdom (Proverbs 31), and little girls who are constantly looking to faithful older women as examples of familial love and service. I remember it was at the birth of Genesis that the genesis really happened. Two parents made a firm decision to do everything within their power to get that little soul to heaven. They made big financial and time sacrifices to get on a path from which they have never looked back. Four little girls followed the Genesis and each came into a stronger and more focused home. It was the little future elder and preacher, though, that God saved for last. He’s putting Him in a home that is already fully committed, trained and back in the field. He will get to see some things in his early, most formative years, that Genesis, the oldest, for instance, did not get to see in hers—a preacher’s family in full-force evangelism, a mom and dad who have learned by experience to be amazing one-on-one evangelists, a father who has ten years of nurturing and discipline experience under his belt, a mother who has been forced to drop some things that she thought were priorities before the births of her girls and move some important things to the top of the list, a family who has been having Family Bible Time for ten years….In short, while they were all born into a home of faith and dedication, he has been born into a home that’s been through one of the greatest apprenticeships: the tutor has been experience. So Honour, by His great mercy, has the same parents as the four beautiful girls. But Honour has different parents, too. Honour’s parents are in their thirties; not their twenties. Honour’s Daddy is a preacher; not a businessman. Honour’s mother is a keeper at home extraordinaire and she already has ten years of home-schooling behind her. It’s the same family, but it’s not the same family. God has given this little boy six in-house nurturers, while Genesis had only two. He has six diaper-changers. But, more importantly, he has six people who are going to pray for him every day; four sisters who will be helping him learn his memory verses and remember to take His Bible to class. He will have a smaller portion of one-on-one time with parents, but the huge benefit of close quarters and constant conversation. (I mean really constant.) He will have six storybook readers! God has given this future preacher a father (a tutor) who is a preacher. He has given him a mission field at the door of the little house. He has given him a time and place when He will be watching parents react with prowess and protectiveness to a sin-saturated culture. It will not be the same culture at all into which Providence, the middle child, was born.
Adler posited that birth order molds personality. I posit that, for His people, God providentially and strategically blesses through birth order. I think Romans 8:28 applies as mothers deliver babies. Surely a part of “all things” are those pregnancies, chromosomes, laborings, deliveries, nights up with babies, preacher school choices, people with whom parents interact and from whom they learn and grow. His providence is amazing and, when we view the eventualities of our lives through the lens of His glory, we find constant wonder and awe at the way He works through our families.
Lastly, I love that Providence is the middle child in this family. Half-way through the birthing order—between the Genesis and the Honour was a full recognition of the wonderful way God was executing His plan though the Hanna family. That’s the way it works. If we have a beginning—a desire to build, through our homes, a legacy for our Father—He, brings us to a place in which much glory and honor (Kabad) can be returned to Him.
It won’t be too many years before a different birthing order will be happening in the Hanna family. I pray that each child will be born into Christ and in due time, each arrow will fly with precision and providence toward eternity around the throne of the great and providential heavenly Father we serve.
He’s great in the “working-together” of birth and birth order. But He’s greater in the “working-together” of the new birth that’s by water and blood (John 3). He’s great in family providence. But he’s greater in His provision for us all in the family that will assemble when we cross over to that great family reunion!
And we know that all things work together for good for those who love Him and are the called according to his purpose. (Romans 8:28).
I’m glad our Father is a purposeful Provider!