Can we talk a bit about doing this whole missionary thing as parents? It’s absolutely wonderful to share this adventure with your kids… but what happens when they aren’t completely on board?
I’ve heard a lot about disgruntled MKs… you know, those missionary kids who grow up swearing they will never have anything to do with missions or the church because of everything their parents’ dragged them through as kids. I really don’t want my child to be bitter toward God because of what He has asked us to do right now. (Ironically, I know several MKs who felt that way as teens, but ended up devoting their adult lives to missions anyway. So maybe it’s just a phase for a lot of kids? I mean what teen really likes a lot of the decisions parents make?)
I’ve also heard a lot about awkward or “untethered” MKs… these are the missionary kids who spend so much of their childhood bouncing around different cultures that they never quite know how to fit in completely anywhere. (Perhaps the same thing could be said about any child whose family moves around a lot?) Regardless, I don’t want my kids to grow up feeling like they don’t have a home in any country.
One of the biggest reasons Wyeth and I chose to accept the task of living in Nicaragua is for our kids. We want them to understand the meaning of service, obedience, and humility. We want them to know there are people and places beyond our part of the world. No, wait. We not only want them to know about those people, but also to grow to love those people. We want our kids to understand the challenges other people face, and seek to help them in any way possible. And more than anything, we want them to bravely serve God in whatever way — wherever — He asks them (even if it is not easy, comfortable, or safe).
All of that is important. And it’s wonderful to write about… but…
… what about the actual living of it?
Like any family, we have good days and bad. On the good days, we all understand the reasons we’re here, and accept the challenges with grace (or as close to it as possible).
On the bad days, well… it’s pretty bad. We don’t understand why we’re here and we just want to run back to the safe and predictable. The challenges, umm, they pretty much overwhelm us and grace is nonexistent. (What is the opposite of grace? Yeah, it looks a lot like that.) Sometimes it can feel like we’re in the middle of the snowiest, coldest, most frozen winter in decades, without a glimpse of spring.
And the worst part is that we don’t all follow the same cycle between good days and bad, so there’s almost always at least one of us on the downhill swing. (Then again, perhaps it’s a good thing we don’t all hit it at the same time?)
As a mom, I find that my hardest days aren’t when I want to jump on the first plane outtahere, but rather when my kids want to.
I often tell my kids that in many situations they need to just hang in there because they can’t see the forest for the trees. Maybe the forest is huge and there is still a long way to go to get through it, or maybe it’s tiny, and the clearing is just up ahead. (I’m writing this mostly to remind myself of that same concept!) I can’t tell our girls for sure how long we’ll be here and I’m not sure whether they will ever feel the burden for Nicaragua that we do.
And if I’m honest, it’s during those “winter” moments when I question a lot. We believe God wants us to start this new work in Nicaragua, but how do we really know? We want to obey God, but also want to what’s best for our kids. At times, those two goals seem to battle for our attention. Sure, it’s easy to rationalize that kids don’t always know what is best and that kids should obey their parents. (Deut. 5:16) But, a house divided won’t stand very long either. (Mark 3:25)
So we press on, seeking wisdom at every point along the path, trusting that as long as we’re seeking to obey God, He’ll take care of the rest. And we remember that the morning always follows the night, and spring always follows winter (well, I guess unless you live in Antarctica).
“My Lord God, I have no idea where I am going. I do not see the road ahead of me. I cannot know for certain where it will end. Nor do I really know myself, and the fact that I think I am following Your will does not mean that I am actually doing so. But I believe that the desire to please You does in fact please You. And I hope that I have that desire in all that I am doing. I hope that I will never do anything apart from that desire. And I know that if I do this You will lead me by the right road through I may know nothing about it. Therefore I will trust You always, though I may seem to be lost and in the shadow of death. I will not fear, for You are ever with me, and You will never leave me to face my perils alone.” — Thomas Merton
P.S. Those two photos show the exact same scene, in two different seasons. Go figure 😉
How do you reconcile working for God and caring for your children’s needs? Do those two goals ever feel contradictory? Tell me about it…