When Your Children Aren’t Your Mission Field
She wakes with a start. The little one is crying. He needs to be nursed. She pulls her tiredness out of bed and fills his little tummy. Just as she lays down her head again, the middle one cries out, “Mom.” She rises to snuggle and kiss the nightmares away. The day starts while she’s still trying to find the night.
Laundry, dishes, cooking, cleaning. Conversations center on not “hulk smashing your brother” and “more raisins.”
Getting in the car to run errands involves a diaper change, a bathroom break, and the “where is your other shoe?” game. At the store (only one store per day), she parks next to the cart return. Kids transfer directly from car to cart and back again. The groceries are on the list or forgotten at the store.
Almost like a race, yet the day chugs by so slowly as shopping turns to unloading, lunching, some of them napping, playing, dinner, bath, and bed. Rinse and repeat.
It’s because of this that so often we hear that our kids are our mission field. They seem to be the only ones we talk to all day. It seems we couldn’t squeeze on more thing in or add a “ministry opportunity.”
It is the prayer of my heart that my sons will grow up knowing God and loving Him. I want them to believe Jesus is God’s son and that his sinless life, sacrifice on the cross, and miraculous resurrection are they only way to repair their relationship with God due to the sin in their own lives. I want them to know grace and to live it out.
The Bible is with me on this. Verses like Deuteronomy 6:6-7 state: “These words I am commanding you today must be kept in mind, and you must teach them to your children and speak of them as you sit in your house, as you walk along the road, as you lie down, and as you get up.” We are to teach our children about God. No doubt about it.
What I am afraid I have done, though, is to make that the prime importance, almost an idol in my own heart and an out for not reaching others. I know I’m not alone in this. I’ve had people encourage me me that my mission field is my children, that they are my primary focus, and the ones I need to reach out to first.
There are some verses that address this in the Bible that are like “say what?” that we can’t ignore. Like Matthew 10:37-39: “Whoever loves father or mother more than me is not worthy of me, and whoever loves son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me. And whoever does not take up his cross and follow me is not worthy of me. Whoever finds his life will lose it, and whoever loses his life because of me will find it.” And Matthew 19:29: “And whoever has left houses or brothers or sisters or father or mother or children or fields for my sake will receive a hundred times as much and will inherit eternal life.”
When you look at how Jesus reached out to his family, it was a little different from us. He didn’t allow them to be his only focus as he went about his work. There was even a time when they thought he was crazy, and he just walked away from that. He focused on the will of God and put his energy into who was around him and seeking truth.
“So is mission to family primary? It must not be lost as a priority, but the safest biblical line to draw is that we must guard our emotions, motives, and idols from making it the priority. We must neither ignore our families for the sake of everyday mission, nor ignore everyday mission for the exclusive sake of our families.” Ben Connelly
Honestly, it feels nice to think that my family is my primary focus because it feels overwhelming to think about doing some outreach program with three boys that are five years old and under. But, I don’t have to add more to my life and drag them around to new “mission fields.” I also don’t need to feel guilty for the “lack of an impact” I’m having on the world because I do have to focus on keeping little people alive and well.
I simply need to look at my life with new eyes and find ways to live intentionally while I am doing life. I don’t have to squeeze in a “ministry opportunity” because they surround me when I open my eyes. My neighbor with a sick child. The lonely mom at the park. The clutter of clothes and toys that could be donated. The time in prayer instead of watching TV.
Because you know what feels best? Living out my love for God.
When I think of what kind of faith and what kind of impact I want my children to have, it centers on loving God and loving others. But, how will they know how to do that if they aren’t seeing it lived out?
I can tell my son a million times how to ride a bike. I can show him pictures and videos on our computer. Or, I can go outside. I can demonstrate as I ride my own bike. I can hold the back of his bike as he rides his.Talking mechanics of bike riding and showing him pictures and videos all inside the safety of our own home? That won’t actually teach him anything.
I know we are busy and tired and overwhelmed and overguilted as mothers. I don’t want to add to that. I simply want to remind us to open our eyes and to encourage us to get out there. I want to cheerlead us into walking with God in all the adventure that it brings.
Let’s look for ways to walk in the light as we walk in our lives and encourage each other along the way.