Dear Parents of the World,
I don’t know about you, but I am feeling some tension lately. My intuition and my maternal instinct are at war. I have been wrestling with the following dilemma… If I make my child’s world be all about him, Does he have braces and the right shoes? Does he arrive at his practices and games on time (but at great cost to everyone around him?)? Does he have homework time and shiny materials at his disposal? And does he have vacations and the latest electronics and the hottest fashions? Does this collecting of the right opportunities and camps and classes and choices galore reinforce over and over in his 18 years (under my roof) that the world revolves around him? How then can I possibly expect or dream or hope for, an adult at the end of that, who is missional and others-centered and ready to go out into all the world?
May there be another way? One that teaches more about service and less about self?
Lately, I have been talking to my kids about an outward focused life. Some call it missions, others call it outreach, I am hoping we call it normal. I have been explaining my heart for orphans as a ‘burr under my saddle’. I can’t sit still or comfortable when I think about parentless children. It compels me to act. I go and pray and give as I see and think about orphans. The first time I felt the burr was when I saw children that were hungry and hiding the food I brought to them under their mattresses. After that, I was never the same. One of our parental privileges is helping children discover their own ‘burrs’.
The children in your life might have ‘burrs in their saddles’ for kids on their soccer team, or people they see in their school who are lonely, or new or have special needs, they might be moved by something they hear about at church or see on TV. Burrs can develop for people we know and for people we hear about who are victims of violence or natural disaster.
The important thing to remember is all burrs start with a cry. God tunes us each into a cry that reflects the heart and story He is developing for each of us. Helping our children tune into more than just their own channel is a start to forming the adult we hope they will one day become.
When we hear our children raise questions, offer insights, or sound unsatisfied with how someone is living, it’s our chance to listen and walk with them as they shift the focus from their own kingdoms to God’s. It brings such joy to explain that prick in their spirit is a piece of God’s heart, deposited in them.
The next steps are offering what they have (reminding them they have more than just objects, they have time, they have a smile, they have ideas, they have prayers, they have relationship, gifts, influence, etc…) to those they see. Andy Stanley says, “Do for one what you wish you could do for all.” Kids don’t need to understand causes or evangelistic campaigns, they don’t and won’t see things at the macro level, and we can’t expect them to be little Mother Theresas. However, they will see stories, and friends, and names. They will see injustice or loneliness. If we can help them keep their next steps personal, it will drive them towards engagement and set them up for a lifestyle of reaching out to others in His name.
Beth Guckenberger is the mother of a bunch of biological, a bunch of adopted and a slew of foster children. She and her husband, Todd, direct Back2Back Ministries. Beth is the author of several books on the journey of their life abroad.