Recently, I was reminded of the story best known as "The Prodigal Son." I’ve heard this story many times, most often identifying with the oldest son, and many times with the prodigal son. But I had never considered the perspective or lesson of the father. In the parable the father is God and the message speaks to his mercy, forgiveness, and grace for an undeserving son (Luke 15:11-32).
Honestly, I had started to look at this parable like a modern day judgey mom. Seriously, what kind of parenting fails led to these two? One child became a ungrateful degenerate and the other self-righteous and entitled. But it's not the failings of the children that reveal the nature of the father. In fact, it is their response to the father in the midst of their worst moments that reveal the father's character. The younger son knows his father is one to treat even his lowest employees well. This son didn't expect to be welcomed back as a son, but neither did he fear punishment. He ran to his father because he knew the kind of person his father was, merciful and compassionate. And his father was, abundantly more so than the son could have imagined, welcoming him with great affection and generosity. The father restored the parent-child relationship, and celebrated his returned son.
My kids can act like the sons in the parable at times. The older is a bit self-righteous and the younger a bit more rebellious. I certainly hope my son never becomes like the prodigal in this story - spending all he has and hitting the bottom of society. But if he does, I hope I can be like the father in the story. I hope I can set aside my pride and hurt, tame my judgmental tongue, and run to my child whatever the mess. And hug him, whatever the stink. I want this relationship to be as accurate a reflection as possible of the kind of parent-child relationship I have with the good Father. So I am working now to demonstrate to my son that I am the kind parent he can always return to, a parent more interested in relationship than rules. I want both of my children to believe that they will always be received with warmth, that I will come out and meet them where they are - like the father did with each of the sons.
Being rooted in Christ Jesus, I can show my children this goodness and mercy, this unfailing love; just as it has been shown to me.
In one week I'm leaving my family to get on a plane for Kyrgyzstan. I'm going to help support a local church there along with a few other people from my church here. We will be working as helpers for an outreach summer camp for the kids there. The church doesn't have enough staff or supplies to support all the children that come, so that's where we come in and fill the need. While I am a bit nervous, I do have a joy and a peace knowing that I my time and efforts are being spent on something good. It hasn't been practical or easy to go on mission trips since my little ones came into the picture. In fact, this will be my first time doing missions in about 15 years.
Actually, that's not entirely true. Parenting is missions. Parenthood calls for a sacrifice of time, money, and energy to serve a people who, when we meet them are in need of care and truth. Parenting taken me far outside of my comfort zone, and required me to serve others with a purpose. And it's been a time of personal spiritual growth. As Darren E. Short said, "Wisdom does not grow on trees, the majority of the time it grows in the storm."
And to me, having a child, was a storm. I usually describe it as "shock and awe." Sleep, over. Personal space, gone. Going to the bathroom, never alone. But then something started to change, I slowly changed from a physical caregiver, to a teacher. My words, behavior, and attitudes started coming back at me, even the ones I didn't want them to copy. And I started to realize that all of this, not just what I want them to learn, is shaping them. And so all if it becomes my message, my testimony to them about how to understand the world around them, the things inside them, and the things unseen.
As a person of faith, this means I need to be really careful about how I present the gospel and who I allow to preach to my children. And everyone is preaching something. Not always with words, but everyone is teaching something with their attitudes and actions.
Hopefully, preaching without words works out for me in Kyrgyzstan. They primarily speak Russian there and I don't. They do speak some English and practicing English with us is a big part of the draw of the camp. I'm a bit nervous. I care about the message I am bringing and how I come across. It's not about the language barrier even as much as cultural and age differences. So, if you're the praying type, please say a prayer for me and the others who are going to Kyrgyzstan to serve at the kids camp. Pray for safe travels and a clear and true gospel message.
If you want to know more, you can read about the mission trip here: http://pacificcrossroads.org/short-term-mission-trips/
Or of course feel free to ask me!! :)
I’m not sure I’ve ever told anyone this, but when my firstborn landed on this planet, placed on my belly to be precise, my first thought was “What is this thing?” Honest to goodness. Maybe it was the 40 hours of labor with no food or sleep, but it felt like someone dropped a little alien on me. I had read up on babies, but that was as useful as reading up on surgery. It’s a whole different story when someone throws a human at you and says "Have at it!"
I tripped and stumbled along, keeping her alive, wrestling with my own preconceived notions about babies, the human condition, and the burden of having responsibility for another soul. I knew I wanted to have a healthy relationship built on trust, love, and compassion, but when does that start? How is it developed? Looking back, I have come to believe the connection starts right away. What you do from the beginning matters. The relationship grows and takes shape as you travel on a journey through the unique stages of child development discovering and re-discovering who your child is alongside them.
We aren't left without insight from the Bible. The Gospels tell of a time when Jesus was being followed by large crowds, speaking to and healing them as he went. But when the people brought little children to Jesus, the disciples rebuked them. To the disciples, these little children were in the way of more important people and activities. Jesus called it differently, “Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of heaven belongs to such as these” (Matthew 19:14). It's easy to cast children aside, to think of them as less important. But Jesus esteems, welcomes, and protects children. He sees their value, their humility, faith, sense of wonder, curiosity, and innocent mindedness.
In I Cor 14:30 Paul says, “In regard to evil be infants, but in your thinking be adults.” Little children have less experience with evil, they haven’t learned yet to distrust, put up walls, become cynical, or self-righteous. In fact, studies show that during the first few months a baby thinks he’s just an appendage of the mother! It isn’t until 15-24 months that a child begins to understand that he is an individual and begins to experience new emotions such as embarrassment and envy.
So I don't think babies are all that scary anymore. OK, just a little. They are so fragile, needy, and demanding. They are in fact, little aliens, new to this planet and way of life. But, I think, if we have the perspective of Christ, then we will see their beauty. We will receive them with open arms and learn wonderous things from them.