While I do want to fully treasure these years I have with my children, more than anything I want them to know without a doubt who I treasure and to come to treasure Him themselves.
Last night, my eight-year-old and I snuggled before bed. As I struggled to keep from drifting off to sleep while rubbing her back, she asked what I studied in college and why I wasn’t doing that now. While trying to explain, she stopped me. “Oh… so now you’re like a mom missionary, right?” My eyes opened wide as I sat up to look at her. Little did she know what a beautiful statement she had just made and why it made me smile.
She was right. I am a mother of five children, ages 3 through 14. At the moment of their birth, God gave my husband and I an incredible calling to love and disciple each of these children for the rest of our lives (Ephesians 6). Miraculously, He entrusted these precious humans to our care. Our greatest hopes for them are that Jesus will capture their hearts and that the gospel will define their lives always.
I am also a missionary, a child of God. At the moment of my spiritual birth, I received another incredible calling from God, to be a sent one, an ambassador, a missionary ( 2 Corinthians 5:18-20). Miraculously, He chose to entrust me with the precious good news of His son, Jesus Christ. My greatest hope is that I will be faithful to spread this good news to the broken world around me and that many will come to saving faith as I live on mission.
While both of these callings are equally true of me and I feel passionate about both, for many years I felt tension between them, a tension that I had a very hard time putting my finger on. I wanted to be a faithful and loving mother that steward well the short years I would have with my children, to one day be able to say without regret that I poured myself into their lives and fully treasured who they were and the moments that we were given. And because motherhood is so immensely demanding, I knew it would be easy to do only that for the next 25 years and stay plenty busy. But what a tragedy it would be to get so caught up in my mothering world, that I failed to be on mission to the broken world right around me until I felt I had more “time” on my hands. On the other side of the tension was another possible tragedy, that I would be so focused on mission and “reaching” others with the gospel, that I would neglect to fully nurture and treasure my immediate family and that I wouldn’t realize what was happening until it was too late. Ugh.
The thought of erring on either side of this tension felt terrible. And because I like to make lists, figure out formulas, feel in control of my life, and make every possible effort to avoid failure, I tried hard to figure out how to solve this “tension” in my life of motherhood and mission. Because it felt difficult and demanding, I often just froze. Looking back, as much as I hate to verbalize it, at an emotional level I think I felt that the answer was to “protect” my callings from each other. Don’t be so on mission all the time, that you neglect your family, and don’t be so obsessed with the work of motherhood that you ignore your call to mission. I hated the whole dilemma going on in my heart and began asking the Holy Spirit to teach me and change me.
The memories from the day He began to answer my prayer are crystal clear. It was a late spring afternoon, I had just walked back into our front door after spending time with my neighbor across the street. While our nine-year old son sat curled up in a chair reading, my husband and I sat on the couch and marveled aloud at how it seemed that our neighbor was coming to faith in Jesus, in response to a horrific tragedy that had recently happened in her life. We expressed our amazement at the work of the Holy Spirit and that we were getting to be part of the miracle of salvation. I will never forget the moment that our son interrupted us with eyes full of tears and a quivering lower lip. “Do you mean that God can take something so awful, and bring something good out of it?”, he asked. He was in absolute awe of the power of our God, one of those sacred moments that parents hope for. Right then, it dawned on me that if we had not been obedient to pursue this woman, our son would have missed this moment.
The Spirit began whispering new thoughts. “Did you think that my call for you to live on mission wasn’t also for the good of your children?” “Do you not realize that mission will actually be an incredible tool to help your children know Me?” “Do you think it is too hard for Me to beautifully blend these two callings together just because it feels hard to you?” “My ways are higher than your ways, I have much to teach you.”
On Mission with Us
In the weeks and months that followed, I began to see and understand the circumstances of our lives differently. We want our children to know the joy of blessing others in response to how generous Jesus has been to us. When our seven-year-old daughter spent the $5 she had saved up on a Safeway gas card to give to a single mother of five that we were living on mission to she experienced the joy of giving and the Gospel.
We want our children to know the joy of serving others faithfully and sacrificially, in response to how Jesus has served us. When our family washed and dried dirty laundry for a not-yet believing single mother and her three kids for a year because they didn’t have a washer and dryer they experienced service and the gospel.
We want our children to know that the homes and cars and toys we have been given are to be shared with others, in response to God giving us everything in his Son Jesus. When we woke up this last Easter Sunday and prepared extra food in the oven “just in case” and then ended up hosting two families that afternoon who had no one to eat with they experienced generosity and the gospel.
We want our children to know the tremendous beauty of the truth that we are adopted as God’s very own children, because of what Jesus accomplished on the cross. When we brought a foster child home, and then adopted him as our son and new baby brother they experienced adoption and the gospel.
We want our children to know what it means that Jesus was no “respecter of persons” and that He truly came for all, regardless of social standing or race. Last night, after spending almost three hours eating dinner and hanging out with homeless people at someone’s home, they saw that truth in action.
We want our children to really believe that they are missionaries (not just us as parents), and that they are living lives of great purpose. So tomorrow, when our 9 and 7-year-old girls start playing on a new softball team, they will know that our whole family is already wondering who we may have a chance to get to know and share the good news of Jesus with. They will experience the reality of mission and the gospel.
Our Hope and Prayer
Reading the Bible, memorizing Scripture and having helpful discussions with our kids are incredibly important activities but in our experience so far as parents, it is the experience of active mission that brings to life many of these truths that we hope and pray they will believe and take into their hearts.
Little by little, I am learning that the answer to my question about “balancing” these callings is not a carefully made plan or specific organization of my time, instead, the answer is to rely on the promise that the Holy Spirit will lead me day by day in the work that has been planned for me long ago. So now my goal as I live out mission and motherhood, is to grow in dependence and obedience to the Holy Spirit in the very ordinary decisions and details of my days.
I have distinct memories as a little girl of my dad getting home from working in construction. On certain days he would call the six of us kids from the corners of our house and yard and he would then tell us he had exciting news. On the job that day, he had the opportunity to “share the Lord” with someone. My dad’s excitement to talk about Jesus to whoever would listen was contagious and it brought to life much of what they were teaching us at home. My parents were not perfect, like all parents, but I can say without a doubt that I always knew who they treasured. What deep impact that had on my young heart!
While I do want to fully treasure these years I have with my children, more than anything I want them to know without a doubt who I treasure and to come to treasure Him themselves. I believe that the call to mission is actually an irreplaceable tool in my hands as a mother, to help accomplish just that.
How is God calling you to step into your identity as a missionary right where you are?
–> Join the online community, ask questions, and get answers from seasoned practitioners.
–> Check out some of our resources: