I both long for it, and resent it. Everything about my life is safe, and for that I am truly thankful. I’m free to move about as I please, and so are my children, and there are moments when I truly, genuinely do not take that for granted.
But there are more moments when I do take it for granted.
Like everyone else, I have been captivated by the photos of a little boy washed ashore. I think about his parents and their longing for safety, and the journey they took that was anything but safe, and my heart breaks because it was just so hard.
I think about the family who recently brought home a little girl from a Chinese orphanage, and they now sit cocooned in their home because they need her to know that they aren’t going to leave her. She’s barely two, but she’s conditioned to believe that everyone leaves, and so they must build trust. And how many children are living that way in this world?
I think of the young woman in Ukraine who spent the last two Christmases with us. She wants family and safety. She wants to be known. She wants life to be easier.
And then I think of my own children swimming in opportunity, and I worry that I’m failing. We have a house bursting with “stuff.” So much stuff. It’s cool in the summer and warm in the winter, and we have enough clothing to last us at least a month, maybe more, if needed.
Food piles in the pantry and fridge, but still I run to the grocery store almost daily, because I can. And because these people in my house eat like it’s going out of style.
We’ve tried to expose them to the suffering of this world, but as they bicker over who gets to play the PlayStation next, I fear we’ve done a poor job.
We took them to Walmart on Monday armed with a list of needed and necessary items for Syrian refugees. Our sole purpose in the store was to purchase for others, not for ourselves. And yet, in every aisle they asked for something. We reminded them over and over, gently at first, and then with more urgency, that this trip wasn’t about us – it was about suffering people.
But even I had to restrain myself from grabbing a few things for our family while there.
We brought all the items home, and they’re piled in the corner waiting be boxed.
“That’s really not that much stuff,” my oldest said last night as I pulled it all out and began organizing it. “How many refugees are there?”
“Thousands,” I replied. He raised his eyebrows.
“That will only help a couple of people.”
And so it is that my heart constricts again, because this box I’m putting together feels so small. I know that for the three or four people who benefit from it’s content, the gesture won’t be small. But this feels like a single drop of rain in a vast desert. Everything feels so small.
A solitary box fill with clothes and shoes is small.
Bringing “K” into our home for two months is small.
My children live in a world that is bursting with need, and I do know that they’re aware of this – they’re not clueless. Nor are they indifferent to the suffering of others. In fact, when given the opportunity, they are more gracious and giving than I am.
But it all feels so small.
I placed the sweatpants and tennis shoes, socks and underwear in the box, and before closing it up laid my hand on top of it and prayed.
“Lord, multiply this offering so that it isn’t small. This isn’t enough, Father. But it’s something – it’s a start. Make it sufficient, Oh God.”
My one box is small, but it’s something. It’s a start. And maybe if we work together as a collective whole we can make that offering a big one. Like the loaves and the fish, the offering can be made sufficient for the masses.
I tell you these things not to bait you for encouragement, but rather to let you know that I get it – what we have to offer feels small. But a lot of small can equal a big, so maybe we can join forces.
My small box combined with your small donation, and her box, and his donation all come together to clothe and feed the desperate.
My orphan hosting combined with their adoption, and your sponsorship, and their mission trip to paint the orphanage, and build shelving, and offer clothing all work together to show the fatherless of this world that they’re not alone – their lives matter.
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Want to be small with me today?
A list of small things you can do to make a big difference:
We spend most of these early, formative years with our children in the throes of training. Once we get them past the lumpy, squishy infant months where our main objective is merely to keep them alive, we move into the toddler years where, well, the objective is still to keep them alive. But a considerable effort is spent on teaching them life basics like sharing, saying please and thank you, asking and not demanding.
Then we move into the elementary years, and this is when solid life training begins. This is also where I think many American families begin to break down the training in the wrong ways.
This is the stage we are currently in, and as we navigate these extremely important years with our children, I’ve had to really evaluate what it is I’m trying to teach them. The American lifestyle, as dictated by the American Dream, demands that we teach our children to be “good.” Study hard, pay attention, get good grades. Be nice to others, don’t be a bully. Think of your future. Prepare for college. Say please and thank you, and keep on sharing your mountains of toys.
But the Lord has been whispering new lessons to my heart these last few years as we’ve navigated some bumpy life roads. I don’t want to raise “good” kids who do all the things needed to get into college, then get a job, and then from there make a “good” living for their families.
What a box we’ve created for our children!
While there is wisdom in teaching our children to work hard and prepare themselves academically for the future, we cannot put so much stock into those things that we make them the gospel. We can raise “good” kids in Christian homes who grow up with strong moral guideposts…and little passion for the world around them.
While we place in our home a proper amount of respect on good morals, I’m challenged to take my kids a step further.What does it mean to have integrity? How do we live a life of action, rather than one of complacency? Rather than waiting to be served, what if we were the ones who served?
I fight the urge to place my children inside the American shaped box – the one that dictates they find a solid job with a steady 401K, and a savings account that will give them the chance to retire at 60. None of those things are bad things, of course. We live inside those bounds ourselves. The point is, I don’t want that to be the emphasis of training in our home.
I want my boys to know that there is more to being the provider of a family than simply holding down a good job. I want my daughter to know that there is more to being a wife and mom than simply cleaning and preparing meals and kissing skinned knees.
I want to be a family that thinks of those desperate needs first, far above living a “good” life. And not because we have to, or we should, but because we can.
For a long time, Lee and I operated under an umbrella of fear when it came to giving and serving. We only did those things that fit well inside what was comfortable for us. Then God took everything comfortable away, and we came face to face with our own brokenness, our own weaknesses, and our own short comings. For so long we had brushed those things under the rug.
We were “good,” and we thought this made us good enough. It’s easy to live a “good” life. It’s easy to say and do the right things. It’s easy to live in apathy.
But it’s uncomfortable to care about the needs of the world.
And so it is that the more time passes, the less I’m less concerned with raising “good” moral kids.I want to raise children who have a deep and passionate dependence upon Christ, who see the needs of the world and don’t shrug it off as someone else’s problem, but who stand up and ask, “What can I do?”
This is a hard lesson to teach children who’s bellies are full, rooms are stocked, and who swim in more opportunity than they can possible process. This is a hard lesson for a mom to grasp when she has money in the bank, a full pantry, and more opportunity than she can possibly process.
But it’s not a fight I’m willing to concede. I don’t want to merely raise moral kids – I want to raise passionate kids who aren’t afraid to take risks, to drop everything to help a neighbor (near or far), and who realize that they are only worthy because God has given them everything they need through His Son.
If you would like to donate to help with the Syrian Refugee Crisis, do so here, or here.
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