Once again I find myself crouching down on my 6 year old son’s level and saying sorry. ‘Sorry son I shouldn’t have said those words when I got angry. I didn’t mean them. Will you forgive me?’ He smiles his ‘of course mummy’ and runs off to play. I tearfully go and put the kettle on (tea helps everything right?) and repent whilst simultaneously praying my most prayed utterance since moving overseas 4 years ago –‘help!’.
Living abroad as part of a church planting team I am reminded all the time that my primary mission field is my children. With no kids work program, Sunday school or believing kid friends of the same age it can feel lonely and hard work attempting to raise little disciples of Jesus in a Muslim country.
Whether we are parents or not there is another little child who is always with us, as we go about our own lives. And they often have something to say. As a mum or dad (biological or not) our little humans will often trigger our inner child. The version of ourselves from our own childhood. What a unique opportunity and blessing to sit down with these tiny inner selves. To look into his or her eyes with compassion and to ask what’s wrong. Why did you want to react like that when your kid did that? What is the root of this pain? How is it manifesting right now in this moment as you hear a screaming voice blasting out of you toward the pair of eyes in a sullen face looking up at you, before realising that fearful sound is roaring out of your own soul?
How wonderfully designed we are. Throughout our entire lives we are presented with endless opportunities to root out past wounds and even trauma. Complete and total healing is on tap and available from our dear saviour at every moment.
Fear is the only real weapon the enemy has against us. The battle for the mind is real as we even dare to type out what our fears are. Time to be brave and share some of my fears- they include- my boys won’t follow Jesus for themselves. Or that they will resent the church for (in their eyes) bringing them to the Middle East (neither of which I truly believe). When fear is not met with it’s only antidote – love- it festers. The thoughts get repeated and the neuro-plastic pathways in our brains learn this new way of thinking and can get stuck in patterns of thinking.
What does it look like then to keep our minds renewed like we are told to in Romans? Because then, we can be transformed and can test and approve what God’s good and pleasing and perfect will is (Romans 12:2). And His will is that none should perish and all should find eternal life. Jesus wants my children that I dragged out of England all the way to the Middle East, to schools in a foreign language, to know him as their saviour for themselves. He wants that far more than I ever do. If we don’t renew our minds, in the moments our minds go down the route of fear, we claw back with action to try and make dang sure what we fear the most can never happen- which is ridiculous because it means we actually believe that our children’s spiritual destinies in our hands!
So in the moments I find myself shouting at my eldest that we are going to do our devotional now before we do anything fun (cringe!) or frantically scroll Amazon on my phone to see which newest versions of child friendly kids bibles there are and which can be shipped to my host nation, the holy spirit whispers that my children are in his hands. This truth renews my mind. As I practice getting into His presence and practice feeling his love fear flees and peace comes. I’ve had to train myself to be able to do this in new ways and meditation has been a very helpful tool.
All the most excellent children and youth resources and programmes in the world don’t make up for me modelling what a disciple of Jesus looks like. That’s really what is gonna get the job done. That can feel like a lot of pressure for the moments (feels like all the time at the moment to be honest) that I am not doing too well and failing at every turn. I breathe in the truth and life of Paul’s words to the Corinthians
2 Corinthians 12:9 But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me.
And after a deep breath I get up from my broken night of sleep with the baby I put on a worship song. I tell my boisterous boys gently to be quiet instead of yelling. I put the kettle on and explain to them that I feel tired and a bit sad today because I miss my brother and sister-in-law but God is good and he loves us and we are going to worship Jesus together as I fumble for a worship song in English to put on. Worship sets the whole atmosphere for our day in our home. Declaring him as Lord of our home and this nation as the mosque call-to-pray blares in the distance. What else does modelling being a disciple look like then? In all honesty it looks like repenting in front of our kids when my husband and I are impatient with each other. We ask for gifts of the Holy Spirit when in moments our words are much less than full of kindness and gentleness. It means telling the children ‘not now’ because I am reading my Bible for 15 mins. It means not slandering others when they hurt me- indeed being careful of our adult conversation in front of little ears. When I cry from homesickness and the pressure of the pandemic just gets a bit much, it’s mourning and then pushing through into gratitude and joy and from joy to worship of our almighty saviour just like King David teaches us in the Psalms. It means not shaming my kids when I feel their behaviour deserves it and my own wounded inner child chimes in for my attention and the enemy tries to remind me of my own past shame. Because let’s remember wherever we live, whether we are parents or not when we live for Jesus we have NO SHAME anymore! It just does not exist. Isn’t that what Jesus died for- our shame is erased once and for all and he gives us grace for every moment. Even abroad alone and in a global pandemic his grace is enough for me.
*Brene Brown and her work on shame has been really helpful in these ponderings- fully recommend all her books and talks.