There was a graphic circulating FB a few weeks ago. Maybe you saw it?
It went something like this, “We need to care less about whether our children are academically gifted, and more about whether they sit with the lonely kid in the cafeteria.”
I raise my glass to this one. Really and truly I do.
But, it also hit a nerve in me. Because God had been working in my heart for the weeks leading up to me reading this quote. Not only about letting go of the safe life I have protected in my heart, but about whether I’m actually raising my children to do what this quote implies.
Because when I first read it, I thought, sure that’s what my kids would do. Of course they’d sit with the lonely kid. But then I hesitated. Would they? Really, would they?
I’m pretty sure it takes more than a few conversations with our kids about what kindness looks like, how God wants us to love others, and how we need to treat people with respect to have the boldness to actually approach someone and sit with them. Talk with them. Pray with them.
That’s exactly what I had been wrestling with in my heart. And what my role is as the mama of five little people.
I shared a bit of this testimony in my church a few weeks ago. Life has been a bit of a whirlwind over the last few years, particularly since our fifth child was born two years ago. We’ve had several very stressful years of financial difficulty after I left my job to be home. There’s been times of my husband working several jobs and not being home much. I love my life and wouldn’t change anything we’ve done, but I admit that I’ve gotten caught up in the trenches of it all. I’m part of a local church body who teaches us to be the church beyond the walls of our building. And I’ve struggled in the last few years to find ways to minster to others, to pray openly for them, to stop and have a conversation, to really look at people and see them for how God sees them.
Let me make clear that I believe my main ministry is at home with my children and husband. I feel that it’s where God has called me and it’s where most of my energy goes. But there are times where I feel that I can minister to others and I’ve used my kids as my excuse not to. Because we’re a homeschooling family, the kids are with me 95% of the time. So when I’m out and about with them, my main focus is making sure we’re all together and the littlest one hasn’t run off somewhere on his own.
Sadly, I admit that my attitude was something like, “I can’t do ministry outside my home because of my children.” But God has been working in my heart and gently whispering to me, “You can do ministry outside of your home because of your children.” Do you see the difference?
It’s not enough for Jason and I to do things for others and not share with our kids what we’re doing. My kids need to see what it looks like to minister to others. What it looks like to be light in darkness. What it looks like to love others in tangible ways. Because if they’re going to be the ones to sit with the lonely kid in the cafeteria, they need to see their mama (and dad) doing it too.
Our kids are learning on Sunday mornings what it looks like to lay hands on others and pray for them. They learn about listening for God’s voice and sharing words of encouragement with others. They have opportunities to pray with the kids in their classes. They pray over each other at home when they are sick or in pain. But they need to know what it looks like beyond the safe walls of our home and church.
One thing they love to hear about are Jason’s stories of praying for people at work. My stories of times I prayed for others and saw God move. Or times I prayed for others and didn’t see anything happen. They are all ears when we talk about how God can move in power through our hands.
I don’t think there’s some magical formula for this. I don’t think it looks the same for everyone. I don’t think there’s one right or one wrong way to do it. I don’t even know what it looks like all of the time. All I know is that I’ve felt Him prompting me many times to reach out to someone and I’ve said “no.” I’m growing in this area. And I want my kids to have the opportunity to follow through when they feel the Spirit prompting them.
So I think we need to let God show each of us what it looks like for us.
So that’s what I’ve been doing. Asking God, “What does it look like for my family to minister together to others? Give us something tangible we can hold onto.”
Shortly after these requests were lifted, I was meeting someone who had bought a print for her nursery from us on a local swap page. It was lunchtime and we were maybe a little early to meet up with her but she was running late too. I checked my phone to see if there was a message from her. When I turned on FB, the very first thing I saw in my feed was a post she had written. Normally I wouldn’t see her posts because we’re not friends, but she had put it in the swap page. She was looking for some new doctor recommendations because of her complicated medical history.
I knew that me seeing this information randomly while I was waiting for this exact person to show up wasn’t a coincidence. So when she did arrive, I told her I had seen the post and she told me a bit about her history. She had been through a lot in her young life. I asked if it would be okay if we prayed for her and she brightened up and said, “Sure.”
I asked the kids if they wanted to pray with me and all five of them wanted to so they climbed out. I explained briefly and in a kid-friendly way what we were praying for and they nodded and laid hands on her. My son wanted to pray first and did, and then I followed up.
I know that this woman was blessed and she hugged my kids afterwards. They were thrilled that they had the opportunity to pray for someone they didn’t know.
I wish I had a camera to capture the moment. Not so I could post it but because God showed me something very clearly later when I was reflecting on it. Actually he showed me two things.
One, ministry with my children can be simple. I tend to over think things and praying for this woman today was simple and spontaneous. God can show you in a moment and you just have to be obedient to what He’s asking you to do.
And two, when I thought back to praying together, it struck me how we were positioned. My older two kids were on the sides and her arms were around them. My younger three children were in front, with their hands on her belly. I was sort of off to the side, touching her shoulder as I prayed for her. God clearly revealed to me that this isn’t about me. It’s about Him and my kids, and what He’s showing them and doing through them. I’m just in a position to guide them and show them what it looks like, to follow in obedience when God prompts us.
While this is clearly just one example, I’m so thankful God gave us this simple moment to have something to hold onto.
And please hear my heart. This isn’t about trying hard to do things for God. This is about obedience. Listening for what God’s asking us to do and then doing it. And for me, it was about not making excuses that my kids are with me, but involving them and giving them opportunities so that when the time comes to sit with the kid in the cafeteria, they’re ready to do it.
Oh, and the other cool thing? This print that we exchanged? It was one I’ve carried around for many years. It was special to me and I just couldn’t let it go easily. I’ve had it at several yard sales and consignment shops over the years. I guess it was meant for her nursery. I love when God works like that!
Please share your thoughts. How has God used your family to minster to others?