Years ago, my young daughter confessed that she believed angels had the responsibility to fetch our heads after we die and bring them to heaven.
Huh? “Where in the world did you get that idea?”
Me! I frantically searched the recesses of my mind. Nothing. “When did I ever tell you that?”
“You said that when we die God gives us new bodies. So I believed angels had to come down and take our heads to heaven and attach them to our new bodies.”
I am sure the stunned look on my face did wonders for our relationship.
Ah, the joys of parenthood and the power of words. I shared with my children about the glorious promise of heaven and the wondrous hope of the resurrection only to later realize they developed a cranium-separation theology. Oy vey! We trust our words to enlighten and inform, but sometimes even with our best intentions they create misconceptions and false expectations.
When God affirmed our calling to become missionaries, my husband and I shared, with much elation, the good news with our kids. We knew exactly what we were going to say. Our ministry would be their ministry, our calling would be their calling. We would tell our kids, “We are not just a family—we are a missionary family. We will boldly go to where…well, to where some people have gone before. Kids, you are not just kids anymore—you are missionary kids. We will leave all, fulfill God’s plan for our lives, and it will be great (insert big smiley face here)!”
Suffice it to say, we did not anticipate the tearful wailing that immediately ensued. Nor did we understand the misconceptions and the false expectations we had inadvertently planted.
The first red flag popped up during our year of itineration. Our eldest daughter tentatively confided in me about a conversation between her and one of our pastors. With an arm around her shoulders and with great sincerity he invited her to remember that she too was a missionary, not just her parents. Unfortunately, his words did not convey the desired effect. He wanted to affirm and assure her, but she walked away confused and discouraged. She did not feel called by God to be a missionary. She did not want to go. She did not want to leave her friends, her family, and her cat. Fortunately, she had the maturity to pray about it and receive peace. Too bad I missed a divine opportunity to understand an important concept, but God gave me a second chance.
Incredibly difficult, horrendously lonely, and completely discouraged are terms that only begin to describe our first year on the field. You know that honeymoon stage everyone talks about? Those first few weeks on the field where you feel stupendously fulfilled because you are standing in the center of God’s wondrously perfect will?
Every night our youngest daughter pelted me with the same questions.
“God can call anyone to be a missionary, right?”
“He can call any family to be missionaries, right?”
“Then why did He have to call our family? Why didn’t He just call someone else?”
Ugh. Why can’t you just go to bed?
After a few tearful conversations and heartfelt prayers, my husband experienced an aha! moment while reading the gospel of Luke. After the Passover festivities, 12-year-old Jesus decides to stay behind in Jerusalem without his parents’ knowledge or permission. Three days later, Mary and Joseph finally discover their son in the temple and promptly take him home. Have you ever wondered why Jesus accompanied them to Nazareth? Simple: because they were His parents and He belonged with His family. Encouraged by our new-found insight, we humbly approached our children.
“We want you to know that we love you very much and we know it has been tough year. A long time ago, God called Mommy and Daddy to be missionaries. We are thankful for His calling, but the missionary calling is our calling, not yours. You have a different calling. God called you to be our children. Since He called you to be our children, wherever we are in this world, that is where you belong, because God called you to be a part of our family.”
I appreciate that our fellowship wants to affirm and support our children. Being an MK (a child of a missionary) has unique challenges. However, we do not affirm pastor’s kids by calling them pastors, for a very good reason—because they are not. Such a calling would not be an affirmation but a burden. The mantle of missionary, with all its responsibilities, belongs to those called by God.
Yes, my children have a call from God. Their calling is the same calling your kids have: to be a part of a loving and nurturing family. Families, not titles, give our kids a sense of belonging. If and when our children feel called by God to be missionaries, then we will affirm their calling. Until that time, we will just let our kids be kids.
© 2012 Women of the Harvest.
Questions to Consider: Whose calling is it anyway? How does this article impact you?