Parents: the first missionaries
I remember when we were preparing to be discharged from the hospital with our first baby. I knew this moment was coming, of course, and had been looking forward to it for… well, 9 months! But as we were actually getting our final paperwork and being escorted to the door, I remember looking at my husband in a panic and saying, “They’re just going to let us go home? With a BABY?!” Never had I felt so “new at life” as at that moment, being sent home with a tiny human who now depended completely on my husband and I for every. Single. Thing. I was scared. And I felt inadequate.
Luckily, we weren’t actually alone. We had friends and family and neighbors who came and brought us dinner and gifts. Who helped me figure out nursing and troubleshoot weird diapers. Who helped my husband properly install the carseat base and learn how to swaddle. We had a “village” of people who accompanied and mentored us into our new role as Mommy and Daddy. And as we got the hang of the logistical stuff, I realized that we had had the most important thing all along: we were madly, head-over-heels in love with our baby boy. Here was this child who could offer us nothing, yet he delighted us so much! He was so needy but we were honored and happy to satisfy his every need. We wanted the very best for him, and we were prepared to sacrifice and work hard to make it happen. Our hearts were overflowing with this love that we just didn’t even know was possible. As each of our other 3 kiddos came along, the same multiplication of love happened all over again, and we were amazed at our hearts’ capacity.
You know what that is? It’s a participation in the love of the Lord Himself. The kind of love that can’t be repaid and isn’t looking to be. My husband and I were getting a little glimpse into just how much the Lord loves and delights in us, and in our kids. And it was overwhelming.
This is why parents are the PERFECT and NATURAL first missionaries to their own children; parents are motivated by strong, life-giving love. Love that is expensive in every way. But love that is so beautiful that we couldn’t imagine our lives without it, and makes us wonder what we ever did without these children of ours. Our parental love is what first helps our kids to know and get a tiny taste of the extravagant love of the Lord. And it has the power to help us, as parents, to know His love in a deeper way too.
Want to give the very best life to the kids you love more than you thought was possible? Give them love bigger than your own. Give them the Person who IS LOVE. Give them the Lord, in whom they can root their identity and hopes and dreams. Help to lead them into an encounter with the only One who can love them perfectly, not just in this life, but into eternity. This is what it means to be a missionary; not to travel to distant lands and peoples, necessarily. But to go wherever you’ve been called, to share the love of the One who IS love. And for you and me, we’ve been called right here, to these kids in this home at this time. This family. This is our mission. The Lord has called us here.
John 20:21 Again Jesus said, “Peace be with you! As the Father has sent me, I am sending you.”