Tuesday, November 12, 2013

On A Mission from God...With Littles in Tow!

If you are anything like me, your earnest desire to live out the faith sometimes seems a little like a pipe dream lost between teething and potty training minions. The heart wants what it wants, though...or rather, the Spirit wants what the Spirit wants. The early years of parenting have caused me to step back and reflect, especially given the goal of my writing - love selflessly, serve joyfully, live boldly. What we are doing to really live out our mission as Christian disciples (and apostles)? Are we continuing to learn whatever Jesus sends us by way of the Holy Spirit? Are we continuing to spread the Gospel message, the message of good news and great joy, the message of salvation through a self-sacrificing, loving Savior?

My head starts to spin a little bit when I look back at all the things I used to do before marriage and children - well, mostly children but they came pretty much soon after the marriage. I was able to pick up at a moment's notice and go. I had no hesitation to go into Detroit in the wee hours to serve in whatever way I was called. I was able to shake the dust off my feet without looking behind or ahead. Now, I have to put on someone else's coat and shoes before we stomp the dirt off our feet, and it is anything but a quick process.

In the midst of a headspin, I realized that I was still thinking of my mission the same way I did when I didn't have a husband or children. The truth is that as I fall more deeply into my vocation as wife and life as a mother, the way God is asking me to fulfill his mission, should I choose to accept it, is changing. The end result is still the same. Make disciples. Share the Good News. Proclaim the name of Jesus. Only now, it looks a little different than in my days without minions. The truth is, my mission now looks as it always should have. As Mother Teresa was quoted as saying, "Love begins at home." Here are a few things I realized that helped me get back into focus.

1) Now, my main mission is raising my children to arm themselves with Christ and take up the cross on their mission.

2) To raise them as fervent disciples, I have to live a life of example. Not in the "pack your bags we're moving to Africa" way, unless that is how the Holy Spirit moves us, but in all the little ways. Life is now about little things - little people, little gestures, little mortifications, little steps that lead us to faithfulness on our mission. Perhaps it has always been that way. Large gestures have a certain glamour about them. Building the Kingdom is hardly glamorous work.

3) I have to involve them in the work of mercy, both corporal and spiritual. We have to pray together, serve together and love together. Li'l G is old enough now that she could easily help me pick out items at the grocery store for the local food pantry, or choose toys she has outgrown for other charities. When the kids are on good behavior and we are all healthy, they sure have contagious smiles that could light up the halls of a local senior center, with voices to match. I have to start gaining patience and help them start developing the habit of intentional charity.

4) I cannot be afraid to praise the name of Jesus. The kids will learn what they see, so I need to step outside of my fear of offending someone if I were to praise Jesus for a blessing or offer to pray with someone in a time of need right there on the spot. They need to know that mission begins with prayer and centers on Christ.

5) We have to cultivate a relationship with the Holy Spirit and be willing to move upon prompting. We must pray in the Spirit to know what our mission is, in the larger sense and in a daily sense. What is God asking of us today? Is there someone God has placed on our heart that needs our prayer, or needs to hear our voice? How immediately do we respond? Do we even hear?

6) Heaven has to be our goal - both for ourselves and everyone around us. If we lose that eternal perspective, sharing the Gospel becomes less important. Studying the lives of the Saints, of the ones who have "made-it,' can inspire our creativity in living out our mission and offer encouragement as we navigate our own paths.

7) Mercy needs become a habit. We have to look on others through the eyes of love so we can share with them the intimate, passionate love God has for them. We can't do that if we are busy counting their flaws. We have to learn to look past the surface to where each of us is broken. We have to be willing to extend a hand or an ear, to call upon the name of Jesus to heal and to restore.

8) Though we can't pick up and go physically as easily anymore, technology makes it a snap to travel to places virtually. Through the use of technology, we can connect ourselves with those who are in other areas of the world. We can be virtually, yet intimately, involved in the work the Church is doing throughout the world and make learning about and participating in these ministries a focus of our family prayer time.

9) We need to introduce ourselves to our neighbors. Literally. Who is living next door? We live on a rather busy street, so it is hard for us to gather on our porches or sidewalks to cultivate the kind of relationship we had with our neighbors when I was growing up in small town Iowa. Nevertheless, we have to get to know them. We are definitely improving on that score, but we have a long way to go. Reaching out is essential.

10) Last, but certainly not least, humble pie has got to be on the menu at the Casa. As we go on our mission, we have to be absolutely resolute on the fact that ain't none of it our own work. In the same way, we have to remember we can never argue or bully anyone into the Kingdom. We can share our love of Jesus and His love of them. We can share our knowledge and our experience. At the end of the day, it is the movement between God and each person. We are just messengers.

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