Some people tell me it is brave to raise my kids in Africa. They could get malaria or be bitten by a poisonous snake. They don’t have a Sunday School class. They can’t eat gluten-free foods. Their friends are Muslims. They live far away from cousins, aunts and uncles, and grandparents.
My initial reaction is to be tempted to say, “Well, I think it is brave to raise kids in America.” I know my heart, my soul-shriveling tendency to love the world. I know my kids, how quickly they could be sucked into the idolatry of a nation whose church is the shopping mall and whose God is the latest iPhone.
But this kneejerk reaction is wrong because it assumes brave is the right word to use to describe parenting, whether in Africa or in the United States.
Brave is the wrong word.
Life As Fasting
Living overseas is a form of fasting. Fasting from the comforts of a would-be heaven on earth where there are hot showers, dishwashers and clothes dryers, fully-stocked grocery stores and someone else to teach piano lessons. Living overseas is fasting that says, “this much, O God, this much, I want to know you.” And, “this much, O God, this much, I want you to be known” (Michael Oh).
I want to know God deeply and I want him to be known so much that I will risk scary diseases, fast from my beloved family and worldly comforts, and teach my children to engage with neighbors of differing faiths. But to live and fast like that, to raise my children like that, isn’t brave.
When I think about mothering my three children who love this steamy, desert nation, I don’t feel brave. I feel dependent. Helplessly, desperately, breathlessly, clingingly dependent.
Any mother, anywhere in the world, could receive a phone call in the next five minutes about a car accident. A child could decide Jesus is an imaginary friend and reject truth. Another could fall into immoral living.
There is nothing brave about loving little people who will grow up and could choose to abandon the things of God. But for dependency on the promises and character of God, there is terror and anxiety.
Being dependent isn’t just for mothers living in Africa. The only way to parent is with faith that God is able to keep and hold our children. The only way to parent is to be dependent on his sovereign plan and tender care for them. Dependent on the strength of the everlasting arms to hold us, to hold our children, and to keep us in perfect peace with our minds stayed on Him.
No, brave is not the right word for parents.