Parents, Let Them Go
In February, thousands of students will join together online for CrossCon 2015. They’ll hear several speakers tell them about God’s heart for the nations, and then a plea for them to carry the good news across the world. I am praying that many of them will rise to say that they can already sense God calling them to go to hard, unreached places. I know that even as the conference ends, many of them will be confronted with all the obstacles that must be overcome for this to happen. And for many of them, the one that looms largest is talking to mom and dad.
On one hand, there are things students should do to let their parents join the joy of their calling, and on the other hand, there are things parents should do to support their kids. Since I am the parent of a daughter headed overseas long-term, my heart is burdened for those parents who may be very surprised to hear their children express holy ambition for the nations. How do we even begin processing what God is doing in them? How do we lead them when everything in us is pushing against this idea? Here are a few thoughts which have helped my husband and me as our daughter’s time to leave gets closer.
1. Hold tightly to God’s sovereignty over them, and hold loosely to your plans for them.
We must go into this season of parenting with our hands wide open to what the Lord will do with our kids. We have to face that even unconsciously, there are things that we may have been wanting to see them do, expectations that we may have had that are not what God wants for them.
As my girls grew up, of course I thought of the sons-in-law I’d someday have, and the relationship I wanted with them both and with my grandbabies. But God has birthed into my daughter’s heart a love for a people half-way across the world. He’s given her gifts and abilities that match the call upon her life. He’s confirmed this through half a dozen trips overseas. I’ve watched her aim high and work hard and long to be there more now than ever. And through it all, I’ve had to put to death my dreams for her and for us.
This life here and now was never meant to be home for God’s people. There will be a day when my girls and I will stand together on a new earth . . . living in unity and fellowship with Jesus forever. But that day is exactly what she is asking to go work toward. The end will not come until the “fullness of the Gentiles has come in” (Romans 11:25). And our Father calls us as parents to be patient for that day . . . like him, not willing that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance. That’s Christ’s heart because it’s the Father’s heart. And it’s now ours as we are conformed to the image of Christ. He’s not just calling us to work for it, but to send our kids to work while we can for people of every nation and tongue to be gathered together around his throne.
2. If they’re not ready, get them ready.
I do understand that even if you agree on this point, you still may be thinking that it’s great for someone else’s kid, but not yours. They’re just not ready. Often, we don’t hear as much from them while they are off at college. If God has been moving in their hearts, they’ve not shared it with us. What do we often see in them? Eye rolling at coming to our family gatherings, lots of pictures of coffee shops and sporting events, pleas for more money, and a detachment from our family. Then suddenly they’d like us to believe God has given them a huge heart for others and a longing to sacrifice their lives to cross barriers and reach the unreached? We can be more than a little skeptical.
So, what if you truly feel like they are just not ready? Can’t we just say so and call it done? In those fear-filled moments, it might seem like such a good answer, but if we’ve raised them according to God’s word, then we want them to be mature enough to give their lives for the gospel, no matter where he calls them to be. If you feel like they aren’t ready today, be specific in your concerns and encouraging in your plans to get them where they need to be.
Tell them that you are excited about any movement of God in their lives that makes them love him and others. Tell them that, as always, they can count on you to support them even when you can’t be with them by their side. And tell them that there are some areas of growth in them that you’d like to see. Then be committed to helping them get there.
Think through areas like finances and conflict resolution, Bible knowledge, what the culture is like, and so forth. Learn some of the language with them, especially how to say, “Hello! How are you?” Consider taking a trip with your child to the area they are considering. Learn for yourself what that land looks like, and smells like, and the kind of food people enjoy there. Walk ahead of them and beside them just as you did when they learned how to do everything else in their lives. If it was true for learning to ride a bike and open a bank account, how much more true should it be for taking the message of hope to a people trapped in darkness?
3. Believe what you taught them.
If you are a parent who trusts in Jesus, realize with me that in a sense, this is “our fault.” We’re the ones who took them to church. We told them that Jesus loves the little children of the world. We looked them in the eye and told them that God would be with them even when we couldn’t be — even in the dark places that seemed so scary at the time. We told them about manna in the desert and living water from a Rock. We told them God could do anything he wants, and that he loves it when it looks impossible because then everyone sees how amazing he is.
So what are they doing now with all this missions talk? They’re just taking us at our word.
It was overwhelming to hear my oldest use the very truths I taught her to tell me about her passion to live for the rest of her life, God willing, away from us. Her confidence, her trust, her hope-filled longing came, I knew, from a sight of him that I had prayed for.
4. Great risk and great cost are only right for a greater reward.
All of this might be leading you to think, “Sure, they can go somewhere. But there? Do you know what they do to Christians there?” Yes, I do. The people are unreached and the places are least reached for a reason. I’m not unaware of the dangers they face and why you want them not to be there. After all, we’ve been doing all we can to save them from the world and from themselves since they were old enough to roll over. It’s a part of what parents do.
There was a day when I wouldn’t let this same daughter bound for the nations go into our fenced backyard without me. I remember the days of standing in the driveway as she walked about 20 yards away to get the mail. I also remember when she could drive down those streets, which eventually became interstate highways, and then a summer-long missions trip. Why would we let our kids do that? Don’t we know the risk? The cost?
Of course we do. But over time, as our children grow (and we grow), they are able to go further and further from us with our blessing and support because we believe the gain is worth the risk and cost.
Jesus has paid the ultimate cost for us, and he has called us all to follow after him, dying to ourselves and living so others might live. We want acceptable risk and cost for the right gain. And if the gain is the glory of God among the nations, here am I, God, send me. And also, here are my children, would you send them?
The goal of our parenting is to press on, to race ahead of our kids in how we trust our God and his plans for their lives. We know firsthand what a test of faith this is. We also know firsthand the strength of the grace our Father pours out to parents who retell his true story by sending out their beloved children to bring more children home. Let them go.