Friday, February 10, 2006

The mission field: my family

I'd blogged before here a kind of modernist parable of the parachutist, which was about how my Christian walk was too much talk and not enough walk. I know a lot of other people who are in that situation and have voiced their own frustrations to me.

As I was saying in the comments section of that post, God has made plain to me that my first mission is to my own family. (I'm a convert, for those who don't know.) I don't know what anybody else's first mission is, but mine is to my own. For years now, every time I study or pray on the subject, the same answer fills my mind without wavering: tend my children, put my home in order, reach out to my extended family. I have a few other things going as time permits -- but they are not allowed to lessen what I do for my children and home. For years I have been reaching out to my mother and have not really figured out an effective way to get through to her; now circumstances have fallen out so that she will move in with me. Her bitterness and anger (which contribute to other family members' unwillingness to be more involved with her) are because she has never known joy in life, or peace, or forgiveness, and has hardly known how to love. She has a lot of very ingrained destructive habits and mannerisms. The only way it will ever work is if she truly starts over when she moves in here. It's as if she'd have to start her whole life over ... I know the phrase "born again" has picked up fundamentalist overtones so that some Christian camps hesitate to use it. But there it is, she has to start over from square one like an infant and build a whole new life, this time building on a different foundation. Don't get me wrong, her following Christ is not a prerequisite for me to take her into my home. It's just the only real hope she has.

As for the legacy I leave my children, I want them to know the faith -- and I want them to build the habit of living it. How tempting is it to say, "Oh the young Christians today don't live their faith like they believe it. How are they any different than the non-Christians of their age?" But if I'm not setting the example of how to live it, how can I possibly voice a complaint? Could they say, "Oh our mother doesn't live her faith like she believes it. How is she any different than the non-Christians of her age?" So I am working hard, striving toward it as a goal, to have my own family well in order, and reach out to my own, and then my neighborhood. My own sinfulness keeps getting in the way. If I am faithful with small services, larger services will come. If I am not faithful with what has been given to me, what right do I have to ask for something else? As much as I long to do some worthy service, the one set in front of me is a dirty job, one where I'll really have to confront my own sinfulness. But it's possibly the most worthwhile job I will ever do. And if I'm not faithful at what is right in front of me, I have no business seeking to go beyond it. So if you learn the basics before you go past them, and if reaching out to the world starts at home, then it's time for me to figure out how in the world to reach my mother.

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