We sat our children down for lunch and told them what God was calling us to do.
“God is telling us to move back to Maine and plant a Church,” I said.
My wife and I have three children. Their ages are twelve, ten, and eight. That’s old enough for them to be deeply affected by such a move.
The Lord called us to Tennessee from Maine, where we’ve been for about three years. I’ve been assisting my father-in-law who is the pastor of a Calvary Chapel. And now, the same One who called us here is calling us back.
Why would He do that?
Because He just does. He’s been doing this sort of thing since Abram received the call to leave Ur and head out for the land which God would show him. He does this sort of thing because He’s chosen to use people as the primary means to getting the message of His glory to the world. Seeing that such a thing is so basic in the narrative of Scripture, you would think more people would be aware of it, and less people would be shocked when it happens. Oh well.
So my wife and I watched the reactions of our children after hearing the news. We saw different responses from each.
My eight-year-old daughter sort of smiled and said, “God has been speaking to me. He told me that this was going to happen.” She was so matter-of-fact. This is a girl we’ve prayed with several times specifically about how to hear from the Lord. Sure, there was sadness, too. She’s our outgoing one and has captured the hearts of nearly every person in our church with her fun and charm. She’s going to miss them deeply.
When she made the comment about God speaking to her, my eyes welled up with tears. The emotions came because it matters to me that my children understand the call of God. It’s important to me that they understand what it is to hear from God and do whatever He tells them to do, even if it’s uncomfortable.
I looked over at my ten-year-old son and he was beaming with joy. He’s thinking of his cousins that he has missed greatly for the last three years. Those very cousins are the ones he cried over when we made the sacrifice to move away. He’s learning that if you’re going to pick up and follow Christ, it means you’re always going to leave something or someone behind. But God restores and God fills in the voids over time. For the most part, his attitude over the news was one of excitement.
Then there’s my eldest son. He’s 12. I looked across the long table to see the struggle on his young face. I know it’s all part of life, but I hate seeing that young man cry that way. Not because he’s supposed to be more manly or something. Even Jesus wept. I hate it because I’m his father and desire good for him. His age and personality have made it easier to make close friends in the short time we’ve been here - friends he’s really enjoyed spending time with. And when you have to leave people like that, it really hurts.
Both my wife and I gave him a shoulder to cry on. Then, my daughter came over and helped to comfort. My ten-year-old watched, showing his emotions a bit differently than the rest. I prayed over us all.
These are the moments I want my kids to remember when they are older. I want them to have the balance of a life filled with challenges and the kind of pain the shapes us into better people for Christ. I want them to see and experience a family that feels those pains together and parents who teach them that serving Jesus is a constant dying to self. I want them to understand that the Gospel of Jesus and the spread of that message is the most important thing on earth. If we, as parents, do not teach this, we are going to create a next generation that knows nothing of sacrifice and service, but is always seeking the easiest road. But easy roads reap small fruit and little reward.
A few days later, my eldest came to me and said, “Dad, I think I’m doing better now with the idea of moving.”
I asked, “Why’s that?”
He answered, “Because I see the importance of spreading the Gospel and making disciples. And I want to be good at that too. I just don’t know how.”
“Well, I intend to teach you and show you what that looks like,” I told him.
You see, God is faithful. I want to encourage any parents reading to speak openly about the kingdom, the gospel, and the mission at hand with your children. Pray with them often and do not doubt God’s ability and desire to make them into vessels for His glory. If all your conversations are about video games and toys, and they lack gospel depth - no seeds of kingdom living and faith being planted into their hearts - what will they truly learn about what it means to be a Christian? They'll be prone to weakness and will be unprepared for hardship and challenges. Be the kind of family who serves Christ together, prays together, speaks openly of struggles, and knows that the best help is a relationship with Jesus Christ.
If you sense God is calling you to make a move or to step out in faith, or even if you do not sense that at all, seek to be the kind of parents who live your life of faith on display for your children to see. Your example, good or bad, is always shaping them.
Editor's Note: This post originally appeared at Joel's blog, Made to Make Disciples, and is used with permission.