“The way to grow strong in Christ is to become weak in yourself. God pours no power into man’s heart till man’s power is all poured out. The Christian’s life is one of daily dependence on the grace and strength of God.”— C.H. Spurgeon
As we stepped foot into the mechanic shop of our new national friends, I noticed our oldest child who is 7 years old begin to act out. The family we had stopped by to visit greeted us warmly and their children eagerly asked our children to play. But as I conversed with the wife, one by one my children began to come undone.
Our youngest begged me for a sippy cup of milk, which just was not an option at the time. Our middle child wanted help understanding what their 5 year old son was saying to her, and our oldest, who hardly ever cries anymore, started lashing out at me. I was caught between entertaining my children and what they were wanting from me and trying to make friendly conversation with the wife, hoping it would lead to a spiritual conversation. I finally got my oldest son to go play with his sister and their son. He wasn’t gone 3 minutes before he came running back crying from being scratched on something.
“Why Lord? I’m trying my best here….why can’t You help me?” went through this tired mama’s mind.
I kissed and hugged my son while patiently trying to ignore the toddler on my hip who was just mad at the world.
“What do they want?” the mechanic’s wife asked me.
“I don’t know,” I said with a semi-smile on my face.”
“This is a disaster,” I thought. “Why would anyone want to be like us?”
I looked over and saw my husband talking to the mechanic – a man he has shared the gospel with and engaged in several deep spiritual conversations. I desperately wanted to help my husband have a peaceful atmosphere to talk freely to his friend by keeping our children happy. I kept telling our baby that I just didn’t have any milk. I tried my best to interpret for our middle child, all the while trying to answer the mechanic’s wife’s questions about what on earth was wrong with my children.
They were undone. And minute by minute in the hot shop, feeling the weight of this family’s eternal fate as well and just wanting my children to cooperate, I started to feel undone too.
“What do they want?” the wife asked me again with a willing-to-help spirit.
“I don’t know” I said again. “Sometimes children are hard, but God gives me patience,” I told her. She smiled and patted my back.
I had just steered the conversation into a spiritual one when I looked over in the corner and noticed my son slumped over on the ground, crying. He had shut down. I excused myself from the mechanic’s wife and while still carrying a fussy 2 year old on my hip, went over to talk to our son.
“What’s wrong, son,” I asked.
“I hate this. I don’t understand what anyone is saying to me. I hate smoke -everyone smokes and blows it in my face. Why does everyone smoke! I want to go home,” he yelled at me.
I paused and in a moment of overwhelming cultural stress and just simply not knowing what to do or who to give my attention to, I prayed quickly…”Father, help me. What do I do?”
I helped up my son who was visibly in distress and not knowing whether or not to show him complete grace by recognizing this must just be culture shock or disciplining him because how he was acting was unacceptable, I followed my gut feeling and politely interrupted my husband…
“I think we need to go,” I said as nonchalantly as I could.
He didn’t even think twice – he trusted me. We said goodbye to our friends and as we drove off towards a restaurant for dinner, I was certain that I was a complete failure in that tiny shop.
I thought my children would be fluent in language by now. Everyone always says kids learn language faster, right? I thought my children would want to always play with national kids. I thought surely God would somehow make my children behave during these home visits so that I could tell the women about Jesus.
All I told her was that God gives me patience. There is so much more she needs to know.
As we walked into the restaurant and sat down, my husband pulled our son in close and took his hands. After they spoke for a minute and my son started to come undone once again, I heard my husband speak wisdom that was profound discipleship for my son and that the Lord used to knit my undone heart back together. His words would breathe fresh strength into my very soul…
“Son, did you see any other Christians in that mechanic shop trying to tell that family about Jesus?” asked my husband with a slight sense of urgency in his voice.
“No…” my son said in a thoughtful way, showing that this was indeed a teachable moment.
“If we don’t tell them, who will?” asked my husband.
“Umm…no one,” said our son as a smile emerged on his face and we could tell that he understood.
That’s right. If we don’t tell them, who will? As I sat there in quietness and listened to my husband train our child in the commands of Jesus, trust in His sovereignty abounded in my heart and I was strengthened. I started to think back over the time I only saw as a stressful failure in the mechanic shop and I started to see the situation with new eyes- with spiritual eyes.
I know I am called to mother the children the Lord has entrusted me with, and I know I am called to live the gospel and glorify God wherever He places me. But what if that is just supposed to look differently than I had envisioned.
I had planned on moving overseas and having perfectly behaved children accompany me into the homes of the lost. I figured they would learn language quickly and I had not allowed them any room for cultural stress – or just to be children that sill have much to learn for that matter. But what if the situation in the mechanic shop played out exactly as the Lord had planned that it would? What if instead of my perfectly behaved family verbally proclaiming Jesus, this lost family needed to see a completely normal family, full of weakness, respond differently to the strains of life than a lost family? What if they needed to see the Spirit personified through His children – through us – ordinary, messed up people who have been rescued and who have the Spirit within them to fill them with love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control? What if that mother of 3 children needed to see me, although tired, respond to my children with kindness and with the patience that I had the opportunity to tell her came from God?
If that is all true, then our home visit wasn’t a failure, but the exact opposite. It was us being completely emptied of strength and control and having to trust that the exact words and actions that He wanted declared to this family, were declared.
A couple days later, while at the swimming pool with our children, my son sat next to me as the Call to Prayer echoed loudly from our neighborhood mosque. Shortly after, my son pointed out a man nearby who had his hands raised and seemed to be praying.
“Do you think that man is praying, mom?” he asked me on his own.
“I don’t know, maybe. It sure looks like it” I responded. “We could pray that God would show Himself to that man and that he would believe in Jesus…”
“Ok, I’ll do that,” my son said as he kneeled down on his knees and rested his elbows on the lounge chair
“”God, please help that man to know you and love Jesus” my son prayed boldly
I couldn’t help but overflow with thankfulness. Some days are difficult and the road for our missionary kids has not been an easy one. But it’s moments like this where the Lord shows me that He has also called them here at this time in their lives and that the discipleship they are receiving in everyday encounters with the lost is precious and important. There is a breathtaking tension as a mother and a missionary – one of discipling your children through them watching you interact with lost people and simultaneously proclaiming God’s saving grace to the lost through how you respond to your children. It’s complicated and it’s a gift and I pray that I will steward this time well.
May we let go and trust that every day that we step out in obedience, loving and serving and proclaiming to those around us, His plans will prosper and that His power will be seen in our weakness.
“God does not need your strength: he has more than enough of power of his own. He asks your weakness: he has none of that himself, and he is longing, therefore, to take your weakness, and use it as the instrument in his own mighty hand. Will you not yield your weakness to him, and receive his strength?” – C.H. Spurgeon