There’s a challenge I didn’t expect in raising missionary support. The most common question I’ve been asked by strangers is “Do you have children?” It’s not just a casual get-to-know-you question; they’re asking deeper questions. They’re really asking …
- How hard will your transition be?
- Will you have to uproot your kids and separate them from their friends?
- Will you have our own culture shock, plus theirs, with which to deal?”
In a few cases, people have gone so far as to remark on how lucky we are not to have children. The question and thought are both quite natural and show that people are thinking on a deeper level about the sacrifices associated with missionary service. They express a level of concern that goes beyond superficial.
Here’s the challenge: understanding the motive doesn’t necessarily mean the question won’t cause pain. Receiving a hug when you have bruised ribs produces pain regardless of the loving intentions of the one giving the hug. And here’s where maturity has to speak. Anytime you feel your heart bruised or inflamed by the actions or words of others, it’s wise to ask a couple of questions:
- Was their intention to hurt me?
- Is there some area that God needs to heal in my soul?
The answer to question one does not determine whether or not you move to question two. The answer to the first question only conditions your response to the person. If the answer to the first question is “yes, they intended to hurt me” you have to decide between allowing love to cover the sin or going to them in loving confrontation.
Whatever the answer to question one, your pain should cause you to ask question two. Does the fact that I’m hurting or angry point to an area of my soul that needs the sanctifying touch of God’s Spirit and God’s Word? Let me play this out in my experience of childlessness.
As the years progressed and our married love bore no tangible fruit it became increasingly more difficult to receive birth announcements from our friends. Obviously there was no ill intent on their part … but the pain I felt was real. God taught me lessons about covetousness and rightly rejoicing with those who rejoice. I knew his Spirit was bringing healing and growth as I began to thank God when my friends were blessed with children.
Was I healed? No … every time I heard of a child conceived outside of marriage, I became angry. Sometimes I even wondered why I had bothered following God. I’d have a similar reaction if I saw rough, biker-looking couple with kids. In the first case, I was jealous of people who received the blessings of children outside of God’s plan for the family. I needed Psalm 37 and 73 to straighten my skewed perspective. In the second case, prayer and genuine soul searching revealed a deep strain of pride. Often my anger came from the perception that I was a better person and therefore more deserving to be a parent. The truth is … God’s still working on these areas. The fact that I’m less likely to move from anger … to depression … to sinful thoughts and actions is a witness of the Spirit’s sanctifying work.
Lately, I find myself worrying about who will love and care for Sue and me when we’re old. The death of my father brought this to the fore and left me feeling sub-masculine because I hadn’t produced progeny to carry on the family name. Here again God’s Word and Spirit brought me back to the bedrock stability of faith. In the midst of that slough of despond, God brought these words from Isaiah 56 to my attention,
And let not any eunuch complain, “I am only a dry tree.” For this is what the Lord says: “To the eunuchs who keep my Sabbaths, who choose what pleases me and hold fast to my covenant— to them I will give within my temple and its walls a memorial and a name better than sons and daughters; I will give them an everlasting name that will not be cut off. (vv. 3-5)
To say to a barren Israelite in an inheritance based society that they would receive something “better than sons or daughters” was astounding! But those ancient words are no less glorious to me. How merciful God is to speak directly and personally to us through the Spirit’s illumination of his Word! Once again, God’s firm sweet voice echoes through the pages “Jon, follow me! Trust me! Those who hope in me will not be put to shame! I will dry those tears with my own nail-pierced hands.”
The Wiziarde name will most definitely “be cut off” … as will every other proud pedigree among men. But those who place their faith in Christ have been given the “right to become children of God” (John 1:12). How could I hope for any nobler lineage or any grander inheritance?!?
What do you ache for? What causes your jealous anger, prideful pain or rancorous resentment? Bathe that wound in the living water of God’s Word and the penetrating light of eternity.