I always thought I was a pretty selfless person. Humidity and mosquitoes so I can teach English for the summer? Sign me up. Host and cook for 40 hungry college students starting at 10 pm? No problem. Spend hours listening and counseling a mom in need? I jumped at the privilege. Then I had kids...and I began to see how selfish I really was. Why is it so much easier to serve other people than it is to serve your own family? Now maybe the rest of you have got this all figured out already. (Did I mention I was a late bloomer?) If so, I could use some pointers and tips. It doesn't take very long to realize that kids are very needy people, which necessitates that parents learn to give sacrificially. They need food, shelter, and clothing to be sure, but I am realizing what they really need from me goes beyond the physical. I mean, anyone can feed them, put them up for the night or dress them. But God has given me a special privilege that no one else has to meet the intangible needs that they have.
It is so much easier to placate myself and ease my guilty conscience by giving them things or experiences. Some part of me feels better knowing that they have the best in life or that they won't win the "deprived child" game when they grow up. But does that really satisfy what they are looking for? So many children are busy trying to find a sense of stability, security and love that they do anything--even if it means getting in trouble or turning to illegal or immoral means to find it. Instead of thriving, they spend all their time just surviving.
This morning, I wanted to get some work done, so I set out an enticing array of fun, colorful toys for Jonathan. The older kids were busy doing their schoolwork, but I knew he would need something to keep him occupied so I could tackle my to-do list. Guess what was the first thing he said? "Mommy, play with me." I groaned inwardly as I thought of all that I needed to do and tried to ignore that nagging guilty feeling inside. But by the grace of God, the thought came to me: These are the moments that God uses to test, stretch and build me into the kind of mother that I long to be. Will I step up to the challenge or succumb to my flesh?
Reluctantly at first, I sat down to play. I don't know about you but playing with Legos or having another sip of invisible tea is not really high on my fun list. But I did it. And whether or not he remembers it, I know that I have been changed by it. By giving of myself and my time instead of letting my schedule and my to-do list reign in my life, I put myself in a place where He has the opportunity to start building in me the character of Christ.
The hard part for me has been not having enough of me to give. Sometimes I am so busy doing so many other things that I am running on an empty tank. Do you relate? In order for me to give sacrificially to my kids, I need to have my needs met by God. I am not superhuman. I cannot do this on my own. In order for me to be the giving parent that I want to be, I need to take the time to drink deeply from the well of God's grace. This is one of the reasons why I am so passionate about seeing mothers connecting with God. It's not just for our own sakes. Our kids need it too.
I think learning how to give sacrificially is important for another reason. Yesterday, I shared that we serve as representatives of God to our children. In this case, we demonstrate to them the giving, generous heart of God. In John 3:16, it says that God so loved the world that He gave. When my children get grumpy, stingy leftovers from me, what does that tell them about God?
One day, my children will grow up and God willing, start homes of their own. My prayer is that as they grow up in my home, they come to know through me that their God is completely trustworthy and fully able to satisfy their needs. As they grow up, my job is to start pointing them to Him as their sole satisfier, even as I seek to model and demonstrate in tangible ways what that looks like. As I give, I am blessed and my children are given a strong foundation for their own faith in Christ.
Not bad for a cup of pretend tea.