Tuesday, March 1, 2016

A Father's Wish

I can remember the conversation with my wife some years ago with general clarity...I told her I didn't want more than two children (we had one at the time). I needed to be able to adequately care for them, send them to college, make sure they would have the proper foundation for success, and so on. It was good, practical, thinking in my mind. Things went according to my plan for a few years...and then the child explosion happened. Today, some twelve years after that initial conversation, (where my wife continued to say she had always wanted six kids-crazy right?), we have seven children- six of them girls. I would have never imagined this...

The oldest is now thirteen- seeking independence, finding her own style, listening to crummy music, and challenging my "wisdom," all the while trying to discover who she is, and her purpose in life. I don't find myself longing for the baby days (since we're still in them), but I find myself longing for something far more for her than what she is able to envision for herself. In her world where "what gets me noticed" is often the greatest gain, I find myself yearning that she would have a passion to live for what would give her the greatest joy. And this, not just for her, but for each of the little ones who will come behind her.

I do not want my children to settle for lives that will gain them much in the short run, but very little on the scale of eternity. I want them to learn to take risks, be generous, and sacrifice for others- not because this will add to their experience portfolio, or create a persona that makes for a good story- but that they might make much of Jesus and demonstrate that He is an all-satisfying treasure by the way they choose to live during their short time on earth. I recently told my oldest that it would be far better to me as a father that instead of her pursuing comfort, education, and what anyone might deem "successful," and forfeit all the joys in following Jesus; that she would find a heart for a people group around the world, commit to bringing them the Gospel of Jesus Christ, and never come back (though I would long to see her I'm certain). I would prefer to receive a letter from a young man like this one, as he asks for my daughters hand in marriage:

"I have now to ask whether you can consent to part with your daughter early next spring, to see her no more in this world ? whether you can consent to her departure to a heathen land, and her subjection to the hardships and sufferings of a missionary life? whether you can consent to her exposure to the dangers of the ocean; to the fatal influence of the southern climate of India; to every kind of want and distress; to degradation, insult, persecution, and perhaps a violent death? Can you consent to all this, for the sake of Him who left His heavenly home and died for her and for you; for the sake of perishing, immortal souls; for the sake of Zion and the glory of God? Can you consent to all this, in hope of soon meeting your daughter in the world of glory, with a crown of righteousness brightened by the acclamations of praise which shall redound to her Saviour from heathens saved, through her means, from eternal woe and despair?"

This was written by Adoniram Judson to the father of Ann Hasseltine in 1809. The father consented, and Ann did in fact give her life in service to the people of Burma. But what a life!

About the same time I had the conversation with my wife about our prospects of children, I gave my life to Christ, not knowing what the future would hold. I am very much a work in progress. I have a heart that is prone to wander to the temptations of comfort and worldly security (just like my daughter), but little by little my Lord is releasing its grip on me, and I'm sure He will be doing this until I see Him face to face. He is transforming my mind to what it means to be "successful." My hope is that my children, all of them, will not settle for less than a life lived to make much of Jesus, at home or abroad-to have this vision from a young age- to see this as beautiful, even though it will be rejected by those around them. If that means they have poverty, but get Jesus, it's riches for them! If they are scorned by the world and are weak, but have Christ, His power rests on them! This is real success.

For whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake and the gospel's will save it. For what does it profit a man to gain the whole world and forfeit his soul?
(Mark 8:35-36 ESV)