As I stood before my friend five weeks ago, her generous and encouraging affirmation were the words that I needed to hear. If I were to be honest, I still need them today.
John and I were standing in the middle of the aisle saying our farewells at our home church, Sunset Presbyterian in Portland, Oregon. I don’t know how many people came up to us that morning to say a word of grace and give us one more hug before our departure to South Africa for our next term of missionary service. The number of people was more than I could count. What they all said, I cannot remember either – except to share that their words conveyed tenderness, love, and a commitment to keep walking alongside us in our missionary journey. Those moments remain dear to me. Absolutely dear.
Yet, of all that was said to me that morning, the words that most permeated my heart were these: “Heather, you are a good mom. Your God chose you to be the mom of Micah, Jake and Caleb and He couldn’t be more proud of what you are doing with your boys to grow and mature them. He is using South Africa to help you.”
Tears welled up in my eyes as this sweet mentor hugged me and prayed for me – right at that moment.
Fast forward to today, five weeks to the day of that sweet exchange, and I confess I am still tearing up over that brief, but affirming encounter in the middle of a church aisle.
I don’t know about you, or if you are a mom, however, there isn’t a day that goes by that I don’t think about the job I am doing with my boys and praying to my God to help me do my best by them.
There are days when I am convinced more than ever that God is using this southern African experience to shape our boys’ character and world view. I thank Him for the incredible experiences the boys are having here. I am so incredibly proud of them!
There are other days when our kids have been wounded and scarred that I have wondered, “What in the world were we thinking to bring our kids here? They never signed up for this! Are they really getting what they need?” Their wounds have wounded me.
And as their mother I have asked, “What is my responsibility and role in all of this?”
Like so many, many, many moms, I take this parenting business seriously and parent my heart and guts out in the process.
What I am most concerned about, what I pray the most about, what I want I am willing to sacrifice my guts for is that Micah, Jake and Caleb know from the tips of their toes to the tops of their heads, inside and out, how much they are loved by their dad and me and how much more so that their Heavenly Father loves them. I desire that their identity and the breath of their being is secure and safe in Jesus Christ. It’s not what they do that matters most to me. It matters most to me that they know who they are and that they are loved – no matter what. No matter what.
This is my hope.
I cannot control what they choose or choose not to believe and then act upon though.
As young men, fast-approaching adulthood, choices are coming fast and furious about how they will respond with faith or without faith. And as they get older, the consequences of these decisions will carry more weight and may have great impact or lifelong consequences. Failure is certain at some point for all of our boys. They may experience a crisis of faith and trust too.Yet, I want my sons to know that their failures and the consequences that may inevitably follow or the crises of faith that arise are not who they are – ever. What I want all three of my children to know is that always and forever, as long as I’m living, my Micah, Jake and Caleb will be – my sons. Mine. But more importantly, Micah, Jake, and Caleb are sons of their Heavenly Father. HIS.
A significant part of my identity is wrapped up, tied up, and knotted securely in the truth that I am Micah, Jake and Caleb’s mom. I want to do a good job and to be a good mom to them. But also wrapped up, tied up, and knotted just as securely is the truth that Micah, Jake and Caleb are my sons. I want my sons to live out their destiny in Christ and grow up to be the men that God wants them to be. Do you see the distinction?
Being their mom, is more about me – but, being my sons is more about them.
As my kids continue to grow and mature, I need to introduce my children more and more as my sons – than myself as their mom. Like them, I have a destiny in Christ. A significant aspect of my destiny has been raising our boys to men. And just like Micah, Jake and Caleb, that destiny continues to eternity as I live out all that God has for me and I lean into and embrace the truths of who God says I am. My prayer is that my sons will ultimately embrace this truth for themselves as well.
My friend recently shared that I am a good mom. Boy, did I appreciate those words. I still do.
One day though, I pray that I will hear that my sons have grown up to be fine men. I pray that our life in southern Africa is a positive and Jesus-changing contribution to that mission. We won’t be in southern Africa forever. Yet, when our sons look back on our time here I hope they will say that they wouldn’t have missed it for all the world.
We’re not there yet. There is still more growing up to do.
In the meantime, I will keep loving my sons. I am wrapped up, tied up, and knotted up in love with them! And we will grow towards our destiny in Christ together. What an encouragement that is!