I came across a thread on GCM that got me thinking about all of this, and I have been trying and trying to sort it all out.
The question was around the subject of the Great Commission and either you had a family and raised your family...Or you went out into all the world and preached the gospel to every living creature. They were discussing if it was ever okay to NOT have children in order to fulfill the great commission.
I understand where this is coming from, I know of so so so many missionaries kids whose parents gave their life to their ministry and nothing was left for them. Those kids are some really really sad and wounded people with a lot of issues.
My question is, why does it have to be either or??
Why is it “marriage or ministry”? Or “ministry or a family”? Or “ministry before family” or “God before spouse”? “Spouse before children or your marriage will fail?” and of course “God before all”, right??
WHY? Why is our Christian walk so dictated by checklists??? Shouldn't God be at the center of it all? Every thing else radiates out of a desire to glorify Him. We seek out what HE has called us to, even if it looks different than what the box I am living in or around says it should??
What if it looks like, at times, I'm putting the needs of my children above my spirituality? Or God-forbid my kids come before my husband sometimes. Or MY needs come before my kids at other times? WHY is it all “before, above” why is it levels of care? The Bible says "To every thing there is a season"... Every season is different. Seasons don't fit in boxes.
And another question why is it viewed more spiritual to go into the “mission field”? Why does that give license to bad parenting and neglect? Because you are a “missionary” you aren't held to the same responsibilities and accountability as a parent? Really? How is it really okay to send YOUR child (who God gave to YOU to raise and disciple) away to boarding school to be taken care of by strangers? How is that alright? Just because you are doing it in the name of the Lord. I can't speak for Him, but I highly doubt God appreciates that sort of neglect being associated with his name.
Which leads us back to the original question: Should you become a parent if you are going to fulfill the great commission. And I think the answer has to come from yet another question. What “lenses” are you using to look at the whole thing?
We have this mentality that the Great Commission is best fulfilled by heading over seas and joining an actual and focused ministry, with programs and resources to reach out to people with the gospel. Doing things that way definitely meets our human and cultural love for checklists and seeing things in a neat tidy box. And God DOES call many many into those missions and programs. And those programs do a LOT of good to a LOT of people, they help and reach many. But why is that more Spiritual?? Is that really what the early church did? Paul didn't have any programs or big corporate ministries set up. God told him to go to a certain country and take up a job in the area, he worked along side the people and The Holy Spirit did the rest.
Wouldn't the world be better reached if we started at home? I mean there are hundreds of millions of believers all over the world- all the programs out there wouldn't be necessary if each believer really WALKED with the Lord and reached out where He has placed them. The fact of the matter is that God indeed calls some to marriage. He blesses the marriage with children. And He commands us to raise our children to love Him with all their hearts minds and souls. We do this by first teaching them His character through how we treat them. We put boundaries in place that model to them how His creation works, we discipline and disciple them as the Father disciplines and disciples us- peppered with grace and with knowledge (that means knowing why we do what we do and understanding and studying child development). It means taking time to be with them and meet their needs. Modeling what a life walked out before Him looks like. We are to love Him with all our hearts, minds and souls. We pass this onto our children by sharing life with them, they watch us live out our love for Him "when we walk along the road, when we sit down, and when we get up". HUGE job!!!! But in walking with the Lord we're also touching every one we come into contact with- and every one our children comes in to contact with. Is it focused and organized? Not always, actually rarely. Do we see fruit? It depends on where God has us at the moment, we may never see the fruit our life has spread. When we walk with the Lord we are listening for His voice- we aren't living by checklists but by His Spirit. Bringing glory to God through every little mundane and (seemingly) nonspiritual aspect of our lives and teaching our children to do the same.
Am I there? No where close, far far from it. But this is something that I'm seeing and being convicted of and I have been taking steps towards this.
We as a Christians HAVE to get away from our boxes and checklists. We HAVE to leave legalism behind of how we think a Christian family should look or act. We have to walk in Grace. It's as much legalism to say you are going to raise a rotten spoiled child because you breastfeed on demand... As it is to say you will have a disconnected and depressed child if you don't co-sleep. It's legalism to worry about how your children act instead of looking at the HEART. It's legalism to spank or punish out of fear for the future … Parenting is the biggest discipleship partnership you will ever undertake there is no room for legalism.
God has called some to stay single, he has called some to marriage and families. Does that mean since you are having a family you can't be called to foreign or a focused ministry? Absolutely not. But it does give even a deeper accountability and responsibility to your call to parenthood. The herd mentality really won't work in those unique situations, you've got to be extra vigilant to think outside the box... To find creative ways to involve your family in your ministry. To put Christ as the center, not the bottom line or what YOU think your ministry responsibilities entail, but CHRIST. He is the only one who can insure that no one will fall through the cracks. And some of the things He will ask us to do as parents will make us look “bad” in the light of our culture, whether that means stepping down from a respected responsibility at church because our family is in a season of transition and needs us more. Or leaving full-time ministry because one of our spouse is struggling and needs focused time with their mate.
We shouldn't and can't allow ourselves to look at things in straight lines and boxes- in this one case (though our God is a God of order) we have to look at the big picture and all the beautiful curves and abstracts that God throws into His amazing plan