I think we can all admit that the first half of this year has been particularly hard. Of course, putting everything into perspective, as a white middle class dad with a loving wife, four great kids, a dog, a stable job and a comfortable house, my definition of “hard” pales in comparison with so many around this country and the world. Nevertheless, I found myself in a pretty dark place about a month ago. The sweet little four-year-old trying to learn the limits of disobedience had suddenly become, in my mind, an early indicator of teenage rebellion that needed swift firm discipline with little kindness and very little patience. The frequent explosive fights between two brothers seemingly determined to get on each other’s nerves at every available opportunity unless they were given non-stop screen time made me wonder if I would ever get through a day or meal without having to yell. Add to this, the daily grind of dealing with three kids with medical needs and diagnosed behavioral disorders and I had gotten to a point where so many of my worst personality traits bubbled just beneath the surface almost from the time I woke up. I was miserable, depressed and without hope. More than once I would find myself crashing on the couch at the end of the day full of guilt for my actions, despair for the way this was affecting my kids and very little love left for my wife.
That is why I decided to go for a run.
Fortunately, the weather had gotten better and I could run outside again. I decided to forego the music and download an audiobook. My family had been listening to the weekly service from McLean Bible Church where David Platt serves as senior pastor. I had read his book Radical years before and had really come to enjoy his clear no-nonsense, heartfelt exposition of scripture. I decided to download one of his more recent books called Something’s Got to Change. This book follows him on a one-week hiking tour of a north Asian country, high up in the mountains. There he meets the local people, realizes their struggle both spiritually and physically and wrestles personally with his response to the injustice, poverty and spiritual blindness of so many in the world. He ends his trip on his knees in tears praying that God would show him what to do next but more importantly that He would not let him go home, get comfortable and forget these people and their need.
It was this part – the idea of being comfortable – that stuck out to me. As I ran, I realized how many of my actions were driven by the conscious or unconscious pursuit of being comfortable. Don’t get me wrong, I think that for most of us this is a natural inclination. However, when someone decides to do something uncomfortable in order to achieve a greater good their perspective shifts. For instance, the bodybuilder puts his or her body through weeks and months of uncomfortable situations to achieve a desired result. The marathon runner does the same. So too does the missionary, and this is where it became personal. My sister and her husband had just taken their four kids halfway around the world to try and reach the lost in a country with very little believers, without knowing the language. They struggled with their kids hating their new school, being homesick, being physically sick, and trying to find a new community after leaving all of their family and friends so far away. However, in these “uncomfortable” situations she and her husband were able to accept the discomfort because of the different perspective they had on the mission of spreading the gospel and seeing the lost come to know Christ.
This is when it landed for me. Too often I saw missions as what I went to or gave to. Like when I supported my sister or others that were on what I considered the “front lines” of the spread of the kingdom. What I had never realized before was that I too was a missionary right in my own family. Whether I brought them home from a hospital or an orphanage, I now had four precious souls who desperately needed to hear about the Savior that came to die for them. Four image bearers who would cause a party in heaven when they decided to place their faith and trust in their Savior for salvation. Four bodies who desperately needed me to work hard to get them the medical care that they needed. Four minds that desperately need the love and nurture of parents to help them grow into healthy adults who follow Jesus, and who, God willing, would reflect back that same love to their children and others around them.
So why then would I think that this life would be comfortable in the first place? I am on the mission field. This is going to be hard and I am supposed to be uncomfortable. I needed a shift in my perspective. As I write this, I am still working on that shift, and I think that is the point. It is hard to see your kids as a mission field. The devil has so many tools of chaos to use when there are six sinful natures and a dog all cooped up under one roof for so long. However, I do know now that this is my calling and my mission not just my situation. Now I can pray specifically for Him to help me change my perspective. Peaceful family dinners may seem rare here on earth but one day, Lord willing, I will sit with them around God’s table in Heaven and I don’t think I will care so much if Emily does not finish her chicken.