As we think about the importance of preparing our children for an uncertain world, we have to weigh the potential impact of our activities on our kids. Things that seemed OK before we had kids suddenly take on new implications. I can still remember my parents deciding to do away with their liquor cabinet when I was very young, despite the fact that social drinking was still quite acceptable in their circles. They did the same with cigarettes. They made these decisions long before either activity fell into societal disfavor; they were just trying to set a good example.
For Karen and me, issues like those were pretty much already settled when the boys came along, but there were still some things that we needed to rethink. One of the biggies was that we thought we should start praying together every morning. I know, that seems like a no-brainer. After all, we were both brought up in Christian homes, we prayed before every meal (even when out in public at restaurants), and we each had a consistent personal prayer life. But for us, praying together, out loud, was a surprisingly difficult transition to make. So much of what we share in prayer is intensely private. I sometimes admitted things to God that I’d rather my wife didn’t know about. While I mostly just dropped to me knees every day to thank the Good Lord that I’d found her, there were admittedly times when I used my personal time with God to vent a little about how things were going between us. So what was I going to say when those things were on my heart and I was praying with Karen?
“Hey, God. I’ve got some stuff I need to talk to you about later, when “you-know-who” isn’t listening”? :-)
Our prayer time together started awkwardly, but the more we did it the more comfortable we got being transparent with each other. We each still had our own one-on-one time with God, but the distinction between those two conversations became less and less as time went by. On the rare occasions when we “let the sun go down on our anger,” it was possible that in the morning I was going to have to listen while Karen brought the issue before the throne of God himself. It didn’t seem to bother her if “you-know-who” was listening. She wasn’t being spiteful; she was just sharing her heart and looking for wisdom. Talk about your humbling situations.
“Yes, Lord. I know we’re going to have to talk about what she said later…”
Another area of our lives that we thought needed attention was service. We professed to be Christians, and understood the call to take care of the “least of these”, but it always seemed like such a struggle to find the right opportunities for us to serve as a family. For a couple of years we did Christmas for families in the Habitat for Humanity program. The program assigned us to a family and gave us all the names, ages, and sizes for the kids. Then our family shopped for, wrapped, and delivered the presents. It was hugely satisfying and our boys really got into it, but it only lasted a week every year.
Eventually we discovered that our local rescue mission needed people to help serve meals. The mission is not in the best part of town, and the thought of taking our young boys down there was a little concerning, but we decided to give it a try. It wasn’t so bad, and we even met another volunteer there named Steve who was a lot of fun to be around. So we went again. And again. We started to make it a part of our routine every Wednesday afternoon.
We grew more and more comfortable with the clientele as time went by, but we always kept an eye on the boys, particularly Philip who was only about seven years old. One night Philip was carrying around a pitcher and refilling glasses of tea. He approached one table, which seated eight men, and began filling a particular man’s glass. Being only seven, the pitcher was a handful and Philip accidentally tipped over the glass. The owner of the glass, who was not entirely sober, was infuriated and began yelling. We were some distance away at serving line and thought we were about to regret our decision to allow our youngest to venture out from behind the counter, and maybe even our decision to come to the mission at all. That was until the other seven men at the table all jumped up and surrounded the angry man, protecting Philip.
We decided then that our boys were probably pretty safe.
As we got to know some of the ladies at the mission we learned that their kids needed supplies for the start of the new school year. So, Karen organized a drive at our church, coordinating with Sunday school classes to adopt the kids and buy what they needed. We did it again the following year. Now it’s taken on a life of its own and happens every year.
We got to know the folks who worked in the kitchen and began to see our role was as much to minister to them as it was to serve the folks who were coming to the mission. Some of our deepest friendships have been with those people.
We still go to the mission every Wednesday night. Steve still comes too. We’ve seen the kitchen staff change-over several times now because our Wednesday nights at the mission span almost ten years.
Karen and I still pray together every morning, too.
We started by doing things because we thought they would be good examples for our boys. After a while we changed our routine to include those things. Then we started scheduling other things around them.
Before we knew it, we were doing them because they were a part of our lives.
originally published 10/3/11| next post EEeee!