Looking through my Facebook feed can be dangerous for my emotional health these days. Sweet photos of gorgeous children with fun loving Mama’s, in their new homes by the
sea/forest/mountains/river/amazing coffee shop, playing with their pets, while wearing their new skinny jeans/active wear/ can put a dint in my otherwise robust self esteem. Throw in a few #myamazinglife #sunshinerainbowsandunicorns #sorrynotsorry and my bottom lip begins to quiver.
Because this choice, this big YES to God and this leap into the unknown – the decision to serve Jesus overseas, it means that some things get left behind. Friends, family, the best parks in the world, delicious gluten free cafes – oh, and life as a stay-at-home-Mum.
I used to be a stay at home Mum. I did grocery shopping on Mondays, Play Group on Tuesdays, Ladies Bible Study on Wednesdays, catch up with friends on Fridays, church on Sundays, and a whole lot of other things in all of the in-between moments too. While it might sounds like it was a nice, relaxed lifestyle, let me just say that, no, it wasn’t easy. Life with kids all the time is a huge, important, endless and often exhausting life. But what a privilege to have the time and capacity to be so involved in my children’s lives, and what a joy.
Don’t get me wrong – I don’t want to idolise my children, or live in a world where they are the centre – that only turns them into the little gods that they so want to be. Even as a stay-at-home-Mum there is huge potential to invest in others lives, to serve in your church or community, to love as Christ has loved us. And despite my failures, selfishness and everything else, that is at least how I tried to live.
But the burden I had for the lost was a heavy burden, and one that was not simply going to be lightened by giving some loose change at a Missions Convention. In fact, giving every penny I had wasn’t going to lighten the burden, because the Lord was convicting me not just to give, but to go. My heart (and thankfully Paul’s too) was echoing the cry of Romans 10:14-15. “How, then, can they call on the one they have not believed in? And how can they believe in the one whom they have not heard? And how can they hear without someone preaching to them? And how can they preach unless they are sent? As it is written, “How beautiful are the feet of those who bring good news!”
Life is quite different now from what it was. My time is spent between language study and the kids. We have a friend who helps us during the week. I can’t manage without her help and love her for it, but at the same time, I wish I didn’t need any extra help at all. On the other hand, Paul gets to spend more time the girls than he would have otherwise, as we split the time caring for them between both of us. He has enjoyed many special moments with them while I’ve been out studying. But it’s not how I wish it was.
This is my personal sacrifice for the gospel. I know compared to others perhaps it is a more trivial thing. We have not moved to a less developed country. We are not in any danger because of our faith. I know these things, and I am thankful for them. But for me, this is where I feel the cost of living a life for Jesus and not for myself.
I feel it when I wish we could have chosen to go to a church with an amazing kids program in our own language and culture, but instead we attend a church with only a handful of kids, no program and a foreign language.
I feel it when I wish we could have a bigger income to buy that cute little house with a nice backyard, friendly neighbours and enough space for a dog. Instead we are in a small (but cute) apartment, with a balcony we don’t let the kids go out on, and neighbours that we try desperately not to irritate with our noise levels.
I feel it when I wish that my kids didn’t have to experience the stress of adjusting to a new culture and language, to saying goodbye to so many friends and to having parents who barely know how to function in this new place.
I feel it when I wish we could just go on a nice drive to the grandparents place for the weekend, hand over the kids for a break, get fed some good food and enjoy each time with family. Instead, we have Skype and the occasional visit, only to have to say goodbye again.
Because a life of obedience is worth it.
Because I am learning to entrust my children to God each day – perhaps more than I might have otherwise. And because my children are will keep learning that there is more to life than just “me”. And when I see my children speaking another language as they play together, or as they play hide and seek in Japanese with their little friends, or as I watch my daughter join in with the local dancing at her sports day, I see what the Lord is teaching them. How he is with them, shaping them and growing them.
Because we get to see God at work in a different part of the world, and can be excited and encouraged by that. Because we get to understand and appreciate another culture, (and another language!!) and how this new culture and language interacts with one another as they love each and love God. We get to experience the broader family of God, and fellowship with other local believers. We may not live close to our biological families, but we are surrounded by brothers and sisters, and aunts and uncles.
Because I can draw close to Jesus as I live this uncertain life, full of new challenges, trying moments and embarrassing errors. When all else around me changes, he remains my steady rock, unmoving and unchanged. So this pain of mine, this felt cost and sacrifice of not being a stay-at-home-Mum, is actually not a loss. It may be a cost, but not a loss. For I have in fact gained through this sacrifice. I have gained more than what I could have hoped or expected – and as long as I don’t spend too much time wistfully looking at the very best moments of life displayed on social media, I think I’ll do just fine.