Are We Shortchanging Our Kids?
When we first moved to our house that we use as a ministry center and church here in Lamphun, Thailand I was worried: in front of our house is one of the busiest roads that goes through the middle of Lamphun. There’s constant city traffic just outside our front door. I love being really accessible to people, but especially at first was worried if our kids would be ok here. And then in the back, we have an alley for parking. Sometimes, thanks to the internet, it’s easy to compare with some stunning backdrops you see other kids growing up with, and worry about the life you’re giving your kids.
And then it’s easy to get discontent and worry we’re really shortchanging them. Have you ever felt that way?
How would these kids develop better if they were growing up being able to test the limits of their bodies physically? If they could have the freedom of spending free hours outside playing, building, imagining instead of mostly being inside? If they had friends who were Christian or who spoke their first language? If instead of their bare feet on concrete, they could run outside on dirt (preferably with no huge tropical insects) play in the streams (no parasites, please) and have a part of the vast world of God’s nature at their disposal?
It’s actually pretty ridiculous when I remember that after all, only a very few kids in this world get to live in the ideal world that lives in my mind! Anyway, God’s been great at reminding me of a few things.
1. Surroundings aren’t even close to being the biggest shapers of small hearts. Just recently, I was reading Oswald Chamber’s biography (Abandoned to God - favorite biography hands down). As a boy, he grew up in the glens of Scotland. Basically his life couldn’t get more idyllic as far as surroundings went. But it was when his family moved (after his father getting fired as a pastor) to dirty, claustrophobic London that his spiritual growth took off. Removed from all he’d known, (even the nation of his birth) he thrived.
2. Remember: online families have real lives too. Pictures from other people’s families are snapshots of moms / ladies capturing moments that will remind them, too, that there can be glory found in the middle of the mostly mundane. When I took our kids on a little adventure, it was great until we found out most places we walked, our feet would get swarmed by massive ants, the lovely little canal we walked along is full of little black wormy parasites, and we finally gave in to the bug bites (and Brody’s tired legs) and went home. Yes - really fun, but not what I’d imagine if I only saw the pictures online. Comparing with other’s lives is harmful. But sharing their joy with perspective brings healthy inspiration and life.
3. They get to share in an eternal perspective being lived out practically. Luke 6:20-26 shows very clearly that living eternally means not seeking out all the comfort I can find here:
“And he lifted up his eyes on his disciples, and said, Blessed be ye poor: for yours is the kingdom of God. Blessed are ye that hunger now: for ye shall be filled. Blessed are ye that weep now: for ye shall laugh. Blessed are ye, when men shall hate you, and when they shall separate you from their company, and shall reproach you, and cast out your name as evil, for the Son of man’s sake. Rejoice in that day, and leap for joy: for, behold, your reward is great in heaven: for in the like manner did their fathers unto the prophets.
But woe unto you that are rich! for ye have received your consolation. Woe unto you that are full! for ye shall hunger. Woe uno you that laugh now! for ye shall mourns and weep. Woe unto you, when all men shall speak well of you! for so did their fathers to the false prophets.”
We can show them a life not lived grasping for the satisfaction we can suck out of life on this earth. Instead of daydreaming about what I can’t ever give them practically, I can point them to the Maker of the mountains for their joy, then rejoice in His handiwork whether we’re playing in it, or loving and rejoicing in people, His greatest masterpiecesand His greatest loves. We get to remember and feel often that this earth isn’t meant to be our home. And everywhere Christ abounds, life is breathtakingly beautiful.
4. Create appetites for the riches that matter. For them to know they are astonishingly rich - simply because they have Christ(!!), His truth(!!), and His love(!!). I would love for them to grow up really understanding that they aren’t better or more deserving of practical luxuries than other people in the world, just because they’ve been given a spot at the wealthy table (#Merica). I’d love for their hearts not to be numbed by excess, or for their happiness to depend on entertainment. These things I can labor to give them.
The other morning, I’d just finished taking the boys on a little exploring adventure (the one in which we got devoured by insects). We were riding our motorbike with Justin behind me and Brody in front of me, enjoying the cool wind on our faces after being hot from exercise. We rode between two green rice fields stretching on either side. Justin shouts into the wind, “Mom, when you were 5, did you go to school with Thai language or with English language?” I laughed and told him I never even knew Thai people when I was five, and that I went to a school where they spoke English. He said, “I want to go there too.”
So a gentle nudge of his heart, helping him see the glory around him keeps me from chasing endlessly (even just in my heart) any idealized lifestyle I can dream up that will make me think that will bring the perfect happiness.
I can remember that God’s actually far, far more interested in their welfare than I am, and it is His presence within, not what surrounds us without, that brings deep and abundant joy.
I want them to know HIM. It’s living with carefree joy as His child that brings life from within that no dingy city block can squelch.
By Alisa Ballou