Before watching the video to the left, take a breath. A deep breath. Hopefully wherever you are you can enjoy a moment of lovely silence - because it's about to be broken.
Okay, now enjoy the video.
I'm so thankful to have a husband who helps me laugh during those overwhelming, terrible moments of complete toddler and infant chaos, whose first thought is to whip out his phone camera to document the Crazy, knowing that one day we might actually miss the Baby Crazy days. But I'm thankful for that only in those rare good moments when I'm able to recognize God's blessings in my life.
Support-raising is hard because you're forced to collide with your lack of faith and true understanding of the Gospel. As if I was a new Christian, I'm having to ask myself what seems like the most basic question: "In what do I place my identity?" And most of the time, that question arises when I'm fearful of how my children are going to act in front of others. For example, before support-raising, if my kids were crazy at the dinner table when we had guests over, it was fairly easy to laugh it off and think "better luck next time." But during support-raising, when you're telling others of your ministry over a meal, those silly tantrums suddenly send you into a downward spiral: Oh no! What if they think I can't control my kids? What if they don't want to support us because 1Timothy 3 says that we can't lead others well if our kids don't obey us? How should I discipline my kid in front of them; what if they disagree with my discipline technique? What if they think I'm too harsh on my kids? What if I'm not harsh enough? How could we possibly manage a whole overseas ministry if we can't even manage our one toddler? What if they realize I'm actually a really bad parent who's totally not the right fit for being a missionary?
The spiraling questions begin, and it's hard to shut them off. And while I'm sure that every parent has struggled with similar questions before, it nevertheless points out to me that I have a fundamental misunderstanding of the Gospel. I'm more worried about my outward appearance as a parent than I am with what Christ has done in me and wants to do with me in Romania. And the funny thing is that I'm worrying about all of those things, and they're all pretty true. I'm actually not a great parent. Most of the time I have absolutely no idea how to control my kid, and it can be so embarrassing. I actually am a rather hypocritical leader. I honestly don't know how to manage any ministry, much less an overseas one. And I'm really not very fit to be a missionary. But all of those things are focused on the wrong person in the first place: me!
If I focused on the real Truth and could peacefully settle into my identify in Christ, rather than my sub-par parenting skills, I would be able to see that I'm not actually called to be any of those things. God always uses the mess-ups! The Lord doesn't expect me to be a perfect parent; He's got my children safely tucked in His mighty hands. He knows I'm not a great leader; He can use my shortfalls to demonstrate grace to others. He doesn't want me to manage a ministry; He's already working things out in Romania and I'm just privileged to get to come along for the ride. And He doesn't need others thinking I'm perfect to bring in the monetary support we need to become missionaries; He's going to move the hearts of those He wants to be invested in the Kingdom work in Romania.
Here I am - a missionary-to-be - struggling with the most fundamental tenant of the Christian faith: finding my identity in Christ and nothing else. And while it frankly sucks to deal with all the issues of pride and anxiety that comes along with this lesson, I know that deep down I don't want it any other way. So I'm making it public to hopefully take away the sting of embarrassment I will undoubtedly feel if we have the honor of speaking to you about our ministry in Romania. My kids are probably going to - at some point - act exactly like what you saw in the video. They will scream. They will cry. They will throw stuff. They will not want to sit still. They will run away from me and tell me "no!" when I give them directions. (Heaven forbid they ever break anything at someone's house!) I will either laugh or cry. (Hopefully I won't yell at them in front of you, but if I don't, rest assured that I have done that, as well, in the privacy of my own home). And the whole time I will be struggling with an inward battle, not just over being embarrassed or trying to figure out how to consistently discipline them or desiring to raise them up to be godly children, but about whether I'm going to allow my children to give me value and meaning and worth and identity. And I will probably fail at that battle. But if you get a chance to read this post before these events occur, and even if you're (rightfully) annoyed with the way my children are acting at that moment, please remember to show me grace, too. And if you wouldn't mind leaning over at the dinner table and just whispering "Jesus gives you your identity, not your kids," my soul would be eternally grateful.