Have I mentioned that one of my kids is a missionary? Lizzie left home at the age of 18 to earn a degree in Midwifery while serving in a clinic for impoverished women in the Philippines. She has been serving on the mission field for most of the six years since.
Recently, after serving in a clinical setting for two years, pursuing what she believes to be her true calling, she announced that she is transitioning to living and working in a village-based ministry. Leaving the limited comforts and amenities of the base where she has been living, she will step even further into the fringe of the developed world.
Last night I lay awake praying— almost begging God to use her in some other, any other way. This morning, over a few rare hours in which I actually had the house to myself, I bawled my eyes out.
Though I maintain a positive outward show of support for her ministry, I confess that I still battle the instinct to return to the altar, loosen the ropes and rescue my daughter from the stone slabs upon which, by faith, I laid her all those years ago. I am tossed to and fro on the waves of my own emotions; oscillating between the joy of having a child sold out to Jesus, and sorrow in knowing the sacrifice such a life represents.
In my memories I still see her twirling in the sunlit days of summer. I hear the clunky heels of dress-up glamour on the front porch, and the crackle of doll-buggy wheels on gravel.
Shared dreams remain tucked safely away, like slips of paper in a treasure box —the white wedding dress, quaint country home decorated like an entry in Better Homes and Gardens, gourmet meals served on a table embellished with fresh flowers and perfectly folded napkins. She shared with me plans to homeschool her children with elaborate projects, adventurous field trips, crazy science experiments, and fine arts.
I watched her discover her womanhood: fashion, hair styles, nail art and tanning beds, bedazzled jeans, embellished tunics and sweaters fuzzy as a cocoon. And then there were dreams of romance—a passionate marriage bed replete with silk and lace fineries.
Those were dreams, and now… the reality of life as a missionary. She will not enjoy the luxuries of the ‘typical’ American existence. Home will be a modest structure in a remote village, with limited electricity, running water, and indoor ‘facilities’; a home that she will share with the local rodent population.
The extent of what has been laid on the altar tears at my heart. I ask myself, Am I a bad mom for having these thoughts and misgivings?
I wonder if Hannah struggled like this when she delivered Samuel to the temple to be raised by a priest. Did she lay awake at night agonizing over the thought of her little one sleeping alone on the floor of the temple? Did her tears flow at the thought of not being there to comfort him when he was hurt or scared? Did she ever struggle with the idea of the sacrifice of typical childhood required for Samuel to be used of the Lord?
Of course we cannot know what Hannah felt. What we do know is what she did. She made a promise to the Lord and she offered her son to Him as a thank offering. She laid him on the altar, despite the personal cost. And Samuel, if you recall from scripture, went down in history as a man used mightily by God.
The fact is that the greatest privilege we can have as Christian parents is to love our children and then give them away… to Jesus. Seeing our children serve the Lord with their lives is what we should all be aiming for. That is what Hannah understood. No greater demonstration of a mother’s love could be made than to let go and place them in His hands, for His kingdom work, for His glory.
“Lord, please give me Hannah’s heart. Please use my daughter mightily for the Kingdom. Please allow the impact of her service to you resonate for all eternity.”