LIVING IN THE FAMILY OF GOD
One of the things I am most thankful for about my mom and my dad is that they never substituted their dreams for me for God’s dreams for me. I can think of many examples of this, but the first one that always comes to my mind is God’s call to vocational ministry to be a pastor. I started getting a sense that this was what God wanted me to do near the end of my junior year of high school. My youth pastor had given me opportunities to teach and preach, I was helping out with the second-grade class on Sunday mornings, and I was the substitute Sunday school teacher for the seventh-grade boys. I just loved it, all of it. I kept thinking how great it would be doing these kinds of ministries full-time, to help lead a church to be all that it should be for God, and actually be able to make a living doing that!
My dad, grandfather, and uncle are all medical doctors. No one in my family ever explicitly told me I had to be a doctor, but on the other hand, I had always sensed a general expectation from things they would say or encouragements that they would make that I would do the same thing, or at least something similar. I did well in school and had the opportunity to go to almost any college or university. In other words, I knew that going into vocational ministry was not my parents’ dream for me. But when I started to talk to them about it, they were nothing but supportive. I remember my mom telling me that if that was what I wanted to do, that’s what I should do. My dad drove with me to visit a small Bible college in southwest Missouri that my pastor recommended, and before we left told me it would be a great fit. They recognized how God was working in my life, and they decided to support it. They never tried to convince me to do or be anything else, even if that was what they might have wanted for me.
At the time, being 17, I took all that for granted. After all, what else would my parents do? It was what I wanted, it was my life, so of course they should support and help me, that’s what parents are supposed to do! And then I became a parent, and before our oldest daughter was even born I was imagining the kind of life I wanted for her: what sports or musical instruments she would play (strangely the same as the ones I like), the kind of family situation I hoped she would have one day, what she would major in in college, what vocations I hoped she would choose. As I began to pray through those things, asking God to bless her future, I was convicted, because I realized what I should want for her more than anything was God’s will for her life and God’s dreams for her. Those were a whole lot more important than my dreams for her. As a parent, my role was not just to help her be a part of our family or carry on our family’s line, but to be part of God’s family.
It didn’t take me too long after that to appreciate what my parents did when I was a teenager, or how that might have been hard for them. In my experience that is something with which most parents (and many grandparents and other family members) struggle. It can be hard to reconcile your idea of who your children should be or who we want them to be with who they really are, with who God is calling them to be, with living as a member of the family of God above everything else.
In Mark 3:20–35, we see that this was something with which even Jesus’ family struggled. They didn’t understand the point of Jesus’ ministry or his calling. Their dreams and ideas of who Jesus should be were quite different from who he actually was. So Jesus takes the opportunity to tell us about the family of God. He closes that passage by saying, “For whoever does the will of God, he is My brother and sister and mother.” Our ultimate calling, what we should want for our children, our loved ones, and for ourselves, is to be a part of his family, doing his will, following his call. Are we living as the family of God? Are we helping those we know and love do the same? Or are we living for something else?