Before we had kids, we loved to travel, had worldview stretching experiences and were all together creative in how we lived the lives we had been given. For us, having the right kind of experiences meant far more than have the right kind of house, car or other possession that could be associated with “success.” As we reflect on our development individually and as a couple in the context of marriage, it is clear that these experiences (and resulting relationships) have shaped us more significantly than any classroom or lecture series. It has been the classroom of real life relationships that have formed us into global citizens who follow a Jesus with a global reign.
And then we had kids…
Having heard that we would finally have to “slow down” or change our unorthodox way of life with the wee ones around, we were feeling a bit anxious about this new stage of life. Would the most life giving elements of our life quickly be swept away in exchange for dirty diapers and trips to the laundry mat?
Well, they could have been, but we quickly realized that the very best gift we could give our children is to live the kind of life we would desire them to live as faithful followers of Jesus. In other words, if we are to be role models to our children, we need to live the kind of life we’d hope they’ll live someday.
So, we figured we’d just keep on living the unorthodox way of life and bring ’em along with us. That’s why God made front packs and folding strollers for crying out loud!
We are far from having things figured out, but here are a few key learnings we aspire to embody…
Faithful Living In Exchange For Fear Based Parenting
There are few things harder that releasing control (even if its just a little!) over the well being of your child, but in order to faithfully live into the call we know God has for us, it has become a nonnegotiable. Rather than fear based parenting, we want to willingly step into those situations and experiences that will stretch us and expose our children to the kind of people and places they wouldn’t encounter if we don’t jump off the path of security. My wife, Janny, feels called to support and come alongside families who have come to San Diego as persecuted refugees. Rather than going alone, she chooses to bring our daughter (Ruby) and invite her right into the middle of an experience that would stretch any mother’s protective instincts. With dozens of snotty nosed kids running around, women from all over the world gobbling up our little 8-month old and kissing her face, Janny has to intentionally release control for the sake of faithfully being present in the places and relationships she has been called. As a result, not only do these sweet women call Ruby “habibti” (my love), Ruby is learning to see others through the lens of a shared humanity rather than a set of cultural, religious or social constructs.
Kingdom Values VS American Ideals
We deeply desire our children to view themselves as global citizens. In other words, rather than only seeking the good of our neighborhood, region or country, we want them to seek the good of the world. We desire for them to see the direct lines between the way we shop, vote and live here in the US with the impact of our brothers and sisters half way across the globe. In an effort to live simply (we really don’t have a choice on this one!) and to advance the common good globally, we try to shop at thrift stores (and host neighborhood clothing swaps!) as much as possible. Our kids sure don’t know the difference and we hope that they view thrift stores as their department stores! Another example is that we choose to buy multi-cultural baby dolls for our daughters so they see diversity as normative, rather than princesses and barbie dolls. Although sometimes uncomfortable, make these types of decisions in the small things so we can promote well rounded world-views and experiences. Who knows if it will work, but we at least giving it a shot when we are able!
Invitation Rather than Isolation
Lastly, we really try to do our best at inviting our children into the natural rhythms of our life, work and worship as much as possible. Rather than removing the kids from our times of community worship, we are learning to celebrate their presence (even when it isn’t all the pleasant!) as part of the worship. Also, we invite our kids into the lives of our adult friends. Having committed to walk intentionally with a community of Jesus followers means we have also committed our children to walk with these people. Although we may do some things differently, we are learning to release some of our control and allow our kids to be invited into the lives of those that love us most. It is now to the point that Ruby has to pray for EVERY person in our faith community before we go to bed. We never thought prayer could be so exhausting!
In the end, things are very different than before we had kids. Things certainly move a bit slower. Things often don’t go in the way we envision. And things are viewed through a much different lens. But we are realizing that is the beauty of family and a continual process of learning to live lives of selflessness, hospitality and generosity. Parenting has become one of the most dynamic forms of discipleship.
Blessings on your families as you navigate these waters and please share your best practices!
Jon Huckins is on staff with NieuCommunities, a collective of missional communities and is the co-founder of The Global Immersion Project which cultivates peacemakers through immersion in global conflict. Jon has a Master’s degree from Fuller Seminary and writes for numerous publications including, theOOZE, RELEVANT, and Red Letter Christians. He has written two books: Thin Places: Six Postures for Creating and Practicing Missional Community (Beacon Hill) and Teaching Through the Art of Storytelling (Zondervan). He lives in Golden Hill (San Diego) with his wife Jan and daughters, Ruby and Rosie. Jon sits on the neighborhood council and is passionate about advancing the common good of his place. He blogs here: http://jonhuckins.net/.
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