Dear Jack, I am struggling with the love I have for my mother and the calling I have to serve the Lord in missions. My mother is a Christian and has always been supportive of my short term missions trips - though living in constant worry and fear while I am on them. I have a year left in college and am seriously pursuing a longer term of missionary service. I am certain that this is what God is calling me to do but everytime I open my mouth to speak to my Mom about it she just starts crying. The only thing she wants me to do is settle down in my home town and get married. She always reminds me that there is plenty of missions work to be done in America. I love my mother but I know her rejections of God's calling on my life are the result of fear. Do you have any suggestions about how to speak with her in love and respect?
Thanks, Abby, for sharing this very personal tension you feel which goes to your very heart. I’m sure you understand why your mother can't bear to see you leave because of the love she has for you, and also this matter of fearing for your safety. It would be helpful for you to explore with her where this fear comes from. Although you can’t say this to her, it appears that the Lord wants to do a further work in her life both in releasing you for what God is calling you to do as well as trusting Him to care for you.
- Prayer is crucial. Your experience is an opportunity for her to come to a new understanding of dimensions of the Christian life that possibly she's never faced: God's call to service, God's call to recognize His priority in our lives, the ethos of biblical Christianity that from its inception involved believers in a vision of mission, etc. But this is an awakening that only the Lord can affect. Part of your tension is that we are all commanded to honor our parents (Eph 6:2, citing one of the 10 commandments). Entering into serious and committed prayer for her (which you are probably already doing), is one way of honoring her.
- It might be interesting to read the Book of Acts together. Here we see the Church on the move, the whole dynamic of involvement, call, obedience, and the joy of founding new churches, as well as the element of suffering. In this context you could read with her Jesus’ very specific call to minister as a priority over our duty to our parents (Mt 10:37, 38).
- Continue to share your vision. Why the need of the people you are called to have touched your hearts.
- Try to get her talking – she is facing two issues:
(1) Her desire to have you (and undoubtedly your future children, should you get married) close to her. People sometimes don't understand the revolution in communication, involving computers, e-mail, even phone connections through the computer, etc. She may feel you both are dropping off the edge of the earth and she'll never hear from you again! But in the heart of it all, the Lord is calling her to give to Him the most precious thing she has – you. Perhaps this will help her appreciate in greater fullness what David Livingstone said, “God had only one son and He sent Him to be a missionary.” The Lord who saved her by giving her His Son’s life is asking her to do the same thing.
(2) She is fearful for your safety. None of us can guarantee anything in the future. However, it is interesting to note what David said in Ps 27:10 (paraphrased). “When my father and mother are no longer able to take care of me the Lord will receive me.” Remind her that being in the Lord’s will is the safest place anyone can be, though the Lord does not guarantee a long and comfortable life for anyone! (Share with her the verse on your e-mail address which includes the phrase, "I will take hold of your hand." What better security is that!)
- If you are speaking in churches, take her with you, so that she can hear your enthusiasm and catch the response of others.
- Enlist other family members who do support your going to both pray with you and engage her in conversation when you are not there, so that she can feel freer to express her deep feelings.
Once you have done what you can, you will have to face the fact of your own call and obedience to the Lord. This will always be hard, but sooner or later one has to decide to whom one belongs. I appreciate your sensitivity and trust that the Lord will guide you and lead you to help her become your supporter rather than resist your going.
If you want to know what God wants you to do, ask Him, and He will gladly tell you, for He is always ready to give a bountiful supply of wisdom to all who ask Him (James 1:5)