Families In the Way

“I run in the way of your commandments, for you enlarge my understanding!”

Psalm 119:26 (ESV)

A friend of mine who has served as a missionary in Central Asia for many years is a popular speaker.  He recently told me of a time in his life when he was reluctant to return home to his family after speaking.  At home, he said, he was not finding the same kind of appreciation he received from people when he was preaching and speaking.  He began for look for ways to lengthen the route of his trips home. Life at home was dragging him down. His family was in the way.  When he did arrive at home, he would occupy himself playing computer games.

One day his wife told him, “When you are home, I feel as if you are not home.  You are here, but you are not here. You don’t hear what I say. The children and I are invisible to you.”  It was a wake-up call for him. He decided to ask his wife to tell him honestly how she viewed him, and he offered to change his ways.  He said “I want to serve you. Tell me what you see in me that is not beautiful. I will change.” 

Now he looks for ways to make family life better.

“As husbands,” he told me, “it’s our responsibility to take the initiative to make our family life better.”

I met a young mom, name Jackie.  She told me that when she was a girl of ten years old, she heard a gospel message and made a promise to serve as an overseas missionary.  She married a man who served in a church as a youth pastor. When their first baby boy was born, she was so moved by the preciousness and fragility of this tiny life, she dismissed her childhood dream of becoming a missionary, telling herself that being a mother demanded everything.  She told herself “I could never put my child at risk by taking him out of this country.”

Some time after this, her husband was given a different assignment in the church.  He became the mission pastor. He was responsible to lead groups on short trips to foreign countries.  During the first summer in which he was responsible to do this, he got himself into a difficulty. Two trips got scheduled to go out at the same time. He was in a bind. He could not lead both trips. He turned to his wife and said “Honey, will you lead a group to Slovakia to teach English for two weeks?”  She wanted to help him. She asked her mother whether she would take care of her little boy for a couple of weeks while she travelled with a group to Slovakia to teach English. Grandma was more than happy to do that.

Jackie had a great time teaching English with the team in Slovakia.  While she was there, she remembered her vow as a ten-year old to serve as a missionary.  She began to think to herself, “I wonder whether it’s possible for me to serve as a missionary and be a good wife and mother to my children?”

For quite a few years now Jackie has been living in a large European city where she in charge of teaching English in a school that serves a large number of officials from a Muslim country.  During off hours she and her husband and colleagues share the good news of Jesus with them. She and her husband are raising three children while they do these things.

These brief stories help us to see that there are two ways to think about family and mission.  We can think about our family as an obstacle to serving in mission. We can say “My family’s in the way.”  On the other hand, if we think of our family as our primary mission, we will say “How can I be in the way with my family to serve in God’s mission?”   This is what I am thinking about when I write postings for Families in the Way.

It’s not about becoming a missionary. It’s about serving God together with our families, no matter where God has placed us.  If God gives us a family, he does not give it to us to keep us from serving him, but God gives us families so that we can serve God with them.  Regrettably, many people live with a sense that family and mission are like oil and water.  They don’t mix.

I believe God has creates every family as his mission and for his mission.  We need to learn to see our families through new eyes so that we can stop thinking about our families as a hindrance in our way and learn how to be with our families in the Way – Jesus.  

Donald Marsden

1 reply
  1. JoAnn Armistead
    JoAnn Armistead says:

    I appreciate this correction to a common error in our thinking. When my husband and I got married, we knew God was calling us to serve overseas. I remember saying that we weren’t going to just settle down in the suburbs – there was more! My mom said, “There are reasons people settle down in the suburbs!” She wasn’t too sure about the idea of taking her grandchildren across the world. Now that we have lived that missionary life and our children are grown, I see the complexity more clearly than I did when we started out. It is so easy to have biased views on what will be good or bad for our families. Best to let God lead and stay teachable throughout the process of being His family. I am SO impressed that this website is giving perspective and support for families who know they want to follow Jesus together.


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