And, it's not just my own people that take up the pages in my prayer journal. Along the way, even though I joke that I only like other people's kids on a "case-by-case basis," I have gotten to know and love an awful lot of children. Yesterday, I got to attend the wedding of a boy who served in children's ministry when he was just a young teenager. I gasped for air when he appeared at the top of the aisle, looking all grown-uppy and hopeful. I cried like a baby when I saw him tear up when he saw his bride. I prayed with all my heart for this new little family- for this boy who has been in my prayers for years and years.
This month is the month of graduation announcements, too. One after another have trickled in, beautiful portraits of amazing children who have grown up right before my very eyes. I feel so proud of these kids, as if they were my own, when I read about their accomplishments, when they share with me their plans for college and career, when they confess to me that they are a little scared about the future. I've been working on their graduation gifts, and the notes that tell them that God's put them on my heart to pray for them all this time, and remind them that God's got big plans for them.
At church this week, Pastor Andrew urged us in the importance of investing in the children of our community in addition to the ones who live in our homes. He challenged us to pray for a different thing each day this week:
Monday- that our kids will remain safe from evil
Tuesday- that they would follow the Truth
Wednesday that Sandals (our church) would be a place where kids are loved
Thursday- that our kids would always keep God first
Friday- for those who currently lead and care for the kids,
Saturday- that God would reveal to us what our role should be in caring for God's kids.
The former children's ministry leader in me loves this simple but sweet challenge. The idea of an entire church community agreeing in prayer that children are worth an investment is a beautiful thing. I love that we are taking time to acknowledge the value of children's ministry in any form, and the importance of taking it seriously.
The mother in me loves it, too. I love that there are people (who are not me) who also care about what becomes of my children. Do you know that the campus youth pastor, Tim, has- on more than one occasion- driven clear across the county to the podunk town where my son attends high school just to take the kid to lunch? That's investing, my friends. The simple act means more than we can even understand right now.
Pastor Andrew gave us a reminder that it really just takes one significant adult relationship to make a difference in a child's life, something I've seen with my own two eyes. Yet,I'm currently holding back a little these days. I have kind of stalled out with taking the time/making the effort to invest in new children for whom I haven't already developed a bond.
I confess- I can give you a laundry list of excuses of why I would rather "focus on my own family right now" -- my plate is fuller than full these days, my heart is still healing from the trauma of last year, my energies are spent during the week now that I'm back to working at a school again, my patience is waning with old age, I don't have as many opportunities as I used to, I'm tired.
The hard fact is that these excuses are just that- excuses. Truth is, we always find time/money/energy for the things we value. If I want to claim that I value the same things that are valuable to Jesus, then I must make an effort to see children as valuable, too. That means looking beyond myself, my hurts, my limitations, and honestly asking God what my current role should be.
Is this to imply I have to go back into full-time children's ministry? Does that mean I need to go in a classroom where I am convinced I am not being called at this time? I don't think so. It does, however, mean that I need to be in prayer so that I am aware of the opportunities to invest in children when God points them out to me. It doesn't have to be a big production, it can be a simple, little thing:
And if you give even a cup of cold water to one of the least of my followers, you will surely be rewarded. Matthew 10:42 NLT
Will you consider joining me in prayer for the children in your church/community this week? I would certainly enjoy the company. Also, will you sincerely ask God what your role should be in the lives of children not your own when we get to Saturday? I know that when I ask Jesus on Saturday "What would You have me to do with the time, energy, skills, and experience that I have to invest in a single child or a group of children?"- I will sure love your prayers that I'll hear His answer louder than I can hear all the reasons why I can't. I'll be praying for you, too.
Now that I am old and gray, do not abandon me, O God. Let me proclaim your power to this new generation, Your mighty miracles to all who come after me.
Psalm 71:18 NLT