Yesterday, on Christmas Eve, we went and served as a family. Kelly and I talked a few weeks ago about how we wanted to change how we celebrated Christmas. It had been bugging me for quite a while how every year I made a list of material items that I don't really need. While I had already handed a list to family as requested, we could still change how our immediate family celebrated Christmas this year. So we told our older son that we did not want him to buy us anything for Christmas. Instead, with the money he would spend we wanted to support a ministry that feeds the homeless and he could purchase blankets and sleeping bags in our name for them. So his gift to us would be to go buy those items, and then on Christmas Eve we would go serve as a family and feed the homeless in downtown Dallas. To my surprise, he thought it was a pretty cool idea. So we went shopping for blankets and set them aside for Christmas Eve.
When last night came, I was a little excited, but a little worried about going as a whole family. You see, we have 2 sons; an almost 21 yr old and a 1 yr old. I was really worried that our 1 yr old would be a distraction and get fussy since it would be past his bedtime. I tried to carefully plan out meals so he wouldn't be hungry, but I knew when we got there he would want to get down and run around and that would not be allowed. But I kept feeling pushed by the Holy Spirit for all 4 of us to go.
Now I know you must be asking if I was scared to take a 1 yr old into a shady part of downtown Dallas around people that could be aggressive or on drugs or just a little not there. Honestly, I wasn't. You see, I have learned since becoming a parent that I cannot protect my children from everything, but that my God can. So before we stepped out of the car to go inside I prayed that the Lord would protect our family and everyone else from anything Satan wanted to throw our way. And then I left any fear right there in His hands. Let me tell you, if you have never done this, it is the most freeing thing!
Isaiah 41:10 says "So do not fear, for I am with you; do not be dismayed, for I am your God. I will strengthen you and help you; I will uphold you with my righteous right hand."
The LORD is with me; I will not be afraid. What can man do to me?
For God did not give us a spirit of timidity, but a spirit of power, of love and of self-discipline.
2 Timothy 1:7
So afraid or fearful, I was not. I stood in strong belief that if the Holy Spirit was telling me we should go, then He would take care of us. But I was still worried about being a distraction, about the 1 yr old interrupting as they prayed or read scripture or sang.
What I didn't realize was that God had a specific purpose for us being there and it unfolded right before my very eyes.
As the men and women came into the building and sat down, the 1 year old was pretty quiet. New people, a new place and a lot to look at. But when scripture started to be read and songs were sang, he had a lot to say as well. When I finally stopped being worried about him enough to look up, I saw at least half of the crowd of people watching him...with a smile.
I decided we would stand in the open (instead of behind the tables serving), greeting them before they walked through to get food, shaking their hands, telling them Merry Christmas and looking them in the eye to show that we love them and see them as a human being worthy to be loved. As they all filed through the line, I realized that a huge percent of them had a stone cold face as they were greeted by other adults. They would shake hands and some would smile, but a lot just looked tired, battered from the outside cold and world they lived in. They were here for just a meal and that was it.
But as they walked up to my 1 yr old and I wished them a Merry Christmas, they smiled...every single one of them! They tried to get my son to smile. They talked to him and asked me questions about him and tried to play with him.
Most babies and children shy away from strangers, especially men in hats. But since Lex was born, his daddy has been putting hats on him and wears hats frequently and so that didn't bother Lex. His older brother is also a very dark shade of black so the color of other people's skin doesn't scare him either. He is also very much an extrovert child and doesn't shy away from strangers, but instead looks them in the eye and most of the time smiles at them.
And he did just that last night. He looked at them as if they were any other person and smiled.
And they smiled back.
It was in that moment that I realized his purpose for coming. To bring hope, to show love, and to give me the ability to tell them that I love them enough to share and trust my family with them even in their dire circumstances.
A wise friend once told me if you go somewhere as a family unit where most people are scared to go as an individual, you are telling them that you love them enough to trust them with your most precious assets and the doors it opens to share and show the love of Christ are endless! Thanks Anthony for such challenging truth!
Last night that became a reality. As Lex and I walked around, I was able to talk with several of the homeless individuals about their life. It was eye opening, gut wrenching stuff.
I imagine Jesus saw much of this during His ministry on Earth. He didn't spend his ministry in the warmth of his home, constantly surrounded by family. No, he spent it with the people nobody else wanted to be around. The people others were scared of. The people you would never bring your children into the presence of.
It made me think of the verse from Proverbs 22:6 that a lot of parents can quote from heart: "Train up a child in the way he should go; even when he is old he will not depart from it."
Most parents that I know of use this verse in regards to discipline or obedience. What hit me last night is that we don't use this verse in all aspects of what we are called to do as believers. When we are called to serve in various roles, how often to we leave our children behind out of protection or because they might get in the way/be a distraction?
Boy did the Lord set me straight on this last night. If I want to train my children up in the way they should go, that means they have to see me serving and they have to get their hands dirty as well. Jesus loved all people; the crippled, blind, diseased, deaf, widowed, orphaned, the sinner. I need my children to see this and to see that we are all sinners helping others in need, showing Christ's love to them.
They cannot see this through a blindfold, protected behind the walls of my home. They can only see this by working beside me.
Last night I was blessed to see Jesus actively at work and challenged to be a more biblical parent. Will it be hard? Of course! Worth it? No doubt in my mind!
So today as you celebrate Christ's birth, I pray that you will remember His life, His mission, and His calling for you. Each of us have our own role, our own part to do while we are still breathing. It all started before God even created the Earth. The question is will we obey like Christ did?
I pray that 2014 will be a challenging year for you. That you will count the cost and say yes anyway! Because that little baby died on a cross so that you have the chance to stand in His presence as His child one day! Make 2014 a year like none before - trusting Him with everything you have because He is worth it!
Merry Christmas y'all!