Mercy Friendships by Osmosis
Messy family environments produce relationally crippled children. Are you one of those grown up, crippled children who carries a bucket load of guilt every time you hear the pastor challenge you to “reach out and touch someone” with the mercy of Christ? Do you immediately run down your list of reasons for why you don’t have the right gifts for extending compassion to needy people? Instead of responding with obedience to God’s exhortation to offer help and hope to others, we breathe a sigh of relief when we hear talk show gurus and self-proclaimed experts encourage us to blame others for our self-conscious fears. Mom was too strict and dad was too busy.
Let’s take a step back and consider the wide opportunity young mothers have to take responsibility for their own family environments. No matter what baggage you bring into your home, you can build a healthy laboratory for your children. Avoid excuses and focus on how to, not why you can’t, and press on to the high calling of Christ. Teach your children how to reach out to others as you push beyond your comfort (excuse) zone, and learn how to reach out to people you don’t know through personal one on one friendship.
The essential basis of friendship is not just who we know, but who we are. We tend to believe that ministering to others, or friendship, depends on meeting the right person. But God’s Word shows us that it depends on BEING the right person. You can make your family into a laboratory for learning and developing two significant character traits: a sense of who your children are in Christ, and developing their skills for interpersonal relationships. But these lessons start with you.
The more intentional you are about this task, the more clearly you will see opportunities in every day activities to connect with people you previously ignored and never considered as a potential friend.
A young mom who enjoys running concluded that running would be more fun if she had a partner. She couldn’t match up her running schedule with any of her friends, and concluded that she would have to run alone. An older woman who knew her passion for sharing Christ suggested, “Look for a new friend to run with you. Watch your neighborhood for other runners and ask them if they would like a running partner.”
What a novel idea! She was a little nervous about the idea, but began to pray about the possibilities. On her way home from the grocery story, she saw a woman running. Should she stop and ask this stranger to run with her? It seemed like a crazy idea, so she kept on driving. But then she prayed and bravely turned the car around. All you runners out there know that if you’re in the running zone, you’re not thrilled with those lost people who stop you to get directions! But my friend got the runner’s attention and asked, “Would you like a running partner?” The two women quickly discovered they had a lot in common and exchanged contact information. What a great friendship building model for the children! They soon saw that mommy’s efforts to meet a new friend opened up opportunities to share her faith in Jesus with her new running partner.
Parents must be intentional in what values they pass on to their children. Is mercy ministry important? Do you want your children to be other oriented? Break down that goal into steps and you will realize that teaching your children to reach out to new relationships is the first step to learning about ministry. As our children grow to know, love, and serve Christ, their knowledge of God’s Story will flow through them to the new people God puts in their lives. Make mercy ministry a mission for your family and watch God open doors for your children to touch others with His love. Bring that mission close to home. Be realistic about what you can do. Don’t define such ministry as the big trip to another country or within your state. Look around your community and identify a need that might take you beyond your comfort level, but small, doable, and kid friendly.
Assisted living establishments are very popular in our area. Many of the residents are lonely, without family, or far away from their family. There is often a common area where residents gather to read newspapers, put together puzzles, or just chat. Often their eyes light up when children arrive. Ask if you can visit sometime. Make a project out of baking cookies with your children that they can offer to the residents. Bring small crafts that your children and a “new friend” can do together. Maybe start with a holiday. Prepare and deliver simple Easter baskets. Pray with your children before you go that God will show His love through them. One family started this way and now have a weekly routine of stopping by for an hour or so to bring cheer and energy into a quiet routine. Their visits continue to bless and are eagerly awaited.
Her children are learning to serve – the recipients are seeing Christ’s love as Mom answers the question, engages the residents with simple conversation, and looks for opportunities to connect on a deeper level.
No matter what family environment baggage you brought into your home, you can learn to walk by faith and teach your children how God opens doors of mercy ministry through every day friendship.
Father, Perfect Friend, help us transition from the busyness of the day to stretching ourselves to not only hear what You have to say to us, but to hear what You want us to DO with it…