I have been thinking about my kids, who are both young adults now, a lot lately. That is probably not all that surprising since we just celebrated Mother’s Day. Yet this goes beyond just receiving the customary gifts and platitudes the day brings. Family is one of the things I miss most being a pastor. The itinerancy United Methodist ministers commit to in their ordination vows is hard on a family. When kids are young it often means they are pulling up stakes and moving just as the kids are making real friends at their latest appointment. This too often is coupled with expectations of PKs (pastor’s kids) that they are supposed to be better than all other human children. They are supposed to be the ‘good little girls and boys’ – kids who are never allowed to make a mistake, get in trouble, or choose poorly. In the eyes of a lot of people, they aren’t supposed to be typical kids. It is hurtful on so many levels. My kids had a different version of this. I was not a pastor until they were out of high school. We didn’t move a lot but they had some of the same challenges with their father’s career. He does not want it generally known what he did because of the current political atmosphere, so I will just leave it with my children were not really allowed to be children in public.
Now, when they are adults, they don’t get to have an ideal family life either. Our daughter is a K-12 music teacher. A few years ago I encouraged her to apply at schools around Post and Lubbock so she and her family could live closer to us. Her answer was no, not because of anything having to do with us or with the schools, but as she put it, “As soon as we move here you will be reappointed and then we would be stuck here without any family.” That is part of their reality. Another part is that my job means that Christmas and Easter celebrations either have to be done at a different time or they will not include this set of parents/grandparents. The same is true for birthday parties and numerous other family functions. In addition to these challenges, our son is in the U.S. Navy and is currently based (ported? – what does the Navy call it?) on the East Coast. The only time we get to see him is on a weekly facetime call and the rare occasion when he has leave. We have to make sacrifices and work hard to have a relationship with our kids. Yet we gladly put in the work and make the sacrifices because they are our kids and we love them.
The same thing can be said about our relationship with God. God cannot abide in the presence of sin, and we are not perfect people. We cannot live this life in the way PKs are often expected to live. Even if we are the good little boys and girls or the good men and women, we cannot live up to those expectations no matter how hard we try. We will make mistakes and get in trouble and choose poorly. Even so God loves us and wants to spend time with us. God wants a relationship with us, one that is based on love. Therefore, sacrifices have to be made. I think about the sacrifices that people make to follow Jesus. I think about how those things often look to other people who are not trying to live that lifestyle. I think it often looks as if Christians are boring, stuffy, prim and proper people – people who don’t get to have any fun or enjoy life in any way. I guess to an extent that can be true. However I have never found it to be the case. What I choose to sacrifice to be with God is neither stuffy or boring. It is actually life-giving and joy-bringing. What God sacrificed to be with you and me, on the other hand, is so much heftier. God sacrificed God’s own Son. Jesus left heaven, put on human flesh, and lived away from His Father to be here with you and me. Then God in the flesh willingly chose to put the burden of our sin upon His shoulders, to suffer a brutal beating and an agonizing death, and to experience a trip into the depths of hell all to restore us to the right relationship with God, our first love. God has gladly made the most daunting sacrifice God could make because we are God’s precious, beautiful kids and God loves us. Let me say that again. We are God’s precious, beautiful kids and God loves us. By us I mean all of us. It doesn’t matter what we have done, what poor choices we have made, what religion we are, or even if we have any religion. God loves us.
God loves us. God gave up an awful lot to be with us. Any sacrifice I make either as a parent or as God’s child pales in comparison. I only hope that I can reflect a little bit of God’s sacrifice for me in the sacrifices I choose to make for my children and for my church family. Because love and relationships are worth it. God shows us that every moment of every day.