I was so overwhelmed by the smell of raw sewage that I couldn’t stop gagging. One look at my kids’ watering eyes and I knew they were struggling too.
I turned my face away and pulled my jacket tighter and tried not to think of the deep brown pool of sludge at my feet.
We stepped over it and entered the tiny home of one of our teen moms who now lives in the new transition home in Kenya we are trying to fund. Her mother greeted us with a warm smile and our family of five sat cramped on the only piece of furniture in the room.
We talked about how well her daughter was doing in high school and how adorable her granddaughter was and then these words were spoken and they settled deep into my heart, “Now that my daughter has lived differently, she will never feel at home in a slum again.” Her words worried me at first, but then I saw pride on the mom’s face as the rest of the people in the house agreed. Yes, her world had expanded and if she ever came back here, it would be to help her family live a better life.
We’ve seen it again and again, empowered women empower women. This home, this slum, this difficult life, would never be enough again.
Later as we sat in Nairobi traffic, I thought of that momma’s words over and over. Because the universal language of motherhood is the same. I looked at my own kids who weren’t batting an eye at the sweltering heat or the request to roll up the windows because we were entering a dangerous part of town. These kids who are on their second set of passports, have been to nearly every slum in the country and played “maternity home” as preschoolers by lining up dolls and telling them they were all pregnant. I have watched silent tears slide down their cheeks more than once as they try to wrap their minds around extreme poverty.
Their world has expanded and in a lot of ways they have outgrown culture because of their worldview.
And this truth has settled deep into their souls: This world will never be enough again. It’s the beauty and brokenness of raising our kids to change the world.
Of course, we don’t set out to raise world changers, but that’s what we do when we change one person’s world.
And changing the way our kids see the world, changes them.
And once they drink deeply from a well that satisfies, the culture and its comfort and all the cravings, won’t ever truly satisfy again.
I’ve seen it in the eyes of families who fill their homes with foster kids, and for big brothers and sister who have newly adopted siblings; in friend’s who live to serve and share what they have and I’ve seen it on the faces of brave yes sayers, servers and givers, families who live upstream in a culture that craves fitting in.
When we show our kids the pain in the world, they share in it. It’s good and really tough.
Sometimes we just need to pull our kids aside and say, Hey, I know this is hard. I know there are days you want to be like everyone else and just kind of blend in. Sometimes it’s hard being that kid. Nobody wants to feel weird or left out.
I know you want to be normal and fit in, but I’m going to be honest, it’s not really possible. Because when you choose to walk with God, you choose to become like Him and that desire makes you act in a way the the world doesn’t always understand. It makes you different. And it means the journey won’t be easy. It’s actually really hard and I see that. I see you trying and struggling.
God sees you.
I also see things you can’t see yet…who you’re becoming and how you’re growing into a strong and resilient world changer. And even though I don’t understand what you’re going through, I want you to know I’m here. You’re not facing this alone. I know it hurts. I know you might be mad at me. I know we fight about it, but that’s ok. I can handle it. I’m not going anywhere. I know you need to push back against something that won’t give up or in. I can’t be with you every moment of the day (this will really bum your teens out), but there is someone who can be. God loves you more than I do. He’s not going anywhere and he loves that you aren’t like everyone else.
And sometimes, Mom and Dad, we need to take a deep breath and remember parenting is hard. Especially when you’re doing it right. You might feel guilty in your decisions and bad for your kids because your choices might alienate them at times. Your choice to change your world, go against the flow, parent different than your friends–it will change your family. And change is hard.
One of the great things about parenting is we have the gift of hindsight and the wisdom of foresight. We can also look ahead and parent with wisdom and maturity our kids don’t possess yet. They won’t always understand our choices, acknowledge our wisdom and appreciate our difficult decisions. And that’s okay. We decided a long time ago to lead our families with intention. Not everyone will understand every leg of the journey-including our kids.
But stay the course. When the waters get turbulent–and they will–keep your eyes on Jesus. And keep going. Keep loving and serving your family and keep focusing on who we are raising our kids to be: broken and beautiful world changers.
And thankfully, this world will never be enough again.