As I think on the idea of spiritual parenting within a missional community in the season we are in, what makes me thankful is the way our thirteen year old daughter Haeli continues to find her identity, purpose and kingdom responsibility within this fairly new missional community. She is beginning to step into leadership in small but significant ways. As we try to live and love in the ways of Jesus, this gives me confidence that we continue to head down the right path with our family!
We have never pushed our daughters to do anything out of a duty to God. We have let them watch our example, including my own journey of stepping out to pray for people when it doesn’t feel natural or easy for me still. But over the years they have watched many people as part of various spiritual families we have orbited in and out of, step up to pray for healing, help and protection from the enemy. It’s becoming very apparent now that they have paid attention to every word and posture and that as we have modeled thankfulness as a starting point to talking to the Father, it’s starting to become natural for them.
Over the past couple of months, Haeli has begun to volunteer to pray when we ask the whole room who will speak to the Father on behalf of someone with a need. Watching her blossom in her secure identity as a daughter of the King with full authority, is just beautiful! She knows who she is and to whom she belongs and doubt has gone out the window, so she speaks up because she knows she is loved and heard. But this has come from years of nurturing within an extended spiritual family. I know that she can’t imagine life without this weekly family gathering of a community of people with the same purpose, who love her and support her. This has become a natural way of life for her.
The night we first realized that praying for others was becoming natural and necessary for Haeli was a couple of months ago towards the end of a normal Tuesday night gathering. There were 4 prayer requests and we had people split up to make sure each person had at least a couple of people around them to pray. Andy noticed that our daughter was one of only two people who had gathered around a young woman battling anxiety. He thought to himself that after he finished praying for another person, he would join her and pray too, so she didn’t feel the pressure of trying to do it on her own. When he got over to her, he heard her praying boldly for protection and deliverance over this woman and thanking God for her life and for making her who she is. He could not have said it any better and so he let her carry on and he had nothing more to say! We made sure to encourage her in her choice to step out in faith that night, and she continues on in the confidence that God hears her just as much as any adult who has been praying for years and years. Her life is a great example to her younger sister as well as the rest of the kids within this missional community.
Haeli is an amazing person in general and probably the most positive girl I’ve ever known. She takes her responsibility as a “big sister” to the rest of the kids within whatever missional community we are a part of, very seriously. She will sacrifice her own preferences of what she would like to be doing to take care of others’ kids so that they can have a few moments peace and adult conversation. She will help little ones get food and find toys and read them as many books as they want her to. She will take responsibility to make sure kids stay safe, whether it’s guarding the stairs or making sure toddlers don’t eat the dirt when they go outside. It’s because she’s found this expression of the kingdom of God to be like the description in Matthew 13:44. “The kingdom of heaven is like what happens when someone finds a treasure hidden in a field and buries it again. Such a person is happy and goes and sells everything in order to buy that field.” She’s found such worth and a sense of identity within this kind of a family, that she is willing to sell it all to gain this treasure.
I think that had we never decided to go on this journey of living life the way Jesus did within a spiritual family Haeli would still be a really wonderful person worth imitating. But the level to which she has taken on this kind of Kingdom responsibility within God’s family would not be there as she is entering the teen years, had we not made it a weekly priority to nurture spiritual family. And we cannot parent alone. We need more examples of people who choose to follow Jesus daily, as a regular part of our kids lives. They need more parents to talk to and receive support from at all stages of life. We have every life season covered within our current missional community, from grandparents to young parents to college students, and we all have something to offer each other from these unique perspectives and from our current victories and struggles. As we watch God show up in each other’s lives on a weekly basis, our faith rises and we would not want to be outside of this reality now that we know the fullness of life that exists within this kind of family!
Our journey of figuring out how to live a missional life the way Jesus did within an extended family, has brought so much new life to us. And as I think about this journey and how we just started living it the best we could before we knew what we were doing, I think it is summed up by this quote I read yesterday from Fr. Richard Rohr:
“We do not think ourselves into new ways of living. We live ourselves into new ways of thinking.”
Whoa. Yes! So true. And quite true in the life of my little family over the past few years of leading and living within a missional community. How did we get here? I think it started by daily, weekly, and monthly making small choices to hear and obey the Father and including our girls in those hard but significant choices. Over time, it adds up to a new lifestyle. We are still learning of course, but I believe that starting where Jesus did within a spiritual family is where we learn and grow in this competency and way of life.