How Will I Know if I'm Raising Compassionate Children?
- Letetia Mullenix EmbracingHisWill.com
- 2015 17 Jul
"But Mom-m-m, we don't even know them! They're strangers."
Her tears hinted at her own brokenness, but her words tore my heart in two. It had begun as such a joyous moment. I made the decision to sponsor a little girl through Compassion International, and immediately fell in love with this tiny angel, who happened to look more than a little like my own. With growing excitement I shared the young girl's video with my eldest daughter. Her initial reaction to the video, a huge smile and moist, soft eyes, stood in direct contrast with her response to the news that we would sponsor the young girl. Quite honestly, it shocked me.
"But, I want our house." Her voice crackled, her heart fearful that we'd continue in these cramped living conditions even a little longer than necessary. We'd been looking for a house for some time, and the apartment space was starting to feel like the walls were coming in on us.
"Tig, the amount of money that it costs to help provide for her would only mean one less McDonald's night out." And really, isn't that actually a good thing?
"But, if you spend money on her, that's less money that we have. And the less money we have, means the more time you are busy earning money, and the less time you have with us." Suddenly the disappointment in what I perceived to be simple selfishness faded away. The pain in her eyes and voice were only a small part of that which lay in her heart. As my perspective regarding my darling's feelings shifted, a new, more familiar heartache arose. My daughter was not self-centered and spoiled, with little regard for the poor. Instead she was an overwhelmed 8 year-old trying her best to deal with her own adult-sized hurt. And in my opinion, she had been doing an outstanding job. The past year had brought about major changes, and loss, for our family. These changes required that more of my time and attention be given toward providing for us financially. Yet, because of the nature of the change, my children required more time and attention than ever.
As she struggled to keep her tears from falling, I could understand her reaction. My 8 year old darling sat there looking at this 4 year old in need, but all she could think was "But, what about me? What about our family? What about me needing my mom?"
We've all been there, when the problems of others seemed to pale in comparison to the ones looming over our own life.
My big, little princess excused herself, then after a few moments, came back in the room and apologized. We discussed what our sponsorship would provide, and she even suggested that we send an extra gift for the young girl’s birthday. It seemed the issue had resolved itself. But bigger ones remained.
How do I get my children to turn their eyes to Christ, endeavoring to love past themselves, when their pain and fears are so big? Should I seek to bring healing and love to someone else's child, when my own children are suffering? And if so, how do I justify that?
How do I get my children to turn their eyes to Christ, endeavoring to love past themselves, when their pain and fears are so big?
By teaching them to fix their eyes on Christ, and love past self. 1 John 3:16-17 reads:
By this we know love, that he laid down his life for us, and we ought to lay down our lives for the brothers. But if anyone has the world's goods and sees his brother in need, yet closes his heart against him, how does God's love abide in him?
The key to loving past self is found in verse 16. It is hard to focus on myself, when I am actively laying my life down in love for someone else. Therefore, it is important that I model and encourage self-sacrificial love. Tig was not the only one who needed to learn to lay down her life.
Parents cannot teach what they do not practice.
As my daughter sat next to me, learning more about compassion, I realized that she needs more of me. She needs me to close the computer at a certain time each night, so that I can cuddle and talk, play a game or do a craft. She needs me to look up from what I am doing, and see what's going on in her eyes, and her heart, when she talks to me. Yes, it is true that I am now bear the financial responsibility in our home. And it is most certainly in everyone's best interest that I find ‘Mommy’ time. But, it is imperative that she believes that she is loved and important. And then, as it is sufficiently modeled to her, it will be much easier for her to show the same to others.
The depths of our fears, pain, or sadness does not excuse us to become so overwhelmed by our circumstance that we are unconcerned about the needs of others.
Further, as we push past the darkness of these feelings, in order to demonstrate love to others, an amazing thing happens.
We are blessed with supernatural provisions of peace and joy.
When we have learned that through Christ, we can experience peace and joy, in spite of our circumstance, we stand a much greater chance of emerging the challenging seasons of life victoriously.
Should I seek to bring healing and love to someone else's child, when my own children are suffering? And if so, how do I justify that?
Unfortunately suffering and trials are a part of life. As parents, we want to shield our children from pain, hurt and disappointment. Good parenting requires that we care about the needs of our children. Yes, they most certainly have physical needs, such as the need to eat, be clothed, sheltered and educated. They have emotional needs to feel loved and secure. However, our children also have very important spiritual needs. These needs include having the building blocks of character, love, compassion, mercy, gentleness, joy and goodness modeled for, and established within, them.
Our family may be facing a season of transition, but as humans we are continually in varying stages of transition. Rare are the seasons when life seems almost perfect, with no difficulties to be faced. If we allow our tribulations to determine our ability to care for the needs of others, we would walk about in a perpetual state of self-centeredness. But we are not called to be self-centered. We are called to be God-centered, to love him first with our whole heart, soul and strength, and to love others as ourselves. Not only are we called, but our children are called to this as well. But we cannot expect them to grow into successful adults who love others, if they have not first been taught to be children who love others.
During some of the hardest times in our family's life, my husband, our children and I would go with our church to feed the homeless. These were valuable lessons that have stayed with my children, and instilled within them the importance of feeding the hungry. One of the issues that remain most vital to them when we discuss missions is actively supporting ministries that feed hungry children.
Parenting, like anything that we strive to be successful at, must be intentional. If you have yet to design a deliberate plan to sow seeds of compassion and mercy into your children’s hearts and lives, or if you would like an idea to include with what you are currently doing, I would like to suggest that your family consider sponsoring a child through Compassion International.
Compassion International is doing amazing work to ensure that the physical, spiritual, emotional, and social needs of children around the globe are being met. I encourage you to visit them and consider partnering with them to serve as a blessing in the life of their children, and of your own.
Article originally appeared at the Embracing His Will blog. Used with permission.
Letetia Mullenix is a working, blogging, homeschooling, PhD student, wife and Mommy to five "happy, noisy, high-energy, snuggly" children whom she adores, and is daily learning to live a life full of joy and contentment. She feels privileged to share words of encouragement and faith with other woman as they endeavor to embrace the will of God - one step and one victory at a time.
Publication date: July 17, 2015