Over the weekend I had coffee with a friend from church. She shared with me how she's become involved with the neighbors around her. She takes kids to church. She allows kids to come in and visit and share their life stories. She referees and calls to accountability in the absence of parents. She thinks about how she can be a blessing in times of need.
She's not perfect. This stuff requires time, and often inconvenience. It doesn't sound fun to me, frankly. And yet as I listened to her share of both the joys and the frustrations, I found myself moved to ask Papa what more He wants of me.
Concurrently, my own children have been spending more and more time outdoors in pick-up baseball games, riding bikes and rip-sticks, and other activities with the neighbor kids. It's a stretch for me... I wish the kids would stop ringing the doorbell when baby's napping. I wish they'd all stop opening our door and "wasting electricity" when the air conditioner is running. Ever-aware of "what the neighbors think," I hope my own will make "right choices" (like not letting that baseball end up in the neighbor's car, for instance). I hope they will be salt and light for the kids who don't know Jesus, and not take on "ungodly behaviors." In short, I want to make sure that my kids are godly, and "safe." Interestingly, at the same time, God reminds me that my idea and His of safe are not necessarily the same.
Another wise friend is the mom of 7, adult down to preschool ages. She has mostly children who are a testimony to God's light lived out in a life. A couple don't "look" like church-goers by the standards of many. She has a prodigal - and she shared with me how she's gone to the throne on her knees again and again for him - and always comes back realizing anew that no amount of good parenting, rule-setting, or "protecting" could've made him walk the straight path. He's God's child, and he alone can wrestle with his True Father.
Back to me and my own neighborhood. I hear you, Papa! Stop trying to "protect" and "direct" every tiny thing, and get my buns out into the yard, the driveway, the street! Build relationships alongside my children and be salt and light WITH them! Of course they will get dirty. Of course they will make wrong choices, and we will discipline and guide and walk alongside.
As He so often does, Papa chose to teach me more about His love for my children through an odd situation this morning. We were lying on the grass reading history when a man drove slowly by with a camera aimed in our direction. "Mommy, why's that man taking pictures of us?" Brian asked. That's all it took for me to be up and watching for this man, who drove by a second time. Immediately two of my neighbors, who happened to be out, headed around the circle to observe. They waited for over ten minutes for the man to come around and be questioned - as it turns out, he was taking pictures of real-estate for sale. Nonetheless, I was blown away by the protective nature of two "unbelieving" angels who would not allow our children to be in any kind of danger.
Holding them with open hands doesn't necessarily mean they will be unprotected, or that protection can't come from other sources. It doesn't mean that we stop parenting as He has called, but that we do it with a keen awareness of His sovereign nature.
God may choose to allow harm to come to my children, for the best interest of their souls. He may choose to call them to persecution for His glory. He may choose to allow my "community" outside the body of Christ to keep them out of harm's way. He may watch silently while they run from Him (to my, I am sure, embarassment) until they choose to open their ears to His call. Ultimately, He's their Papa, and I am but a rusty tool He has chosen to use to help to craft them into His image.