Luke 2:52 says, “And Jesus grew in wisdom and stature, and in favor with God and man.”
This tiny verse is how the Bible sums up the first 30 or so years of Jesus’ life. Many of us who are interested in wholistic development point to this verse as the Biblical example of what we hope to see happen in all those we work with.
But for me, Luke 2:52 hits even closer to home.
It sums up what I spend 16 hours a day (if I’m lucky, I’m asleep the other 8 hours) hoping to bring about in my own children. Parenting young children is an intrinsically wholistic process. My friend and Super-Mom, Monica, once looked at my precious baby doing whatever amazing, genius thing she had just accomplished (probably clapping) and said, “Look at that! Just think, a few months ago, she was a blob of goo.”
So, as a parent, my work is to take this “blob of goo” infant and help him or her develop into a well-adjusted, educated, contributing, Christ-following adult that can hold a job, embrace commitment, love others and avoid public humiliation. I need to take a nap just from writing that statement.
I submit the following situations in evidence of the wholistic development gettin’ real at my house:
My daughter once accidently knocked down her brother and refused to say sorry. I explained that she needs to care when her brother is hurting. She did not see my point. Fourteen time-outs, three spankings and two doses of “sass sauce” later, the word “sorry” came out of her mouth. Sweet mercy.
During a walk, my son found a smear of I’m-not-sure-what on the ground. A few moments later, I actually spoke these words into existence: “No licking the sidewalk! Yucky! Germs! Stop! I’m counting to three.”
After being asked to share a sip of water with her brother, my daughter threw such an enormous shrieking fit that neighbors came out of their houses to investigate possible child abuse and abandonment. I cried the rest of the day.
Parenting also involves times of deep theology with my children. I have answered the following questions to the best of my ability:
- What would happen if I punched God?
- Is God bigger than our car?
- Does God sleep? Because if He does I could take over His job while He’s sleeping.
- Why can’t I see God?
- Is God mad at me when I don’t want to pick up trash?
- Is Jesus real? (yes) Are unicorns real? (no) Are princesses real? (kind of)
The point is, they have a ways to go, and it’s going to take a while. Because I love them, I see what they can be, and I work tirelessly to see them become those people. And I relish their present, with all its quirks. Love covers a multitude of sins.
Because I love them, I see their potential, celebrate small triumphs (He said “thank you” and I didn’t even have to threaten him!), and am committed for the long haul (15 more years and counting, if all goes as planned). I accept endless repetition as part of the package. I discipline. I choose encouragement over criticism.
I’m pretty sure that list would perfectly describe how God deals with each of us, too.
We need to have the same attitude of love toward those God calls us to serve. This is the heart of wholistic ministry. And it cannot be manufactured. If you are truly trying to help another human being develop holistically, there will be days (weeks, months…) when you struggle to know how to help them or are frustrated at their neediness or slowness to change. The solution is not to try harder. We do not have the strength or ability to change ANYONE! Only God can do that. The solution is not to give up. Just because this task is impossible, that doesn’t mean God isn’t in it! Ask God to fill you again with His love and to show you again how He sees the one you want to serve. This is a prayer He is always eager to answer.
One final note about parenting as wholistic ministry… as I try so hard to invest in the development of these small people, the truth is that I’m the one who is being transformed. Sure, my kids have learned the letters of the alphabet and not to take off their pants at the grocery store…. But I have been shown my carefully-concealed self-righteousness, the limits of what I call grace, and the depth of my need for a Savior. Things I previously knew academically are now imbedded much deeper in my heart.
As Jesus commands us to serve the poor and love the vulnerable in His name, He is really inviting us to travel ever deeper into His heart on our own journey of wholistic development.Image courtesy of Jake Stimpson/ Flickr.com