“Do you love me?” Jesus asked Peter – you and me, too.
“Yes”, Peter answered.
Jesus told Peter – and you and me – “Feed my lambs. . . . Shepherd my sheep. . . . Feed my Sheep” (John 21: 15-19)
Last year, my family chose to sponsor through Compassion International an 11 year old boy in Haiti. He is one of those lambs that need feeding, literally and spiritually. My support allows for others to spiritually mother and father this boy – and it allows those spiritual parenting hands to fill bowls and make soul-contact that I cannot because I am so far away.
Christians are a faith people commissioned to take the gospel to the world, to love our neighbors as ourselves, to feed God’s lambs. Yet, as we minister to the great needs of those around the world, it is equally important to not neglect the mission fields in our own communities, from backyards to school yards to church yards – all filled with children and young adults who cry out to be fed and shepherded.
It is a daunting mission-field, filled with the churched and un-churched – wearing rebellion, disinterest, eschewing group-think and God-think, daring others to look beneath the tattoos and piercings, the black clothes and saggy pants – daring you to find the beauty beneath because they have trouble finding it themselves.
“There are teens with bigger problems,” someone once told me about a churched teen, setting on a rebellion path.
“It’s all in the parenting,” someone else said about an un-churched teen not interested in God the Father because maybe he’s never experience a Shaddai-kind of father.
“There are a lot of people around who can’t wait to tell you what you’ve done wrong, but there aren’t many fathers[mothers] willing to take the time and effort to help you grow up” (1 Cor 4:15).
I’m going to tell you straight up – I think it’s easy to send letters and financial support to a little boy in Haiti who needs. It’s not so easy to walk into the neighborhood mission field, where souls not only wear wrappings to discourage, daring you to come closer, but who fluently push back in your own language – who maybe through that pushing back allow you to feel as uncomfortable and graceless as they feel in this big old world.
When our children – yours and mine do this – we push right back, we reach right in, both physically and spiritually. But there are children – regardless of the age – who might not have a parent who is able, for various reasons, to fight that spiritual battle, to stand in the gap, to weather the ugly storm and fight for them.
“Do you love me?” Jesus asked. . . . “Feed my lambs”. . . “Shepherd my sheep”. . . “Feed my sheep.”
Not just my lambs . . . all the lambs: the lambs He puts in our path between our kitchen counter and the school desks our kids sit in or the sports field we walk on or the pew we sit in. It’s not just a one time feeding, a one time foray. It is a continual going back, our footsteps creating a path of familiarity.
“The real religion of the world comes from women much more than from men – from mothers most of all, who carry the key of our souls in their bosoms.” ~Oliver Wendell Holmes
Spiritual mothers and fathers care enough to slog through spiritual poverty and hunger, through a minefield of emotions that our country’s children seem to battle, so many inside things that tear at them – these spiritual mothers and fathers slog through to carry soul keys to help youth and adults unlock who they are in Christ.
Are you a spiritual mother or father in your community? Are you willing to reach through uncomfortable barriers? To be challenged? To shepherd through real relationship?
Spiritual Parents do that – love children beyond their own, fight for them, push back, get uncomfortable, don’t give up in the ugliness of the challenge.
You don’t have to buy a plane ticket. You don’t have to take foster classes – though both are good. You just need to make your hearts available from your kitchen counter into the school rooms, the sports fields, the church pews and in-between. God will bring them – if you will love them.