Initiative: The Power or Opportunity to act or take charge before others do
When our children were young and we were training them to do household chores, often we would come into our kitchen and find a pile of dirty dishes. (Those piles can still be found on occasion today!) When we asked our children why the unwashed dishes were still in the sink, they would say, "Well, no one asked me to wash dishes." To which we would reply, "When you are mature, you will not require us to stand over you to see that you get your work done. You will do it because you see the need yourself, and you will take the initiative with no one even asking you to do so."
It works that way in the Christian life, too. As we mature in our love for the Lord and come to know him better, we will often feel compelled to reach out to others simply because we see the need—and because Christ's kind of love has become a part of us.
II Corinthians 5:14 reminds us that "the love of Christ controls us"; an even better translation is "compels us." In other words, Christ's spirit inside us will drive us to share his love with others, and we will take the initiative to be agents of his redemption. We share the gift of inspiration with our children as they see us reaching out to others and as we involve them in these acts of outreach.
I have found that young children are usually less reserved than adults when it comes to wanting to share generously with others. They are generally not as given to racial or social prejudice as we are. Therefore, as we have prayed for God to use our family in the world, their innocent and giving love has sometimes pulled us into situations that have really stretched us. My children, for instance, love to think they can always bring someone in need to "our house.. .because our mom always helps people when they need it!" This is not always convenient, but it is almost always of God. As we sought to give our children the gift of inspiration, they often gave it to us as well!
All of us long to feel our lives have meaning, there is a sense of purpose for us to fulfill amidst mundane days. I am convinced that our children grew into believing that their own lives mattered, that they had works to do to show His light, His love, His messages. Because we all initiated His ways into the lives of people He brought our way, they have felt a call on their own lives. It has given them strength, inspiration to carry them into a "call" on their own lives.
When we follow in the footsteps of Jesus to reach out in love to those in need, we will ignite in our children the sense that they are worthy to consider themselves part of the solution in meeting people's needs. Patterns of ministry will naturally be caught as they learn from us and from Jesus a new and initiating love. In the process they will be inspired to give themselves in ministry, to become skilled and loving workers for his harvest fields.
When we seek to inspire our children, we need to model for them this initiating principle.
That means we put out our spiritual antennas, so to speak, wherever we go, looking for people in need. Then we take steps to reach out to them in some way, whether or not they are people we would normally feel comfortable with or people we think are good "prospects" for accepting Jesus. Even as Jesus died for us when we needed it, following him means befriending others who, like us, are in need of his grace. Then, once a relationship is formed or a friendship is started, we seek opportunities to share the truth of God's love and forgiveness as gently and attractively as we are able.
"Seeing the people, He felt compassion for them, because they were distressed and dispirited like sheep without a shepherd." ~Matthew 9:36
Each of us has access to those who need to hear a kind word, feel a touch of Jesus, have a meal with friendship as a foundation. Even those different than us. Overcoming passivity to reach out must become a habit of our lives if we are going to be a part of transforming our culture.
Who are some people in your life right now that your family could reach out to, so that your own children can feel they are a part of giving and initiating to their worlds.
Making a batch of cookies for a neighbor and giving a card with "Happy Autumn" wishes can brighten a day. Making a meal for someone who is ill or has a new baby. Taking flowers and visiting with an elderly person might give children a way to show their love.
What about those who are different than you and your family culture? Can you think of some fears or prejudices in your life or your particular culture that might keep you or your children from seeing people as Jesus did? (What kinds of people do you tend to shy away from or find it hard to care about?) What might help you overcome these attitudes?
We also are happy to announce the winners of Give Your Child the World from last week's giveaway! Katie L, Jennifer H, Mari, Sally Lockett, Jannette, and Amanda, would you please email Misty at email@example.com, and we will be thrilled to have those sent your way!