"Education is not the filling of a pail, but the lighting of a fire!"
William Butler Yeats
Imagine a world where all those around you were afire inside with the life and love of God.
Vision indicates the way or effectiveness of our ability to see. I have always loved the quotation above because when we truly educate a person, it is not about giving her the right facts, knowing the ways to fill in the blanks, or guess correctly at a multiple choice life. Education, especially when it comes to life vision and spiritual focus, is about passing on a way of seeing life and igniting the heart with a sense of destiny; of seeing our lives as strategic in God's story of the world.
When we are blind, we cannot see what is evident around us. Often, sincere, committed believers in Christ are blind to His overall design for their lives. They love him but feel that they live in the dark. They live by moral works, by trying to earn God's favor by being good, by doing the right things and teaching the right things. But God has so much more in mind for us.
When the Holy Spirit is alive within us, our hearts burn for the things that are on the heart of God. Every relationship has meaning, every day is purposeful, every moment awake with the life of God.
Today, so many youth are leaving the faith of their youth and adults often live in a sort of cloud of discouragement as they confront the world and its messages. Why does this happen, when so many good families have taken the time to share God's truth and love their children faithfully?
As I ponder this dilemma, I think there are two main reasons. One is that religion cannot just be indoctrination of thought or knowing all the right answers. A fact does not captivate one's imagination or give one a dream or excitement or reason to live.
And the second, is that since we were born for community--aunts, uncles, grandmas, grandfathers, neighbors and friends--close by and living in common purpose and belonging, people need to encounter the reality of Christ through real lives in real community. All of us, young adults especially, were built for relationship--love, affirmation, encouragement, belonging.
When we are down, we feel the comfort of Jesus through the embrace a loved one gives, through the flowers we receive from a friend, through the companionship of one willing to walk by our side through our difficulties and joys.
Basically, our children need to encounter the real Jesus, not as a concept but as the real God, the Artist that colored the sunsets, who thought up the stars and galaxies we see in the night sky, ordered the universe through atoms, designed each snowflake to be unique, as well as each fingerprint. They need to understand that He made them, He is with them, He is here to guide, to give life meaning--that He is the author or our dreams for purpose and meaning.
They can experience the reality of Christ as they live with us and see Him in us and in community. When we love as He loved: living fully alive with hope, purpose, holiness, and creativity, engaging in our days as those who most understand how to celebrate life, then they both encounter him personally and sense His presence in the midst of those who surround them.
And so we must build these two components as a visual and actual reality in our lives as much as possible--even if we personally have to build our own community with friends or those in our lives. As we reflect on the life of Jesus, we learn ...
It must be a real, contagious message about the reality of God, the love that flows from His heart to ours, the ways His life intersects with our own that captures the heart and mind and imagination.
Basically, we must not just know stories about Jesus. They must encounter Jesus. And adults must encounter Jesus personally, in order to be filled with His values, His love, His purposes, His wisdom, His presence.
Dusty, rutted Roman roads were filled with clatter of wagons of market goods for sale, donkeys carrying burdens of farm vegetables, caged fowl squawking and horses mounted by menacing Roman soldiers, milling around in the noisy marketplace of Jerusalem. And yet, it was here, in this oppressed, unknown, seemingly insignificant hamlet that a worldwide revolution would begin that would rock the world forever.
An obscure teacher, rabbi over common fishermen, tax collectors and mere women, would spark a fire in the hearts of those hungry souls that would turn the world upside down.
Those caught in the fray of mundane life longed for something more, to be a part of a life that held meaning besides grasping day to day for enough to eat, a way to pay bills.
And so, the secret, underground movement was ripe for the times in which it was birthed.
"Follow me and I will make you fishers of men."
Always, Jesus' message was about casting a vision that would capture the hearts and imaginations of men and women, stirring their hearts and their fellowship around what gave them meaning together.
Always, always the message of Christ was missional--
Go! Influence! Give! Help! Bring light! Redeem!
Become a part of a movement of the Spirit of God blowing through the lives of people all over the world. Take over the darkness with your light--become redeemers!
Still, today, amidst the mundane, hearts long to be ignited with the passion, purpose and influence that will continue to transform this world of darkness into a place of light and hope--and all of us have a part to play. Leave a fragrance of Jesus after you, through your words, your encouragement, your sacrifice, the music you sing through the days of life.
These were the transforming messages, challenges, vision statements the disciples received from Christ.
Through my own days of motherhood with four little ones in my charge, I would snuggle up on the couch, wide-eyed children squishing around me, telling them, "Jesus has a special mission for each of you-Sarah, Joel, Nathan, Joy--to accomplish in the world. You will meet people that will need you to be the hands, the words, the message of God's love. I can't wait to see how He uses you in your world!"
And they would wiggle, touch toes or push a little for more room, but each one heard their name associated with God's love and their story to tell, and they would shake their little heads in affirmation when I would ask, "Isn't it exciting to see how normal fisherman did miracles and helped people--just like you will do!"
And so, you as an adult must hear and believe, Jesus has a mission for you to accomplish in your world with the people right where you are. He wants to live His hope through you, His compassion and sympathy through your life to your neighbor, your help to an exhausted mama just trying to stay alive, your compassion to the one who longs to hear forgiveness and love. But you can't live purposefully unless you are ignited in your own heart by the fire of His love, His passion to redeem those who so desperately need Him.
Jesus's words were sending ones, purpose-driven and fitting for warriors:
""Behold, I send you out as sheep in the midst of wolves; so be shrewd as serpents and innocent as doves." John 17:15
"I do not ask that you take them (my disciples) out of the world, but that you keep them from the evil one." John 17: 15
"Go therefore, (as you are going) and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age.” Matthew 28:19-20
“You are the salt of the earth; but if the salt has become tasteless, how can it be made salty again? It is no longer good for anything, except to be thrown out and trampled under foot by men.
You are the light of the world. A city set on a hill cannot be hidden; 15 nor does anyone light a lamp and put it under a basket, but on the lampstand, and it gives light to all who are in the house. 16 Let your light shine before men in such a way that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father who is in heaven." Matthew 5:13-16
"When he saw the crowds, he had compassion on them, because they were harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd. Then he said to his disciples, “The harvest is plentiful but the workers are few. Ask the Lord of the harvest, therefore, to send out workers into his harvest field.” Matthew 9: 36-37
Will we pray for Him to send our children, us, into the harvest field? Are we willing to go anywhere? Do anything? Are we arming our children with values for living for eternity and not just living for the temporal, this world, the material, that is corrupting as we live each day?
Do we understand that this is what we live for, to bring His kingdom to bear in our world? And that someday, we will answer to Him for all the ways we could have enacted His reality in and through our lives?
All children and all adults were made for a life of meaning and purpose. We were created to be message makers, healers, redeemers, givers, helpers. There is a kingdom of darkness but we are people of the light and the light will overcome all that is evil, dark, meaningless and harsh. We are people of the kingdom, and we are bringing that kingdom to bear every day in every act, every expression of our faith, every moment of our worship--because we have been adopted by the king!
If we find ourselves caught in mundane, boring, life-draining darkness, perhaps we have not been living in light of the kingdom purposes for which we are designed. You are not a mere human being caught in the despair of life---you are royalty, a child of the king, called to a purpose of bringing light to dark places, bringing love to the lonely and bitter of heart, of bringing forgiveness to those who feel condemned. You are announcers of a life beyond, where Christ, our loving God, will rule forever and ever.
Often, people ask me, "How did your children stay strong in their faith in very worldly and challenging places? (New York City, Hollywood, Oxford, Cambridge, St. Andrews, Boston) Of course, I must tell you, the basis of their strength is God and I was on my knees every day, praying, teaching about Him and cultivating to the best of my ability a life of faith.
But truly, I think the secret was that their hearts were captivated by a vision--"Jesus has a work for you to do in this world! You are very unique and special, because you have a story to live--just like Daniel, David, Moses, Joshua, Esther, Ruth, Mary, Hannah, and Abigail were all heroes in their generation, so you were made by God to be a hero in your generation.Only you can live a story worth telling, but I am so very honored to be your mom and to coach you and train you for the great story I know you will live. I am so proud of you! I love you so much!"
"How will God use you, Sarah, to shape messages? Joel, to craft music for His glory, Nathan, to write movie scripts that will show greater stories, Joy to become a teacher and discipler of young women---I know that you will be bearers of light and God will use you in your lifetime as a part of the kingdom rule He is bringing on the earth."
When you capture the fire of your own significance in the kingdom of God, when you know that as a mother, you have the ability to shape generations to become powerful leaders for the cause of Christ, then that vision will fuel the energy of your life to serve Him every day, whispering the secrets of the kingdom of God. Your fire will be passed on to those who will carry on the torch of faith.
But first you must kindle the fire in your own heart so that you will pass on the fire to your children. And it is best seen in community--the family that laughs, lives, shares, invests lives and hearts around the same purpose and celebration of life, grow from mutual community and vision.
You will never be perfect and your house will never stay totally clean and there will always be more dishes, fusses, messes--but if today, you are igniting the vision, filling the heart, passing on purpose, then today, a work is being accomplished that will be your lasting glory---that you were a builder of the kingdom of God in your lifetime and you armed warriors for His cause to take over the world for His glory with His messages.
We are not called to send our children into their lives just to be moral, good people. We are to be senders of leaders who have "caught" the kingdom messages that will transform the world!
Your unnoticed, obscure home today has a capacity to be a place of revolution and redemption when the Rabbi, Jesus, takes His proper place and whispers the secrets of the kingdom through you, His ambassador, all the moments of your day.
The vibrant life of your little community will capture a vision and they will become, in the footsteps of those so long ago, the ones who are light bearers in their world who will tell the story of their King.