One of my daughter’s best friends is an Olympic hopeful gymnast. I went to one of her meets earlier this year, and sat with her parents for part of it. After her balance beam performance I asked her dad what it was like watching his daughter on that apparatus. He said something like, “I can’t stand to watch. And I can’t stand not to watch.”
His daughter won the competition that day, first place all-around. Needless to say, the dad was very proud.
I have another friend, Bill, whose son’s family is in Kenya, serving Christ as missionaries. There was some violence against Christians going on there around Christmas. I asked him what it was like having a son going overseas for missions work, in a potentially dangerous place. When he had answered me, I said to him, “your answer sounds a lot like what another dad told me about his daughter doing high-level gymnastics.” Bill was nervous—but very, very happy about what his son and son’s family were doing. (He has other family members serving Christ in missions elsewhere, by the way.)
I was thinking about this when I was writing on the Great Commission today. My two college-age children are still at home with us. I wonder what it would be like if one of them said he or she was leaving to follow Christ somewhere far away, somewhere potentially dangerous.
When Christ called some people to be missionaries, he called some others to be missionaries’ parents. I don’t know which is the harder calling. But they are both high callings.
That’s not to say that mission work is the only high vocation, or even that “full-time Christian work” is the highest calling. God knew what he was doing when he placed some of us as engineers and teachers and accountants and repairmen. We can fulfill his Kingdom work wherever we are.
I just wanted to focus a moment, though, on the idea of being a parent to missionaries. If God says “go” to one of my children, I pray I’ll be as happy to see them obey as I would be to see my daughter win a gold medal, if she were a gymanst—in spite of the butterflies that would be fluttering in my stomach when she was on the balance beam.