A Story About Two Sons
"Stories help us understand investment in the mission of God."
At least I am pretty sure those were the words from my pastor at service yesterday. And then my son's youth pastor shared his story with the church, and it was evident that the student pastor's story showed how his investment in God's mission had impacted him throughout his life.
So I thought to myself, what stories could I tell that could help people make the connection between myself and God's mission? What if I could tell the story of a few characters?
I am all about making connections; especially between characters' stories.
So the following are two short stories that I will then connect together in the end... and perhaps those connections will lead some readers to more understanding of God's mission.
First, let me tell you about a son. This son was the youngest of three children. The son was born and raised in a small town in South Carolina. This son, when he was a little boy, got in the occasional trouble in grammar school because he had a bad temper. But he also always worked hard and got good grades. Nobody ever messed with him, though, because his temper earned him a certain reputation. The son also had a father who was never around. If you asked his momma, she'd tell you that he was an alcoholic. The son's mother worked hard every day as the local city clerk; she was basically a single mom who raised three kids. Fortunately for her, all three kids were pretty self-motivated in school. But the youngest son only knew his dad so well. When the son was 14 years old, his father died. Now the boy had no father, and his siblings were grown up and headed out of town to go to college. The son had to help take care of things around the house, and his mother still worked hard every day. The son still found time to become a great high school athlete and complete his studies. He also happened to get himself a girl. And yet amidst all this, somehow the son got to know God. Growing up, he didn't have a man around to play catch, or take him on trips, or teach him about God, or teach him anything about raising a family. But his mother made him go to church, and taught him the importance of a hard work ethic. And her work ethic was all because she loved and cared for her family. And he saw it every day. He stayed in decent touch with his siblings, and still wanted a family of his own one day. The son grew up and went to college for business. The son married a good Christian girl; his high school sweetheart. The mere presence of the young lady at least sated the hot temper of the man's tougher side. It would never go away, but folks who knew his wife knew, without her, he might just get himself in trouble :)
Somewhere along the way, the son knew it was important to raise his family in the church. Whether it be the calm and tender prompting of his wife, or the logic behind the teachings from The Good Book, the son made sure to start things off right. He and his wife had a son of their own, and one day their family would grow even more. And the son would bring up his own family using the foundation laid by his mother - a love of God, and a love of family. This son's story - is yet to be finished, But...
Let me tell you a story about another son. This son was the first born son of three boys. This son was born in a small city in South Carolina. This first born son was taught at a very early age that he was a creation of God, and that his family loved him more than anyone else in the whole world. The son had a mother who spent all the time that she wasn't working doing fun things with her son. This son got to see his dad come home from work every day, and always looked forward to getting to eat with Dad, and maybe getting to play with him out in the yard. This son got to miss his dad when he went on short business trips, and always looked forward to Dad coming home with some kind of special treat from whatever city he went to visit. The son often saw and heard his dad tell his mother he loved her. He often saw his mom and dad hug and kiss. He sometimes saw them fuss, too, but then later got to see them get along again. This son got to see his dad be a father, and do what fathers do. His dad taught him right from wrong. He taught him that fighting was wrong. He taught him at an early age that he needed to be nice to his mom. He taught him most importantly that he was to always listen to what his parents said. The first born son soon had two little brothers of his own, and he got to see both his parents somehow spread their abundant love evenly to each son. The son was encouraged as he got older to participate in the youth group at church. This oldest son also participated in church basketball throughout school, and formed friendships and bonds that would last a lifetime. The son's parents knew he benefitted from this, so they let many other activities take a backseat to church activities and church friends. Throughout his school years, the parents learned their son was artistic, so they encouraged him and supported him in the world of art and music. The son was not without his faults, though. He learned at about middle school age that he had a bad temper. He got in fights off and on through middle school and the early parts of high school. The son also disliked reading very much, despite how much importance both parents emphasized on the subject. Although he was no stellar student, the son did well enough in school to go to college. The son's parents encouraged the son to go where his heart led, and he would end up attending a Christian school, where he surrounded himself with even more Christian friends, whose relationships would stand the test of time. And throughout his childhood, and into young adulthood, and even into the days he would finally marry, the son made sure that his belief in God never faltered. One day that son would bring up an only child of his own. He would go on to raise his son in the church, and even by the grace of God, get to baptize his own son. Ironically enough, the son went on to be a teacher, a trainer... and a bouncer! The son one day would enter the field of law enforcement to help protect people and try to be a peacemaker. And although his parents never would have guessed it, he would also go on to write Christian fiction stories one day. This, too, is a story that isn't finished.
If you didn't figure out while reading, the first story is a true story - about my father. The second story is about my life. So what in the world is the connection?
At our church, the mission statement is 'Reaching the world for Christ, one person at a time'. Go back if you have to, and look at the things that the two sons have in common. Without the love and hard work and encouragement of his mother, my dad wouldn't go on to make family and God a priority in his life. Without that, I wouldn't have been as actively involved in my church youth group growing up. Without that, I might not have even become a believer. But lo and behold, Dad did what he did, and when I was 12 years old, I made an official decision for Christ. Mission partially accomplished, Dad!
But moving on, without that decision at 12, and without the influence of my father and mother, and without the emphasis and priority placed on the church, and without the time and effort both my parents made in raising all three of us - perhaps I wouldn't have the family I have. Perhaps I wouldn't have found a church, or taken the time to find a church, where both my wife and I are happiest. Perhaps without that, my own son doesn't make his own commitment to Christ publicly, in front of our church on the day he was baptized.
But the stories of both sons are continuing on today... maybe tomorrow. And God is the focal point, with family anchoring onto that point. So the mission continues. Of course stories inevitably branch out from each person. And each person, if they hold most of the things dear that those who started this story do, has a chance to complete their own mission for God. Jesus said go and make disciples of all nations, and He definitely knew the power of the ripple effect. My dad invested a great portion of his life to God, to the point that it encouraged me to do the same. I hope I can say the same for my actions, and their influence on my son. But our own sons - they're just part of the mission. I hope and pray things like my writing, and my son's actions and future decisions, can continue to expand the mission, making those ripples keep expanding.
So, what's your story? You notice these stories are not about perfect people. They're just about two ordinary people. But the connection to God's mission is evident, especially if you know their stories.
Are you investing in God's mission - and does it show?