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The Magazine of The Evangelical Lutheran Church in America

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Be careful what you teach your children

When we parents offer our children up to the world, to serve, to give, to go, to heal and teach and dig wells and make justice, we'd better be clear about what we're doing.

We are giving them up.

A brilliant light and vibrant life was taken away from this life. He died along with the poorest of the poor, the desperate, precious people of Haiti. A young man whose mother and father taught him to love and risk and sacrifice has paid the ultimate price for his commitment. Ben Larson had gone to teach in Haiti. His life is lost to us, to his wife, to his friends and family, including his siblings and his parents, April Ulring Larson and Judd Larson.

I know his mother. And I confess, it's April for whom my heart is breaking most of all. She is a great mom. She brought up her kids to love God, to give and give and give. And so they did. Be careful what you do, moms. Be careful what you do, dads. You give your children to the world and it doesn't always spare them.

My daughter spent several weeks in L'Aquila, Italy, a few years before the earthquake there. She was there to serve. When the earthquake struck Haiti, she was in an unreachable village in rural South Africa. She was there to learn, to serve. It was an unnerving reminder that we send our kids out into the world, honoring their commitments to justice and healing, and we aren't in control. Of course, of course, we're not in control anyway, anywhere.

We share our children, we share one another with the whole world. They do not belong to us. We nurture and guide them along, we encourage and succor them. And, if we're like the Larson parents grieving in Duluth, Minn., we encourage these risky behaviors for the sake of the world.

I never knew how much my mom worried about my trips to the former Soviet Union when I was a young adult until the last year of her life when she gave me her journal to read. She was a nervous wreck. But she never told me not to go. I'm grateful for being given up to the world, to serve a larger purpose, a larger community, a higher good. And I do the same with my two girls. Send them off, send them out. To change the world, to take risks and perhaps live dangerously. For the sake of love.

And I am especially holding April in my heart, another mother who told her kid, "Go!" and he did. Peace to her, to Judd, to the rest of their family, and to all who mourn.

Life comes from death. Every time. One way or another. Every time. Life comes from death. And it will now too.


Comments

Paul

Paul

Posted at 12:40 pm (U.S. Eastern) 2/24/2010

This is the way of Jesus.  How hard it is for many of us to take it.  My heart goes out to all who do.  Success is in the going!

Ted

Ted

Posted at 1:18 pm (U.S. Eastern) 2/24/2010

Notice how simple, how straight forward the theology is that's motivating the actions described: God is love; God loves the whole world (today we could even say 'universe'?); I  too will be love; I am going (have gone) with love where ever love takes me.  Looking at last year's annual report from your congregation, how much of the energy, time, money, creativity was spent in living, cultivating, and supporting lives similarly motivated?

Peggy Ogden-Howe

Peggy Ogden-Howe

Posted at 1:21 pm (U.S. Eastern) 2/24/2010

I suggest changing the proverb to, "Be prayerful what you teach your children."  The old proverb sounds like a warning that  any teaching will boomerang back to hurt, discouraging parents teaching anything about discipleship with Jesus for fear of suffering.  

Jennifer Cuthbertson

Jennifer Cuthbertson

Posted at 2:22 pm (U.S. Eastern) 2/24/2010

In 1972, when I walked across the tarmac to the plane that would carry me on the first leg of a long journey to Sierra Leone, I saw my dad cry for the first time. He and Mom always encouraged their 4 children to "go out" and 3 of us have spent time in Africa, Asia, and the Pacific. Mom died 6 years ago while I was in Ivory Coast. This January, while preparing to go to Kenya, I called Dad (now 88) to say good-bye. His response to a 60 year-old daughter still "going out" was, "When will you settle down?"!  Dad had unexpected cancer surgery while I was on this trip. The cost goes both direction, sometimes. We hold each other in open hands.

Sandra Devall

Sandra Devall

Posted at 2:30 pm (U.S. Eastern) 2/24/2010

Which is hardest?

A mother searching for comfort because her child has given his life to drugs or a mother searching for comfort because her child has followed where God has sent them.

Dena Williams

Dena Williams

Posted at 8:14 pm (U.S. Eastern) 2/24/2010

Sandra, I think suffering is suffering.  There's little point in comparisons.

Patti

Patti

Posted at 2:52 pm (U.S. Eastern) 2/25/2010

As a mother my prayer go out to all mothers who have lost children to God's work.  So goes my praise to God for His loving ways.  Last year I watched as my son, a Diaconal Minister, left for Bethlehem, Israel to teach for six months. This as the problems in Gaza were escalating.  We both knew what could happen, yet he went and with my blessing and our knowing that he was in God's care.  How wonderful to be so bold for God.

Jan Erickson

Jan Erickson

Posted at 10:33 pm (U.S. Eastern) 3/2/2010

Thank you, everyone, for your thoughtful comments. God be with you, in your going out and your coming in. And with all those whom you hold, with open hands. 



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