When Elisabeth Elliot was a little girl running around her childhood home in Pennsylvania, I often wonder if her mother had any idea what lay in store for her young daughter. How could she have known that Elisabeth would grow up to become a missionary to Ecuador…that she would become a widow at the age of 29…that she would choose to stay in Ecuador and live among the very same Huaorani tribesmen who speared her husband to death, in hopes of bringing them to Jesus? What kind of inner strength and courage does it take to do that?
I think about Corrie and Betsie ten Boom, the sisters who risked their lives to assist and hide many Jewish refugees in the Netherlands during World War II. They worked with the Dutch underground for nearly two years before being arrested and sent to a Nazi concentration camp. Betsie died there, but Corrie lived through the horror to tell their story. They did the right thing, and they suffered for it. When they were little girls, I am certain that their mother had no clue what her daughters would have to endure. But regardless, they were prepared. They had the character traits instilled in them to be strong – to stand up for their beliefs, even in the face of persecution and death.
More recently, in 1994, Immaculée Ilibagiza survived the Rwandan Genocide by hiding silently for 91 days with seven other women in a small, damp bathroom. She spent those days in constant prayer, and she made good use of her time by teaching herself the English language with only a Bible and a dictionary. When the genocide finally ended and she was free, Immaculée discovered that her parents and two of her brothers had been killed, along with 800,000 other people. But because of the strength she tapped into within that 3-foot by 4-foot bathroom, she was prepared to take a job with the United Nations. Then she wrote a book about how she discovered God during the worst, most horrific days of her life.
These Christian women inspire me to no end. They were well-rounded, and they were confident. They were persecuted for what they believed, for what they did, and for who they were. But they were ready for it. They had what it took. Somewhere along the way, their parents had unknowingly prepared them to become heroes of the faith.
I so admire this level of courage and strength, and I wonder if my own little girl would be able to show similar fortitude. Would Ryley be brave? Would she have what it takes to make the right decision, even if it meant the possibility of great suffering? Will the character traits my husband and I are instilling in our seven-year-old daughter be enough to sustain her throughout her lifetime? Will she have and be able to draw on inner strength? Will she say, as David did in Psalms 91:2, “He is my refuge and my fortress, my God, in whom I trust?” (NIV)
We don’t know how God wants to use our children or what their part in this generation will be. I like to believe that He has big plans for my daughter – that He caused her to be born “for such a time as this,” (Esther 4:14) with a very specific calling on her life. He may call her to be a journalist in an Islamic country, or a military soldier, or a teacher in a rough part of town. Regardless of her career, she will undoubtedly be a spiritual remnant in a generation that is largely un-churched and knows little or nothing of the hope we have in Christ.
All the great empires throughout history either died out or were conquered at some point. The United States is relatively young; what if our empire were to fall? What if our kids are some day forced to fight for their survival? Will they have what it takes within them to be strong…to fight…to stand up for what’s right? Will the children of this generation have what they need to be spiritually sustained and to hang tight to God no matter what their fate? What are we doing to prepare them for their lives, and, most importantly, for eternity? What are we doing to instill lasting values in them? Are we hiding the Word of God in their hearts?
Parenting is a series of thousands of moments and events during which we have the opportunity to mold and shape our children. A good or bad person isn’t formed overnight. It’s all the little decisions we make on a daily basis that add up over time…decisions to let that sassiness go “this once” or to not deal with that tantrum “this time.” It’s easy to fizzle out as a parent, take the easy way out, and figure that they’ll get the lesson eventually. No, they won’t. Not unless we teach them now. Each of these moments and events is an opportunity to seed character into our children’s lives. If we want to have an extraordinary child, then we have to plant extraordinary seeds, one at a time. And it is so incredibly exhausting! So we have faith that our Heavenly Father didn’t entrust these lives to us only to leave us. No, He equips us. We parent our young ones, one day at a time, one decision at a time, one scripture at a time – with lots and lots of prayer and God-given wisdom.
Elisabeth Elliot’s mother was clueless as to the grief, selflessness, and courage that would be required of her daughter. Immaculée’s mom and dad had no idea what their daughter would endure and overcome at the age of 23. Corrie and Betsie ten Boom rose to the test and displayed the strength of character that their godly parents instilled in them as young girls. Truly, I pray that Ryley will abide in the shelter of the Most High…that she will know where her strength comes from and be able to stand strong in the midst of “the arrow that flies by day” or “the pestilence that stalks in the darkness.” (Psalms 91:5-6, NIV) I hope for her sake that her world is one of happiness, joy, and peace. But if it’s not, I want her to have the spiritual substance she needs to be courageous…to be prepared, equipped, and ready to rise to the occasion and fulfill the incredible calling God has on her life, whatever that may be. And deep within me, I know that she will.
Originally published in SHINE Magazine
Psalm 91 (NIV)
He who dwells in the shelter of the Most High
will rest in the shadow of the Almighty.
I will say of the Lord, “He is my refuge and my fortress,
my God, in whom I trust.”
Surely He will save you from the fowler’s snare
and from the deadly pestilence.
He will cover you with His feathers,
and under His wings you will find refuge;
His faithfulness will be your shield and rampart.
You will not fear the terror of night,
nor the arrow that flies by day,
nor the pestilence that stalks in the darkness,
nor the plague that destroys at midday.
A thousand may fall at your side,
ten thousand at your right hand,
but it will not come near you.
You will only observe with your eyes
and see the punishment of the wicked.
If you make the Most High your dwelling—
even the Lord, who is my refuge—
then no harm will befall you,
no disaster will come near your tent.
For He will command his angels concerning you
to guard you in all your ways;
they will lift you up in their hands,
so that you will not strike your foot against a stone.
You will tread upon the lion and the cobra;
you will trample the great lion and the serpent.
“Because he loves Me,” says the Lord, “I will rescue him;
I will protect him, for he acknowledges My name.
He will call upon Me, and I will answer him;
I will be with him in trouble,
I will deliver him and honor him.
With long life will I satisfy him
and show him My salvation.”
Holy Bible, New International Version®, NIV® Copyright ©1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc.®