HONORING PARENTS AND FAMILY WHILE RAISING SUPPORT
By Betty Barnett on July 25, 2014
This article first appeared on the blog of Support Raising Solutions, a ministry committed to helping people be spiritually healthy, vision-driven, and fully-funded. You can click here to read the article in its original format.
“You’re an embarrassment to the family – you shouldn’t be begging, looking for a handout!” I was stunned by my aunt’s exclamation as we ate lunch at a restaurant near her retirement community. Clearly, she didn’t understand my lifestyle of missionary support raising, nor did she agree. She made it plain that she would not participate in my financial support.
I was taken aback by her negative response to my recent decision to do missions work and depend upon church, friends, and family for financial support. I went to the Lord after this painful interaction and sensed that He understood my support raising lifestyle, and He agreed (whew!). However, it was important for me to honor and respect my aunt in spite of her strong disapproval.
I never again mentioned finances to her, but continued to keep in touch, visiting her when I was able, and sending her ministry updates, i.e. the “word of my testimony”. The disagreement was not brought up again, but years later after receiving one of my letters describing my YWAM ministry, she phoned my mom, asking, “How do I support Betty?” That ministry letter helped her more fully understand my ministry missionary lifestyle. From that point on, she supported me on a monthly basis. After many years of my faithfulness in keeping up the relationship with her, finally a breakthrough!
During that time, my mom also had a hard time understanding my missions/support raising lifestyle, although she supported me from the beginning. However, when she read my book, Friend Raising – Building A Missionary Support Team That Lasts, she shared, “I finally understand why you do what you do the way you do it!” I was so grateful, even though it took so long… better late than never!
I’m encouraged by Paul’s instruction to Timothy, “Pursue righteousness and a godly life, along with faith, love, perseverance, and gentleness.” (I Tim. 6:11b, NLT) So often, our gentle, pursuing love breaks down barriers, as we continue to communicate what God is doing through our lives and ministry, even with those who may disagree with us, especially close family members.
Our families, especially parents, have a huge influence on our support raising endeavors, either encouraging or not. They may or may not “get it” when we are on a journey they don’t necessarily endorse. They may want us to have the “American Dream” or at least to walk a more culturally acceptable road. This alien lifestyle of support raising may cause a stumbling block to their approval of our chosen “career path”. Our response is to be honoring and respectful, whether or not our parents or family members agree.
It’s helpful to remember Jesus’ words in Mark 6:4, “A prophet is honored everywhere except in his own hometown and among his relatives and his own family.” Those closest to us often have insight about our strengths and weaknesses, but also limited awareness of our potential. It’s often difficult for them to see us in a new light, through the Lord’s eyes.
Jesus encountered this challenge early on. At the age of twelve, He and his parents had different perspectives on where He was to be. “Didn’t you know I had to be in my Father’s house?” He asked when His parents found Him in the Temple, after they had searched for three days (Luke 2:41-52). Jesus recognized that His heavenly Father came first, yet Scripture tells us that He returned to Nazareth with His parents and “was obedient to them… Jesus grew in wisdom and in stature and in favor with God and all the people.”
Honor and respect are foundational ingredients of all successful relationships and support raising efforts – and it begins with our parents! We are to honor our parents, but always ask our heavenly Father for ultimate guidance.
Showing honor involves expressing appreciation for our parents’ significant role in our lives. Even if we disagree with them, it is deeply honoring to consult them on major life decisions, such as a missionary career. Our destiny is deeply affected by our response to the fifth commandment, to honor our parents (regardless of how well they have done in those roles). It is the only one of the ten with a promise – that “it may go well with [us] in the land” the Lord is giving us (Deut. 5:16). This includes our missions calling, that “land” the Lord is “giving us”.
Respecting our family by asking their opinion is important to them and to us. However, we may be misunderstood. We may have to gently respond with, “We must obey God rather than men!” like Peter and the apostles did (Acts 5:29).