I love old books. Maybe it’s the smell of history that rolls out with the crackly pages. Maybe it’s the tone of authority old-fashioned English gives to the words. Maybe it’s knowing the words are the only remaining living parts of the author. Certainly it’s the look and feel of a proper cloth binding.
Hudson Taylor’s Spiritual Secret is a skinny red book that grabbed my attention for all those reasons. It was printed by China Inland Mission in 1935 and bears the name of its previous owner in flowy script. It was written by Taylor’s son and daughter-in-law, who followed him as missionaries to China.
To this day members of the Taylor family are continuing the work Hudson began in China. During his fifty-one years there, he recruited eight hundred missionaries to join him. They went to China trusting God to meet their physical needs without any fundraising. Hudson used unconventional means to gain entry into the hearts of the people. He adopted Chinese dress and many other customs. The fruit was great. Over eighteen thousand Chinese converted to Christianity as a direct result of his work.
Hudson’s life was full of adventure and service, but also trouble. His family endured typhoons, riots, and fires. They were robbed and maligned, and experienced significant health challenges. He buried more than one of his children in China as well as his first wife. Even so, his adult children followed and continued the work.
Hudson Taylor’s story has always been an enigma to me. I’m drawn to his daring trust in God and the certainty of his call, yet haunted by the cost those things demanded. I need to understand how such faith develops and continues into the next generation. As I read my pretty red book, I wrestled with the juxtaposition of the deep longings of my momma heart. I pray my children will be brave and follow the call of God into lives of daring satisfaction. But this prayer takes my breath away. I can’t help wanting my children to be safe and have long and peaceful lives.
One concern must win out over the other; they aren’t good teammates. I have to choose which fear to heed. I can fear pain and loss, or I can fear missing out on a life of adventure and purpose. If God is who he says he is, the choice is clear. How can I want less than adventure and purpose, even if it comes with sacrifice? If the future demands sacrifice, part of my parenting job must be to prepare my kids to withstand it.
Now I pray for God to produce Hudson Taylor-like faith in my children. These prayers have helped rein in the impulse to jump to the rescue and seek comfort as a value. I pause and assess in a new way. It’s my job to put my finger on the pulse of my children’s spiritual lives and assess their strength. I’m asking God for clear vision to see where my kids need to grow. When stress comes, my job as a parent is to determine if it is diamond-producing stress or crushing stress. The last thing I want to do is short-circuit the rock-hard diamond faith process in my child.
So when one of my children is unfairly benched for a whole season or gossiped about by a friend, I hold back. I ask questions and probe their hearts. When I sense a strong and steady pulse, I take a deep breath and keep my hands off. I link arms with them and promise they won’t be alone. I tell them the truth–that walking this path will likely hurt, but it will hurt less than missing out on God’s work in their lives.
And I pray. I pray that God won’t let me miss the moment one of my precious children is on the verge of going under so I can swoop in and rescue. I pray that God will make their faith strong as they learn to face stress and pain rather than trying to escape them. I pray that they will trust God with a diamond-hard faith that looks reckless to outsiders. I pray they will leave a legacy for my grandkids.
The little red book has earned a permanent place on my nightstand. It’s my guidepost. A reminder that my summum bonum in parenting is to create an environment where diamonds can form. It’s often dark and dirty work, but the result is brilliant.
Lori Florida’s life is all about her people. She’s convinced that being Mrs. to one and Mommy to eight will be her most significant way to serve Jesus. She wants to use her life to cheer on and coach the women coming behind her. Lori blogs at loriflorida.com.
Photograph © Aliis Sinisalu, used with permission