By Marie Burrus
It feels like another life since I was a missionary in West Africa. Today, my days are filled with questions about what I should make for dinner, whether or not I’m going to meet a work deadline, and “did you go poo-poo?” Being a work-from-home mom of two under two makes going to the post office seem nearly impossible, much less going to the nations. So, how am I supposed to fulfill the Great Commission when we—and I mean we—can’t get into the car without someone having a meltdown?
It’s complicated. I often struggle to see how my day-to-day life of parenting and work fits into the plan of building God’s global Kingdom. I hear the call of the nations near and far, but I don’t know how to be effective in reaching them in this season.
How can young parents like me engage our own local culture and reach our neighbors?
So, what do we do?
Devote yourselves to prayer; stay alert in it with thanksgiving. At the same time, pray also for us that God may open a door to us for the word, to speak the mystery of Christ, for which I am in chains, so that I may make it known as I should. Act wisely toward outsiders, making the most of the time. Let your speech always be gracious, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how you should answer each person.
— Colossians 4:2-6
If you ask God to open your eyes, you may very well see opportunities right around you.
1. Start with the heart.
Devote yourselves to prayer; stay alert in it with thanksgiving.
— Colossians 4:2
God gives us opportunities each day to be a gospel light to our neighbors. But if I’m not being constantly filled with the Holy Spirit, I can easily go through the motions of my day and miss these opportunities. If God hasn’t prepared the way and my heart isn’t ready, I’m going to speak and act from survival mode and completely ignore the plans of God. Ultimately, any kind of ministry I do from there will end up a hot mess.
As a missionary in Burkina Faso, our best-laid plans and best-sowed seeds often weren’t the ones where we found fruit. It was more about walking through the doors God opened. The Muslim women in whom we’d heavily invested weren’t interested in Jesus, but their village uncle was excited to hear God’s stories and ultimately prayed to receive Christ. Another friend, a devout Muslim, eventually became a Christian, but not until after we had left. We had to trust the Spirit and pray through the many days we were just trying to figure things out.
The same is true now. Even in the busyness of work and parenting, God often opens doors with people and in situations I’d least expect, but I need to be devoted to prayer to identify these opportunities.
2. Find opportunities where you are.
At the same time, pray also for us that God may open a door to us for the word, to speak the mystery of Christ, for which I am in chains, so that I may make it known as I should.
— Colossians 4:3-4
When you are a working parent to young children, you assume you don’t have time or opportunities to reach your neighbors. But I’m slowly realizing there are many ways to meet and serve people—both in and outside the home—in my current stage of life. Just like the natural gathering of soccer boys behind our house in Burkina made for an effective storying group, so the places were moms and their kids congregate can make for excellent starts to gospel conversations. Our church has a specific ministry to moms with preschool-aged kids, but there are also parks, indoor play places and library story times where other moms emerge from their caves for social interaction.
In these settings, I’ve seen fellow moms open up about postpartum depression, discuss deep marital issues, lean on one another and ask hard questions that only the gospel can answer. I’ve had to learn to be there when I can and make the truth known as I should. When my heart is right, I can see all kinds of opportunities around me.
If you ask God to open your eyes, you may very well see opportunities right around you as well — even if you’re often busy with work and parenting.
3. Start small to make a big impact.
Act wisely toward outsiders, making the most of the time. Let your speech always be gracious, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how you should answer each person.
— Colossians 4:4-6
Sometimes, our zeal to do big things can cripple us. Because we can’t save the crowds and start multiple churches in a year, we give up on the small things that must happen first. Jesus came to save the whole world but spent most of his time investing 12 people—and of those 3.
As a result, I’m excited about the Southern Baptist Convention’s new focus on Who’s Your One? Instead of being suffocated by the burden of masses of people who don’t know Christ, we instead aim to be faithful to pray for and share with one person in our circle of influence. Serving in small ways takes away both my pride in thinking I can evangelize the world and my guilt when I realize I can’t. Instead, I can just be faithful where I am and entrust the results to God.
And you can, too. Even in the busyness of work and parenting, deadlines and snotty noses, you can pray for one person who needs the hope of Christ.
4. Be a part of a local church.
Pay careful attention, then, to how you live — not as unwise people but as wise — making the most of the time, because the days are evil. So don’t be foolish, but understand what the Lord’s will is. And don’t get drunk with wine, which leads to reckless living, but be filled by the Spirit: speaking to one another in psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs, singing and making music with your heart to the Lord, giving thanks always for everything to God the Father in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, submitting to one another in the fear of Christ.
— Ephesians 5:15-21
In all of this, we must never forget the power of God’s people working together in the Spirit. No church is perfect, but the Body of Christ is meant to serve and encourage one another with all the different kinds of work, gifts and life stages we have. We are better together—both in and among our churches.
Though the disclaimer not to “get drunk with wine” (18) may sound irrelevant for many of us, it becomes much more apt when we think of the many distractions we use to pass through our days more easily. Binge-watching shows, spiraling into the latest Facebook or Twitter controversy, or finding your comfort in perusing Amazon for the 900th time can take us away from community and keep us from understanding what the Lord’s will is. I don’t know about you, but I’m rarely filled with the Spirit if I play Bejeweled more than a couple times in a row.
Instead, when I’m in community with other believers, I find the compounding effects of the Spirit at work among us stir up all kinds of encouragement, awareness, truth and thankfulness in my heart. That makes it so much easier to live out a life for Christ.
Even in the busyness of work and parenting, deadlines and snotty noses, you can pray for one person who needs the hope of Christ.
So, no matter if my ambition is to preach to those who have never heard (Romans 15:20-21) or to live a life quietly loving and serving (1 Thessalonians 4:10-12), I will do it for the Lord. I will trust that his plan is to build his Kingdom, and he’ll use me however he wants as I surrender to him.
A version of this article originally published at UBA Houston.