Our family is currently stateside on a six-month furlough. Even though we report to supporting churches each time we come in, there are many occasions to present the ministry to new churches as well. A couple of weeks ago, we were able to be in two new churches on a Sunday. We drove up early on Saturday to spend the night and get to services on time the next morning. We had a great day on Sunday, but I was glad to be headed home on Sunday evening. My mind was on what we could quickly grab to eat and how soon we would be home when we came to an intersection. The road we were on ended, and we had to make a choice to turn left or right. Facing us was a hillside plastered with billboards. Suddenly, one, in particular, caught my eye. Big red letters on a wooden billboard posed this question:
Have you hugged your kids today?
“Have I hugged my kids today?” I thought through my day. I woke them up early and fed them. After I cleaned up the cabin we were staying in, I made sure everyone was dressed in the appropriate clean clothes to attend church. I managed to get them ready on time, even EARLY, a huge feat for me. At church, I made sure they remembered to shake everyone’s hand and respond politely to any questions. They sat up straight during church and didn’t wiggle too much. I had them hand out our prayer cards after the service, again making sure they shook everyone’s hands one last time. I reminded them of their table manners over lunch with the pastor after church. I tried to maintain peace in the car as we traveled to the meeting on Sunday evening, where I started the process all over again. I had done all that I thought I should in order to present the perfect missionary family to the world, but had I even so much as hugged my children?
I asked my four children, “Have I hugged ANY of you today?” They informed me that I had not, and that putting my arm around one of them during church to keep them from fidgeting did not count. I couldn’t believe it! Here we were at the end of the day, and I had neglected to hug my children all day long! I had neglected to hug my husband as well, and I hadn’t told anyone, “I love you.”
That they may teach the young women to be sober, to love their husbands, to love their children. (Titus 2:4)
In my effort to present the right image to everyone else, I neglected to love on my precious family. Whether on the field serving as the pastor’s family in front of our African church or in the states as the visiting missionary family in various churches, we are constantly on display. I am not saying that we should ignore our example in front of others. We should strive to be good examples in all that we say and do. The Bible is quite clear about that. I am saying, however, that in my effort to make sure that we all “look” right in front of others, I often forget to connect to my children’s little hearts. The “picture perfect” family without love will one day fall apart.
I hugged all of my children as soon as we stopped again. Every day since, I see those big red letters in my mind, “Have you hugged your kids today?” I am prompted, not only to hug them, but to tell and show them I love them. Yes, I do want to train them to respect others, remember their manners, and act right at church, but more importantly, I want to touch their hearts with the Christ’s love. If I model this love to them, I firmly believe that they will learn to love Him in return. Then, their service to him will be motivated by a heart full of love.