Jacob is terrified. The last time he saw his brother, Esau, Jacob had just finished deceiving him out of the family blessing (Genesis 25:29-27:42). Esau, of course, was furious. He was so furious, in fact, that he vowed to kill Jacob as soon as their father, Isaac, died (Genesis 27:41.)
Jacob, of course, fled for his life.
Now, years later, Jacob is married with kids and is very prosperous. Out of the blue, God tells Jacob to go back home to his country and his relatives, where God promises to prosper Jacob even more, and make his descendents like the sands of the sea. Jacob obeys God. But, understandably, Jacob is completely freaked out. Seems that Esau is on his way to “meet” Jacob. And he’s got 400 men with him.
Fresh out of a prayer-meeting-turned-all-night-wrestling-match-with–God-Himself (Genesis 32: 22-32), Jacob cautiously leads his two wives, two maidservants, eleven sons and all his flocks and possessions in the lengthy journey toward home.
And toward Esau.
And toward the 400 men.
When he sees Esau and his men in the distance, He quickly divides the children and the flocks into three groups, reasoning that if Esau and the men attack one group, at least the rest will be spared. Then Jacob goes ahead of everyone and faces his long-lost and previously-furious brother, alone.
Jacob approaches Esau, and he bows down seven times (please don’t kill me please don’t kill me please don’t kill me…). Esau runs toward Jacob. But not to kill him. No. Instead, he throws his arms around Jacob’s neck, embraces him and weeps with him. Esau has had a complete change of heart. He warmly and excitedly welcomes Jacob back into the family.
After a brief introduction to Jacob’s gigantic family, Esau is eager to accompany Jacob home.
“Then Esau said, “Let us be on our way; I’ll accompany you.”
But Jacob said to him, “My lord knows that the children are tender and that I must care for the ewes and cows that are nursing their young. If they are driven hard just one day, all the animals will die. So let my lord go on ahead of his servant, while I move along slowly at the pace of the flocks and herds before me and the pace of the children, until I come to my lord in Seir….”
So that day Esau started on his way back to Seir. Jacob, however, went to Sukkoth, where he built a place for himself and made shelters for his livestock.
(Genesis 33:12-14, 16-17)
I absolutely love that story, don’t you? It’s so rich. Practically every verse carries with it some sort of life-lesson.
Yet, in all the times I’ve read it, I never once noticed the part about Jacob staying behind and walking at the pace of the children and the nursing animals. To most people, that little tidbit is insignificant, especially after such an emotional reunion.
But a month or so ago, this portion of the story leaped off the page to me, and I found myself sitting with my Bible on my lap, in tears.
Huh? Over nursing livestock?
Yes. Nursing livestock.
Well, sort of.
See, in 1997, I had my first baby. (Nursing livestock. I’m KIDDING!) Like so many moms, I made a prayerful and deliberate decision to set aside my career, my time and the pursuit of all personal goals and aspirations; and, instead, raise my children. I have not regretted one single MOMENT of that decision. Not one.
I had no idea how many children God would give me or how long I would need to set my stuff aside, but I was prepared for the long haul, trusting God would release me to do more things when the time was right.
And it turns out, it has, indeed, been a long haul. Not in a bad way. It’s just been a long time. Because of the spacing of our children’s ages, I’ve had babies and/or preschoolers at home with me during the day for almost 14 years. And my youngest won’t start kindergarten until Fall 2012.
In about 2004, I started getting very serious about my writing. I started writing book manuscripts. I started pursuing publication. A few years later, I started this blog. I started networking a little more in the industry, attending conferences and making an effort to initiate and maintain writing and ministry contacts.
I have felt more and more over the last few years, God leading me in the direction a writing and teaching ministry. And, as closely as I can discern, I’ve listened for God’s voice the best I could and obeyed Him as He called me to take each step.
Which brings me to 2011.
In order to go to the next level of growth in this ministry, I need to increase my time and money investment, significantly. Time, in the way of writing more hours, building my readership, submitting more articles for publication, and booking some speaking engagements. Money, in the way of attending more conferences, marketing myself, and combining my teaching materials into resources that others can have in their hands and not just on a blog.
This is where I have focused my prayers for the last few months, particularly during my most recent blog break. I’ve asked God to show me how to balance the responsibilities of being a stay-at-home mom with the responsibilities of a budding writer/teacher/minister. I’ve asked God to show me where to concentrate my efforts in order to grow this ministry and reach more people.
I anticipated 2011 would be The Year of The Blog. Or something equally as catchy.
That is, until one unsuspecting morning in my bedroom, when I was reading my designated Old Testament chapters from my Bible reading plan.
” the children are tender…If they are driven hard just one day, all the animals will die…go on ahead while I move along slowly ….at the pace of the children.”
In just those few simple statements, God showed me something that eventually changed my whole course of direction. At least for now:
Jacob had every reason to want to walk home with Esau, at Esau’s pace.
*He hadn’t seen Esau in years, for one.
*Esau just forgave Jacob in a BIG way, for two.
*They had tons of catching up to do, for three.
*And it would have been very helpful having 400 extra people helping with the children and the animals! Just sayin.
In a similar way, I often desire to pursue this ministry at the pace of my peers. And with good reason. I see other bloggers (even bloggers with small children) who started their blogs around the same time as me.
*I see them with thousands of subscribers.
*I see them teaching at the very conferences I have yet to attend.
*I see their blogs opening doors for them to publish books and host radio programs and work for world-famous companies.
It’s tempting to look around and say, “Wait up! God called ME to do that, too! I could write that book and teach that workshop, too! If you can do it, I can do it, too!”
And I have said those very things, in the private places of my heart. Many times.
But contrary to what I was expecting, God is not cheering me on, saying, “You go, girl. You dream BIG. And I’ll give those dreams breath and wings and life and make them even BIGGER than you could imagine.”
That’s what I want to hear. At least part of me wants to hear that.
But instead, God is saying to me,
“Your children are tender, Sandy. If you drive them too hard, they will die. Not literally die. But they will lack the attention they require, because you will be running ahead of them, pursing your ‘ministry.’ Walk at the children’s pace this year. You will arrive at your destination in the perfect time, and still preserve your family in the process.”
Please don’t misunderstand me. I am not implying that other people who are pursuing their ministries while their children are young are in any way disobeying God. I have no idea what God has spoken to anyone else. I choose to believe they are exactly where God has called them to be.
All I know for sure is what God is speaking to me about MY family.
And just so you don’t think I immediately chucked my whole plan based on that one encounter with a few verses, I will be the first one to tell you, I wasn’t so quick to undersand it or accept it.
After I saw this scripture, I spent the next month wrestling with God over it. I talked with my husband for hours about it. I kept thinking of ways I could maybe just pursue SOME of my writing goals, but still walk at the children’s pace. Maybe build my blog a LITTLE bit, and still give ample time to the family. Maybe do SOME speaking or teaching, but still focus on the kids.
Other people can do it? Why not ME?
The more I tried to devise a plan to work some serious blogging, writing and speaking goals into my resolutions for the year, the more anxiety I felt. No matter how I sliced it, it came up “the children are tender…walk at the children’s pace.”
At least for now.
Clearly, God knows something I don’t.
About my kids.
my His ministry.
So, all of my Resolutions (except for one), flow from this theme:
The children are tender. If I push them too hard, they will die. So, I will walk at the children’s pace. And I will trust God that I will reach my destination at exactly the right moment, not a day sooner.”
I’ll tell you about the “except one” next time.