My wife Cheryl and I just finished our third year of what has been a beautifully restful empty nest season. After 22 years of constant care of our son Ryan due to a lifelong epilepsy condition, we sent him off to an assisted living center for adult disabled folks three years ago. The break has been awesome. We bought a beautiful ranch so Cheryl could live out a lifelong dream of raising horses; I resigned from leading a local church community so I could be more present on days I wasn’t traveling, and we settled into a safe, enjoyable story.
But just four weeks ago that all changed. So unexpectedly, like a bolt of lightning, we were shocked out of our comfortable slumber and called back to the front line of mission.
We were visiting Ryan and as we sat in a local pub I asked a young waitress, “What do young people do in this town?” She looked right at me and said, “Drugs—most of us just do drugs.” With that simple sentence something happened in my wife’s heart. We finished dinner, but as we walked down a dark, brick-lined sidewalk, Cheryl said, “We have to move here.”
At first, I thought she was joking. But for the next two days all we talked about was the strange feeling that God was once again calling us to make a move. When we returned home I thought our emotional feelings would fade as we re-entered our normal life, but they didn’t. In fact, it was like Jesus had his finger in our chest and wouldn’t let up.
“Honey, to be honest, I’m open to giving up everything we love here in Denver but I can’t picture us leaving our kids,” I said. Cheryl agreed, so we called a family meeting. After Cheryl gave them the story, our oldest daughter, who had just gotten married, said, “I love the idea. It’s time that we go back on mission as a family.” Her new husband said he would also love to see what God would do. We then ran it by our youngest daughter, McKenna, who is a junior in college and loves her horse and snowboarding. I thought surely she would be heartbroken. But she said, “I don’t know why but I just have a huge peace about this and I really hope we go.”
Cheryl and I stared at each other and we knew it was on! I was still hesitant, but I had never been more proud of how mission had shaped my kids and how mission is what’s most important to them now.
Apathy, fear and comfort are the three killers of our calling. We want to see God move but we also don’t want to take the steps he often asks us to in order to experience his best for us. At 49 years old, I admit I preferred to just settle into a nice comfy rhythm, but Cheryl said, “If we stay in Denver, we know exactly what our lives will be for the next 15 years. If we go, as a family, God will get to write an entirely new story we could never have created on our own.”
What about your story, and the story your children will get to see and be inspired by? Would you still say, “God, wherever, whenever, whatever you want. I’m in?”
Hugh Halter is the U.S. director of Forge America, an apprenticing community committed to training men and women to live as missionaries where they already are. He is the author of a number of books, most recently Flesh: Bringing the Incarnation Down to Earth and Brimstone: The Art and Act of Holy Nonjudgment. For more information: HughHalter.com