It’s Saturday morning. First stop, McDonald’s for breakfast. Second stop, Chinese school. Third stop, Yum Cha. Fourth stop, drop grandma to Chinatown for groceries. By the time we drive the hour or so home, it was time to practice piano and get dinner ready. Every Saturday, without fail, this was the routine for my siblings and I.
As I look back, I marvel at our resilience at the packed schedule. But this was life: Busy. Travelling. Doing. I don’t really recall my parents ever sitting down to read books to me or play with me, and yet I accepted it without question.
If your church is anything like mine, we are desperately trying to survive and grow in a post-Christian world – one which at times even feels hostile. Just to keep the church running, many members wind up sacrificing and emptying themselves. Like immigrant parents, we labour to meet needs by providing, serving, sacrificing. The immigrant life involved trying to provide for our families in a country which was, at times, hostile. This was the way to keep us alive: nutritious meals to fill our bellies, piano and tutoring classes to give us every opportunity to succeed. To this day I am so blessed that I can survive in many parts of Asia thanks to Chinese school, engage with Chinese culture at a deeper level, and play a couple of instruments.
“Like immigrant parents, we labour to meet needs by providing, serving, sacrificing”
Though I appreciated this approach to parenting and never doubted their love, I can’t deny that there needs to be something more: for our parents to slow down. To listen to what we have to say. To be there for us, not just physically but also emotionally. To enjoy time together, to even waste time together. To laugh together.
I sometimes approach ministry in the same manner. Rushing from meeting to meeting, wanting to serve and meet needs. And yet, sometimes this may not be what people need. Perhaps they just need us to be with them and to understand them. Just like a child with a parent, sometimes the best way to minister to someone is to simply enjoy time with them, even wasting time and laughing together.
Jesus left his heavenly home and came to a world which was hostile to him. He came to serve and to offer a new and full life for his children. He could have done this more efficiently by going to the cross in year one, saving lots of time and effort. But instead he spent time walking among us, befriending us, eating with us, hanging out with us. Even now, the Spirit is always present, listening, sharing our difficult and happy times.
Though the world may feel hostile, we can be released from the harried need to ceaselessly protect and provide. Our “immigrant parent” Christ invites us to be present with him, to rest and enjoy the fruit of his labours together with our neighbour.