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Monday, June 27, 2005


the m word

He was six, and we were driving through a gray mist, past an unbroken stretch of evergreen trees.

"Mom, when I grow up, you know what I want to be?"

For a long time he'd thought he might like to be a teenage mutant ninja turtle, but since he hadn't mentioned that for awhile, I figured he'd gone on to something else.

"No, Zac. What do you want to be when you grow up?" I glanced into the rear-view mirror and saw his reflection captured there.

"I can't remember what it's called," he began. "It's that m word."

"Musician?" I offered.

"No."

"Medic?"

"Not that either."

"Moose-hunter?" I grinned at him in the mirror. He grinned back, but shook his head.

"Mom, I'm serious. It's that m word that means you go over to other countries and you tell people about Jesus."

His words entered my ears and worked themselves down to my heart, where they settled like a warm blanket. "Really, Zac? You want to be a missionary?"

"No ... not a missionary," he said. "It's that other m word." He scrunched his forehead, trying to think of a way to refine his description. With another glance, I saw his face relax. He'd thought of a way. "It's that m word that means you go over to other countries and tell people about Jesus ... and they kill you for it."

The blanket around my heart became a tourniquet, twisting and tightening. And I experienced a moment of pure schizophrenia. Two beings awakened in me and fought for dominance. One half -- the She-bear half, roared a silent Never! to the thought of my son being martyred, to the thought of anyone daring to turn their ignorant wrath on my boy. But as quickly as I screamed that noiseless denial, the Sister-in-Christ part of me forced her way to the surface. Yes, Zac. You hold on to that devotion with everything you've got, she whispered.

He let his pronouncement hang in the air, and then he turned those green eyes toward the treeline outside the window. I watched him staring at the blur of gray-green mist, and without the privilege of entering his thoughts, I knew them. He was dreaming of someday ... a day when he would stand up for the thing he loves most, no matter the consequences. He was dreaming of a day when he'd grow into the courage of Paul, and Peter, and Jesus, and all the others he's heard about, who didn't seek their own deaths, or choose them, but who loved truth more than their own life, and who faced the closing of one door for the joy of the opened door before them.

I drew a breath ... and began to pray.


"A 'Martyr' has been defined as 'a Christian who chooses to suffer death rather than deny Christ, or His work... One who sacrifices something very important to further the Kingdom of God... and endures great suffering for Christian witness.' --Voice of the Martyrs (Not to be confused with those who take their own lives--and the lives of others--to further their own cause.)

What is your life? You are a mist that appears for a little time and then vanishes. -James 4:14 NIV

And anyone who gives up his home, brothers, sisters, father, mother, wife, children, or property, to follow me, shall receive a hundred times as much in return, and shall have eternal life. -Matt 19:29 TLB

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28 Comment:

At 6/27/2005 9:51 AM, Anonymous Jeff had this to say ...

As a parent, I can understand the tug of war you felt in your heart. What a sensitive, beautiful piece, Shannon. Such honesty and innocence. Thank you for sharing it.

 
At 6/27/2005 10:27 AM, Blogger Michael Sly had this to say ...

Thank you for sharing this.

 
At 6/27/2005 10:53 AM, Blogger Bill and Glory had this to say ...

I can identify with this so well, Shannon! Elizabeth wants to be a missionary/warrior which could mean anything! Every time our church has missionaries come to speak I know God is tugging at her heart just as He tugs at ours.

Thank you for th reminder that our lives are hidden with Jesus Christ.

Glory

 
At 6/27/2005 11:04 AM, Blogger shannon had this to say ...

Thank you, Jeff and Glory.

And Michael, thanks for visiting. I love your blog name -- hope you start posting soon! :)

 
At 6/27/2005 11:29 AM, Anonymous OldGuy had this to say ...

That's a pretty awesome decision for a young guy.

I can see how it would play tug of war with your emotions.

 
At 6/27/2005 1:14 PM, Blogger Tana_Schott had this to say ...

Shannon, I am jealous of your son's fearlessness. I've been dealing with a lot of fear lately about this very issue. How amazing that he understands how much more important Jesus is than his own life. God is really working on me about this - just yesterday in church we watched a short video about Jim Elliot - his missionary work, his death, and how his family and the families of those with him, who were also murdered, continued to share the Word with the very people who killed their loved ones. It's very powerful. I can see that, and yet I am paralyzed with fear. I could also relate to what you said about feeling schiztophrenic (sp?). Thank you for sharing.

 
At 6/27/2005 1:40 PM, Anonymous susan had this to say ...

A childs faith can be a startling thing, cant it?

 
At 6/27/2005 6:04 PM, Blogger Nan had this to say ...

I say a prayer each morning for young people in our parish community to generously listen when the Spirit whispers. It takes great courage to stand by and be the observer of His moving in our own families.

 
At 6/27/2005 6:57 PM, Blogger zandperl had this to say ...

I was under the impression that in Christianity one is not supposed to seek out martyrdom. I hope that your son is able to get his message across in a ... more efficient manner than losing his life, so that he may go on to continue spreading his word.

 
At 6/27/2005 7:17 PM, Anonymous Anonymous had this to say ...

Damn, you're melodramatic, lady. Get a fecking life.

 
At 6/27/2005 7:52 PM, Blogger Fran had this to say ...

Knowing Zac, I have no doubt that he will get his message across but I also have no doubt that he would lay down his life if God asked him to. Many have through the years and I pray that if I were ever in that position God would give me the courage to do the same. (Maybe I'm just being 'melodramatic' but it's not like she had a suicide bomber's vest strapped to the kid!)

I love your writing Shannon, don't change a thing (apparently more than one mom has raised their kid on mad dog, snuff and poker!)

 
At 6/27/2005 8:36 PM, Blogger Loni had this to say ...

I just happened on your blog, and will come back to visit. Thank you for sharing this. If we are raising our children for the Lord, and have dedicated them to Him, we never know how He will lead them. Yes, it's scary to think of God allowing one of our children to die for Him, but, if just one comes to know the Lord because of a child's testimony - even death - it will be worth it for eternity. We lost our son 16 year old son 6 months ago, and though it was an accident, and because of his foolishness, his testimony to Christ continues on, and we pray others will come to know the Lord. Your story touched me, with a new perspective. Thank you . . .

Loni

 
At 6/27/2005 8:57 PM, Blogger BayouMaMa2 had this to say ...

Hi! I was deeply touched...thank you for sharing this story. It reminds me that are children are just lent to us from the Lord. They are His and in His hands.

 
At 6/27/2005 9:05 PM, Blogger Mz. Pig had this to say ...

You do wonder where along the way we grown-ups develop our fear...
Children can certainly put it in check for us.
Thanks for sharing.

 
At 6/28/2005 12:26 AM, Blogger thequeen had this to say ...

I'm trying to understand this post, I am having a hard time with the martyr thing. I just don't get it. Why, how, where would it ever be okay to send anyone off to give the word just to be killed for it? My head is spinnning, I know that I am probably not getting the point that you are hoping to put out there. HELP?

 
At 6/28/2005 7:51 AM, Anonymous joe cool cowboy poet had this to say ...

The faith of a child is amazing. My own son is also a strong believer, which is helping him right now get through these hard times.

 
At 6/28/2005 9:01 AM, Blogger shannon had this to say ...

That's so great, Joe. God is both sustaining him and growing him through this tough time. He'll come out the other side stronger.

Denise, it's a difficult thing to explain. The Christian faith is one of contradictions: "If you want to be great in the kingdom of heaven, you must be the servant of all," "The first shall be last," "He who finds his life shall lose it, he who loses it for My sake will find it," etc. It's also a walk fraught with battles. Our flesh battles our Spirit and our attachment to earth battles our desire for heaven. This post is really about the latter. It's not that I want Zac to be martyred, but I love that his eyes and his heart were set on heaven.

If you consider that life is a vapor, and heaven is eternal, then what happens to us here becomes of little consequence. When Zac was very small and asked me what "eternity" meant, God gave me a picture to help him understand. I asked him to imagine that we took one of his teardrops, put it in a little bottle, got in a boat and went out to the very center of the ocean, where we then poured that teardrop over the side. I asked him if he would be able to find that teardrop again, and he said no. I asked if he'd even want to find it again, and he said no. I then told him that life is a teardrop and eternity is the ocean--and that once we're in "forever" with God, we won't miss our life and we probably won't even think about it again.

When someone doesn't have the hope of heaven, or the confidence of Christ's sacrifice made on their behalf, or a real assurance of what's going to happen after death, then life becomes very, very important because it's all they know and all they feel they can trust. That's when you get slogans like, "Grab all the gusto you can, because you only go around once," and "Look out for number one." Everything becomes about preservation--of youth, of energy, of riches. But when you have a different perspective of life--when you see that we're here but a moment and it's in this moment that we have the opportunity to both reach for Christ and be used by Him to reach the world--then life is a means to an end but not the destination. When you see life as the lobby to heaven--as a crammed little foyer which you only stay in long enough to be ushered into the mansion on the other side of the door, then what happens here fades away in comparison. It's when you have the assurance of Christ that you can hold life with an open hand--not disdaining what God has given you, but understanding that it's really only for a moment, and then the best is to come.

Of course I hope Zac lives a very long life and that in the years given to him he not only comes to know God more but also to reach many people for Christ. But I also hope that while he enjoys life and appreciates the blessings God provides for him here, his real hope, his real destination, his real focus, will always be heaven.

 
At 6/28/2005 6:29 PM, Blogger LAMommyof3 had this to say ...

Your post brought tears to my eyes! As a mother of 3 young children I understand the internal struggle you are expressing here. I am reminded of Mary - how difficult it must have been to watch her Son go to the cross! But I believe she had peace in knowing, as you said, that life on earth is just a vapor. We have to think in God's time -- eternity. Your last comment very eloquently explained this.

 
At 6/28/2005 6:44 PM, Blogger Monica had this to say ...

A beautiful post. Today is my son's 22nd birthday...he went off to war at 19 and no one asked me. Today my 16 y.o. son saved a woman's life and refused payment. Where DO we get these incredible children? From the One that yours wants to be the M word for.
Beautiful writing, Shannon.

 
At 6/28/2005 11:52 PM, Blogger thequeen had this to say ...

thankyou for trying to explain your beliefs to me Shannon. I know it isn't easy to do so. any more then it is for me to understand them. I am still quite lost by that last comment.Let me think on this a few days and see if I can't find away to explain myself better.
Thankyou for your patience.

 
At 6/29/2005 7:21 AM, Blogger ebed-melech had this to say ...

Great illustration for this fact which is my fervent belief: Our children in America do not long for something to live for, nearly as much as something to die for.

My 19 year old leaves for Central America next week as an intern to missionaries.

The first step to Martyrdom is the same as the last - that is to surrender your life - your young man can do that much NOW.

http://missions.blogsome.com/

 
At 6/29/2005 7:39 AM, Blogger zandperl had this to say ...

Thanks, Shannon, for the explanations. I can certainly understand devotion to a cause, I just happen to devote myself to science rather than Christianity. And I admire others such as Galileo who defended their own beliefs against those who believed differently, but I would not want to emulate his fate of house arrest (life imprisonment). In the end, I agree that having good role models rather than "American Idol" stars is definitely a good thing!

And one nitpicky thing I have to point out...

"And I experienced a moment of pure schizophrenia. Two beings awakened in me and fought for dominance."

I believe you have made the common mistake of confusing schizophrenia with either bipolar disorder or multiple personalities. Schizophrenia is marked by hallucinations and inability to function within society. Bipolar is when a person has severe mood swings between manic (hyper) and depressive. And multiple personalities is self-explanatory, but it is worth noting that each personality may function completely normally and have no noticable signs of mental illness. Many people mix up these different conditions, and popular entertainment doesn't really help. I think either bipolar or multiple personalities would fit what you were describing, but schizophrenia would not.

 
At 6/29/2005 8:39 AM, Blogger shannon had this to say ...

Loni, in case you didn't get my comment on your blog (it was on an old post), let me say that my heart goes out to you on the loss of Matthew. Your family is in my prayers.

Ebed-Melech, I can't say that in this case it's a matter of my son (who is now 16, by the way) longing for something to die for, I really believe he wanted to emulate the people he most admired. As I wrote on Zandperl's blog, kids today do not have real heroes. They look up to basketball players and such. But Zac had heard many missionary stories and knew that all of the disciples had been martyred for the sake of Christ. To him, those were real heroes.

I like what you said about surrender. Sometimes we put our eyes on the "grand gesture" down the road, but we're unwilling to let someone step in front of us or give up our preferences today. Good point.

Zandperl, thank you for your thoughtful comments. And I do appreciate you taking the time to correct my misuse of that term. I've done that TWICE on this blog, so I'm glad you set me straight. :)

 
At 6/29/2005 12:00 PM, Blogger Darlene had this to say ...

Oh, you make me laugh, and then you send me off with a warm blankie.

 
At 6/30/2005 11:56 AM, Blogger Kim had this to say ...

This post gave me tingles. I want to be on fire like that!

 
At 7/01/2005 4:43 PM, Blogger Stephen had this to say ...

Wow.

 
At 3/12/2006 5:24 PM, Blogger Al Johnson had this to say ...

Wow is exactly what my response was also!

 
At 11/01/2006 2:04 AM, Blogger Janice (5 Minutes for Mom) had this to say ...

Wow is exactly what I thought too.

 

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