Imagine a world in which curiosity and respect for others different from us were normal. What would it be like to live in a community that enjoyed diversity and welcomed a multiplicity of cultures? In some ways, it’s easy to imagine. I like being valued. I enjoy seeing others experience a life of peace and happiness. For me, as soon as I imagine it, my heart expands and my breathing actually feels deeper and easier.
Many of you who know my wife Jenny and I are familiar with our story.
We met in college and were married in 2002. For our honeymoon, we were invited to volunteer for a few months in El Salvador. After seeing the incredible work of rural pastors, our three-month honeymoon turned into nearly eight years of living in El Salvador. Our children were born in El Salvador, and we’ve now been involved with ENLACE for more than 17 years. I would have never imagined what God had in store for us when we said yes to a trip to El Salvador.
As parents and caregivers to children, we all identify at some point with Elizabeth Stone’s well-known quote, “Making the decision to have a child is momentous. It is to decide forever to have your heart go walking around outside your body."
The first time we send our kids into the wild unknown at any stage--whether it be their first day of kindergarten, a first sleepover or trip to a summer camp, or dropping them off as 9th graders to High School and then saying goodbye at college--our hearts seem to simultaneously expand and contract with something close to physical pain as we contemplate all the potential experiences that they may navigate without us being present.
We know that obstacles will come in many forms, and we desperately hope they will be able to encounter, steer through, and emerge, if not stronger and wiser, at least whole. And when they do undergo painful experiences, the empathetic pain of our heart living outside our bodies is acute indeed.However, as we grow into our parenting, we come to realize very quickly that as much as we wish we could, we cannot fix every bad experience or minimize our children’s suffering. We are faced with our own limits, and we begin to come to terms with the fact that our ability to protect our children from heartaches, setbacks, and struggles can only extend so far.