No Looking Back: A Mother's Reflection

Gregg Garner, President and Founder of G.O.D. Int'l, takes his daughter Genesis on mission to El Salvador. 

Today is a pretty big deal--a "time standing still" kind of moment for me.  I just sent off not only my husband, but my first baby and eldest daughter Genesis, to experience and serve the people of El Salvador together.

Going to El Salvador with her Dad was what Genesis told us she wanted for her 13th birthday.  I thought, "Man. She has no idea what she’s asking for. But maybe it’s time--time for her personal relationship with the LORD to really take flight." 

As I watched Genesis walk away from me this morning, following in the footsteps of her dad through the airport doors, my eyes and heart swelled bigger than it quite possibly ever has.  She didn’t even look back at me, not once. It instantly took me back to her first day of Kindergarten where I prepared myself for lots of hesitant rubberneck head turns, frantic waves and potential tears, only to watch her walk away with an ear-to-ear smile and not look back at me, not once.  Of course, I was the one doing all the crazy rubbernecking, waving and crying.  She walked confidently through those unfamiliar doors of her huge school building like she had done it a hundred times. 

Genesis Garner's kindergarten Christmas ornament. 

Her determination, both then and today, has humbly reminded me of Jesus’ words in Luke 9:62, “No one who puts a hand to the plow and looks back is fit for service in the Kingdom of God.”  In this work, there is no “I will follow you Lord, but…” There is only Jesus’ command to follow him, and our response to drop whatever we’re doing and follow. There is no rubbernecking, frantic waving or tearfully looking back!  We just follow wherever he goes, and with joy.       

The believers that surrounded Genesis at her dedication are still surrounding her family today!

Seeing Genesis spend time with her dad always gets me a little sappy, but today is different. The heart-swelling tears were more than "I’m gonna miss you so much" tears (although those were very real too). The tears were more of a response to something I felt like I was receiving, not about what I was releasing or giving. I already gave my daughter to God a long time ago. It’s a reality that even chokes her up when she thinks about it. Just recently she dug up an old photo where we are dedicating her 6-month-old chubby self to the LORD in front of our community of believers.  She taped the photo up in her room to view on a daily basis and says it makes her cry because it reminds her how surrounded she’s been by love and hope, even since birth! 

The large diva-duffle bag she rolled off with was packed way too full because she “hates to be unprepared” but I let her do it anyway, knowing she'll likely return regretting the excess and bearing a much lighter load, both in her bag and in her soul.  She will soon be challenged to exchange her burden of white privilege and “need” for excess for a lighter burden--a better burden.  She will witness God’s burden for the helpless and harassed of the world. “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light," (Mt. 11:28-30). 

Genesis, the big sister of not only 3 younger siblings but a community of children, is a loving and skilled nurturer. 

Genesis will soon begin to understand what it means to follow Jesus and carry His burden, and that before she can learn from him she must follow him first.  His burdens are unlike the burdens the world grieves us to carry, that toll us to death.  In fact, Jesus’ burden is light and when we learn from Him and take on his burden, it doesn’t toll our lives to death but rather gives us rest for our souls.  I’m pretty sure rest for the soul is what every human being is ultimately in pursuit of, but that rest cannot be found apart from following and learning from Jesus.  I pray my daughter returns carrying the better burden, the burden of our humble and gentle LORD.

Genesis wore her G.O.D. t-shirt that reads “Agent of Empowerment, Advocacy and Education.”  She has it all - the shirt, the parents, the school, the community, God’s Word, everything she needs to do this thing right--which is to make decisions, whether big or small, that honor and reflect our LORD.  She’s been learning some hard, age-appropriate lessons lately about how our decisions always have consequences.  Her learning curve is bringing me to my own knees, knowing that whatever example of godliness and holiness I have in me to embody for my daughter, NOW is the time.  By the time they are 13, there’s no more fudging a holy life. They see right through you, hear every inappropriate word, witness your human mistakes and even worse, call you out on them!  As our children grow up and into Christ, our time and example is of the utmost essence and I believe the LORD can use our children to sharpen us in this way.  

Genesis has been learning how to document her experiences, write compelling captions, and the beginnings of photography and design at the Academy of G.O.D. 

Today’s moment for me was a small yet fruitful glimpse of hope that we’ve prayerfully held on to all these years as a family and community of God, and I know it’s just the beginning. When I say prayerfully I mean--too many times to count, corporately prostrate before the LORD, desperate for Him to help us raise our children to continue in this burden to serve and empower the poor.  

The next generation has always been our driving motivation in this great labor God’s called us to. They have to be because the harvest is overwhelmingly plentiful and the laborers overwhelmingly few, and many of us hitting middle age.  It’s all we can do to pray that our children grow up to be not only recipients of God’s Word and Kingdom, but participants.  Shoot, I still desperately pray that for myself!  I am never immune to the temptation of complacency with what I know and all I do. Sometimes the struggle isn’t so much about looking back from the plow but looking down at ourselves because we get so distracted with self-interest that our work at the plow becomes totally stagnant.  Instead Jesus compels us, and NEEDS us, to pick our heads up and have compassion on the harvest of people who are helpless, harassed and lost in the world (Mt. 9:36). I want to have compassion on them and follow Jesus no matter what the cost, and I will raise my children to do the same.  No looking back.