For the Least of These

I have been neglecting my kids.

I have four children and they are wonderful and perfect. I cook for them, school them and make sure that they are clean. Yet, as the stress has encroached on my soul and the pressure has built up, I have withdrawn into myself. I read a lot. I listen to a lot of debates and watch a lot of Netflix and Hulu. I escape into an inner cave of solitude and have neglected attending to the souls of my kids in the process.

I’m an AMK. I know what it means to live under the umbrella of ‘doing God’s work’ and ‘following God’s will’. And I have a hard time believing that Jesus loves me unconditionally. I know he does. I do. Yet, there is always this inkling insecurity that whispers, “You’re not worth my time.”

So much of our childhood experience defines how we view our world, how we view ourselves and how we view God. Believe it or not, I have felt that God loves the unreached more than me. I’ve often wondered how far down the rabbit hole I would have to go to be seen. The options are endless in answering the question, “What am I worth?”

Everyday my children come to me with bids for my attention. They want to tell me stories, they want to sit with me, play with me, experience life alongside me all the while learning what they are worth by my response. Will I pay attention? Will I stop what I am doing and play? Will I choose them over others?

How do we build these bonds of trust and security for our kids in the midst of the chaos and uncertainty of cross-cultural life and ministry? How can we intentionally engage so that our children can be assured of their value and worth in our eyes and by extension, God’s?

I read an article recently on creating secure attachments, in which a psychiatrist, Amir Levine, discussed the utility of what he calls CAARP (consistency, availability, reliability, responsiveness and predictability). It is through the accumulation of small, insignificant moments throughout the day that attachments and trust are established. So, what am I doing with the bids my children are making for my attention? It is an important question to ask.

Am I consistent? Do I mean what I say?

Am I available? Do I meet their needs?

Am I reliable? Can they count on me?

Am I responsive? Do I look them in the eye when they ask me questions?

Am I predictable? Would my kids know what to expect from me?

It is easy for me to neglect my kids, especially with the availability of technology. I can hand them an iPhone, iPad or put on a movie and they will be content while I retreat into myself but when I do this I am missing out on the purest form of discipleship and self-sacrificial love.

It is through secure attachment that my kids can grow in faith and independence as there is no fear of rejection from those who love them most. They are then free to question and free to experience their grief without shame, which is vital for the MK soul.

It shouldn’t be a surprise that MK’s struggle with our relationship to God. After all, God is the one who is responsible for the repetitive losses throughout our lives. It is essential that I am intentional in building the foundation of attachment and trust, so that, when the time comes to question their faith and their God, they will be absolutely assured of their value. Any doubts whispered in their ear will be superseded by the experiential truth that they are cherished unquestionably, no matter what. Because I guarantee that the time will come when the spiritual platitudes cannot fill the void and faith in God must be questioned in order for the grief to be expressed honestly.

We must not neglect their souls in pursuit of saving the world. Our children are worth our energy, they are worth our time and they are worth our sacrifice. May God give us wisdom as we walk with our kids through this cross-cultural life, that they may know God more fully and deeper than otherwise possible.

What will you do today to express value to your children?

Photo by Anita Jankovic on Unsplash



  1. Elizabeth April 11, 2018

    Oh man. Guilty! As our term comes to a close and I am WEARY, I find myself not as attentive to my children’s needs or as responsive to their bids for attention. I turn more to technology both for myself and my children’s entertainment. I am hoping our home assignment (and a break from formal homeschooling) can reset me.

    1. Joy Smalley April 12, 2018

      Me too, Elizabeth, we have five weeks left before heading stateside for a year, and I am hoping/praying that there will be rest and regrouping so that I can better engage with my kids. It’s crazy how exhausting this life can be. I will be praying the same for you 🙂

  2. Alicia Smalley May 8, 2018

    praying for you all! Beautiful, deep, and heartfelt thoughts Joy Lynn! I love you.

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