With Mother's Day upon us in a few days, I thought I'd post an article close to my heart that revolves around my oldest daughter's adventure as a single missionary gal and my journey to let go.
After Rachel completed candidate school, she went on field assignment with a native missionary couple serving in a remote Indian village. During that time I would awaken around four every morning thinking, What will she do for electricity? How will we contact one another? What about medical care? What if she is bitten by a snake and not enough antivenin is available? What about loneliness and depression? The “what ifs” continued until I relinquished my thoughts to God and allowed Him to bring peace. He reminded me: “The Lord will fulfill his purpose for me; your love, O Lord, endures forever—do not abandon the works of your hands” (Ps. 138:8). I slept soundly from then on.
(This article first appeared in Discipleship Journal/Nov.-Dec.2004 issue, and later adapted for Psychology for Living/June 2006).
My daughter Rachel, a missionary to India, was addressing a conference luncheon. As she spoke, my mind drifted to earlier days and the ways God had prepared her for this moment. Rachel hadn’t been the only one with lessons to learn from God. I, too, was in God’s school of preparation. And one of the hardest courses was learning to relinquish my single daughter to God’s service on the other side of the world. Through the lives of biblical women who had released their children to fulfill His divine plan, God taught me to release Rachel into His arms.
HANNAH’S SURRENDER TO GOD’S WILL
My first mentor was Hannah. Barren Hannah promised to give her child to God if He would enable her to conceive (1 Samuel 1). God provided Samuel, and Hannah kept her promise. When Samuel was weaned, she took him to the temple to live with the priest Eli. Samuel grew to be a godly judge over Israel, fulfilling God’s mission for his life.
I remember dreaming of the day I would be a mother. My husband, Chuck, and I prayed for children, and God answered by sending Rachel. We committed Rachel to the Lord before her birth, praying she would know Jesus as her Savior and Lord—and that He would use her for His kingdom’s glory. How naive I had been. Yes, my highest aspiration was to see Rachel walk with God. But when she chose a missionary’s life in India, I became nervous. I had imagined her meeting a nice young Christian man and settling down in local ministry. Yet, Hannah reminded me there is no surrender apart from full surrender. God takes our prayers and commitments seriously. He means us no harm, only good all the days of our lives as we walk in His will (Psalm 84:11). The highest good is to be conformed to the image of His Son (Ro. 8:28-29). This, I realized, was not only Rachel’s calling, but my own.
SARAH’S TRUST IN GOD’S PROVISION
During my years of adjustment, Sarah’s life reminded me that God would supply all of Rachel’s needs—and mine. This encouragement grew out of one of the most dramatic stories in Scripture. God commanded Abraham to offer Isaac, his and Sarah’s long-awaited son, as a sacrifice on Mt. Moriah (Genesis 22). I imagined Sarah kissing Abraham and Isaac goodbye that fateful morning. Perhaps not fully knowing what God had instructed Abraham, she trusted her mate to care for the beloved son of their old age, the son God would bless and whose offspring would be as plentiful as the stars in the heavens (Gen. 15:5). No harm could ever befall him, for God had promised. And God did provide! At the moment Abraham lifted the knife to strike his son, “the angel of the Lord called out to him from heaven, ‘Abraham, Abraham!’ . . . ‘Do not lay a hand on the boy.’ . . . ‘Do not do anything to him. Now I know that you fear God, because you have not withheld from me your son, your only son’” (Gen. 22:11-12). In the thicket was a ram God had placed there to be the sacrifice.
MARY’S CONFIDENCE IN GOD’S LOVEI also needed to learn that Rachel does not belong to me: She belongs to God, and He loves her more than I ever could. Tears would come when I least expected them, but I guarded my emotions around Rachel because I didn’t want to upset her. God tested my surrender to His will on several occasions. Rarely could I walk into a room of women without one of them asking, “How can you let Rachel go to India? The world is more dangerous now than ever! Aren’t you concerned for her safety? What if something happens to her?”
I would clear my throat and calmly give this trained reply: “Rachel doesn’t belong to me. She belongs to God. If it were up to me, I probably wouldn’t let her
go. I ache because she will never stop being my little girl. But she is grown now, and I must let her go. Her purpose in life is not up to me. Her Father has called her, and He knows best. He can care for her far better than I can with my finite abilities.”
To further assure my heart, God gave me a dream one night. My little red-headed toddler was running across the lawn straight for the busy road. Cars were zooming this way and that. I ran after her, arms stretched out, reaching, grabbing desperately, but as is often the case in a dream, I could never quite get to her. At last, she plunged into the street. I knew for sure my precious baby would be killed. However, when the traffic cleared, I saw a lovely Indian woman clad in colorful sari on the other side of the road stooping and holding my little Rachel. She was safe. And my heart was comforted.
Yes, God had loaned her to me for a time to love, train, and help prepare for His work, but she was never mine to control. Rachel belongs to God. Her purpose is to fulfill His mission for her. Jesus’ mother gave me a gentle reminder to let go. Mary testified in Luke 1 of God’s glorious purpose in sending Jesus to be conceived and reared by her.
With God’s help, Mary persisted in a lifetime of letting go, which ultimately led to the most painful release of all—the cross. Although Mary did not understand God’s ways, she was able to release Jesus into the safekeeping of His heavenly Father because she knew His love for Jesus was greater than her own. Through Jesus’ agony, God brought about good. Mary witnessed her Son’s resurrection, and later she joined Him in glory.
We find renewed meaning in life when we encourage our children to pursue what God has called them to do. Rachel’s commissioning service brought this truth home to me. As her father and I watched our daughter approach the platform and calmly testify before her sending church and mission family, our tears flowed freely. Rachel knelt and veteran missionaries, her pastor, and deacons surrounded her, laying hands on her and offering her up to her Father in prayer. After the service a woman hugged me and said, “It’s hard when your kids leave you!”
“It’s bittersweet,” I replied, wiping my eyes. “We trained Rachel to answer God’s call, no matter what that might mean, but nothing could have prepared us for the pain we would endure in actually letting her go. Certainly, knowing that she has a wonderful mission family to love her and watch out for her helps settle my mind and heart.”“Yes, we will look out for her. And remember, in heaven, it will only be sweet.”
True, I thought, no sad good-byes. No letting go. All will be sweet.
That evening, I learned that God’s plan for Rachel was bigger than me, bigger than her. Resting in His loving plan is the best and safest place she could be.
That commissioning service was eight years ago. As God would have it, there have been many Indian "mamas" over the last few years who have taken Rachel under their wings. In addition, the Lord provided my girl with a godly husband only two months after arriving in India. Nathan, a third generation missionary kid who had returned to the States, sensed God leading him back to India to serve. While there he met Rachel and they were married in June, 2005. Their love story inspired Book One, JOURNEY TO JUDAH, in my Born for India trilogy. Through this account, God has reaffirmed Psalm 84:11 in my heart: "The Lord God is a sun and a shield; no good thing will He withhold from those who walk uprightly."
Eileen Rife is the author of the Born for India trilogy. All three of her daughters are involved in mission work around the world. She and her husband, Chuck, conduct marriage seminars in the states and overseas. www.eileenrife.com.
One woman. One God. One passion. In an exotic culture of 7.5 million people and over 3 million gods, one woman resolves to make the journey. Could love await her, even in India?