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With people coming and going the head count in our house is always in flux this time of year. I have to stop and think about just how many people will be home for dinner on any given day, and the back to school departure dates are hard to remember. But I love it, because we don't have seven of our eight kids home all at once very often any more.
Sometimes, it feels like we're living in a train station or airport. Our children have been all over the place pursuing work and education and extra-curriculars this summer. One was studying in Italy, another is now preparing for a semester in Paris. A third was part of a performing band at a large music festival in Switzerland. Three went to a dance competition in Chicago, while another travelled to Arizona and Washington, D.C. for an internship with a non-profit. In the fall, one of the four still at home will visit his sister in England and France. And me? I get to stay home and watch it all.
Hey, I've had my turn. And while I hope to get one or two last rides on the carousel in the years ahead, it's a pleasure to see our kids pursuing who they are in a world they think of as basically good. That is, they see the world the way God created it and the way it ultimately will be.
That, to me, counts as a victory for faith. Why? Because if you look closely, a lot of people seem to be unhappy not only with where they are, but with who they are. That happens when we try to live our lives without reference to the God who made us. It is the result of attempting to live in a world we create rather than the one that is.
Faith in God gives us more than what used to be called the "power of positive thinking." It gives us hope, the kind that does not disappoint, the kind that makes us "more than conquerors." (Romans 8:37) When we trust that we have been redeemed, we experience the world and everyone in it as redeemable and worth redeeming. When we believe in someone bigger than we are, we can be less afraid of our expanding universe. This is especially true when we also believe that the someone bigger loves us, and loves us enough to give us the gift of faith.
"Without faith, it is impossible to please God." (Hebrews 11:6) This sounds rather harsh and unfair until we remember that God gives us faith. It's not that dogmas or doctrines are somehow emblazoned on our minds or hearts. Faith is not only about what you believe, but who you believe. God is pleased not by the things we believe about him, but by what we entrust to him.
When you think about it, God trusts us too; probably more than he should, definitely more than we deserve. Though we've failed him countless times, God places all of creation, all human life, and even himself into our hands. He continues to act in good faith, even when we act in bad faith or no faith at all.
Whether we realize it or not, we are all missionaries. The faith we take to our world is the faith we know, and live, and are willing to share. Whoever we are and whatever we do in our daily lives is mission. When our kids go to school in the next town, downtown, out of state, or abroad, when they work a job or raise a family, they are part of the "new evangelization." But evangelization isn't new. We are no different from the believers who have preceded us. We go with hope into a world that is fallen, but not evil. The Christ we bring isn't one who entered the world to condemn it, but the only begotten Son of the God who loved the world so much that he came to save it.
Jaymie Stuart Wolfe is a wife and mother of eight children, and a disciple of the spirituality of St. Francis de Sales. She is an inspirational author, speaker, musician and serves as an Associate Children's Editor at Pauline Books and Media.