I’m a teacher, a writer… and a single woman with no children of my own. But I have five nieces and nephews: my oldest niece is 20, my youngest nephew just became a teenager, and two nieces and a nephew are in between.
Since I’m a “kid person,” it was natural I’d be devoted to my nieces and nephews.
My commitment to them has intensified—even as they became teenagers—because of the example of my own aunts and uncles, some of whom were especially dedicated to me. During my not-so-fun adolescence, they let me know I was loved and they believed I had gifts and potential. I wouldn’t be the person I am today were it not for their investment. Now I want to have that kind of difference-making kind of impact on my own nieces and nephews.
I tease my boys—13 and 17—that God has called me to do five things: feed them, buy them presents, take them places, pray for them and pinch them. (Be assured, I only pinch gently!) Truly, all those things fall under the umbrella of two things I feel called to do: love them and pray for them.
I love them and I want to make sure they know it. I spend as much time with them as possible, speaking the love language of quality time. I also speak the other four love languages as frequently and fluently as I can.*
It’s just as important that I pray for them.
A few years ago, I was mulling over some issues I saw in “my kids’” lives, and absentmindedly wondering why God gives these insights when, practically speaking, there’s not a lot I can do about it. (Like most siblings, mine wouldn’t exactly welcome my advice.) I was cleaning a closet, I recall, when God’s answer struck me like lightning: I give you these insights because your area of growth is to pray for them. It was a life-changing moment. God gave my siblings the challenge and calling to raise them… and God gives me insights so I can fulfill my calling to pray for them.
Since God takes seriously His calling for me to pray, I’d better take it seriously, too. I’m still far from perfect in this area, but I’m determined to keep growing.
Being an aunt has impacted my life deeply. My nephews are both adopted. I’d always valued adoption, but when that process brought these two boys to us, it became even more important. I could never love my boys any less than I love my nieces. It’s just not possible. I better understand God’s fervency when He says in the Bible, “I have bought you with a price. You are mine… Nothing can snatch you out of my hand.” My boys are mine. Nothing can ever change that, and nothing can take them—or me—out of God’s hand.
My youngest niece, The Princess, who has cerebral palsy, has impacted my life even more dramatically. Before her birth, I had a minor in special education and a “minor” interest in people with special needs. After I saw how the community—especially the school and church—respond to her, it hasn’t been enough to serve only typically-developing kids anymore. I’ve re-shaped my career to work with people with disabilities, and I focus my volunteer work and much of my writing on disability-related topics.
I’ve long known Jesus’ parable where He says, “Whatever you’ve done for the least of these, you’ve done to Me.” I didn’t always understand that, but now I do! When someone pushes The Princess aside, disregards her, and doesn’t give her the attention she deserves, they might as well be doing it to me. It feels very personal. When they cherish her, teach her, fuss over her… they’re doing that to me, too.
That’s been the most profound lesson of my aunthood. Since I, imperfect though I am, have this fierce, don’t-get-in-my-way love for my kids, how much more does God love them—He Who designed them, gave them life, and watches every minute of their lives? I’m so thankful that His love for “my kids” is enormously greater than my own.
And I’m awed to realize… since He loves them that much, He loves me that much, too.
*To learn more, go to The Five Love Languages.
Laureen F. Guenther writes for Maranatha News and can also be found blogging at Reenie’s Resources. She is a member of Inscribe Christian Writer’s Fellowship.
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