|What is it that touches us deeply?
We can have great careers and lovely ministries but what is really reaching us on a personal level? I am a family man and have a wonderful wife and four great boys. My home is my sanctuary and my family is my first priority. In the busy seasons, when I am traveling here and there, it can sometimes feel that they are not- but they are. At the core of my being I know that as a husband and a father, I will do whatever I can for my family.
As a family living a somewhat abnormal life- being in three different locations, living with a lot of people around us, and being part of a multicultural community are just a few of the things that make our life unique. Over the years we have been through some life changing experiences. Both as a family and as leaders, we have gone through things that have left a mark on us and have formed our values. It’s a part of growing up to fall down and get some scratches and then in the next minute to try and do it all over again. It’s also normal as a child to get a fever and for mom and dad to be bit more alert and to monitor the temperature. But sometimes things happen that are not normal and everything within us becomes alert.
My first full-alert reaction as a father that comes to mind was when our oldest son at the age of five years old climbed a tree in our garden. I was renovating the house at the time and he was playing in the trees. Kids should play in the trees but this one did not have any fear of heights. Suddenly, I heard him screaming for daddy and I ran to see what was happening. He was hanging eight meters off ground by his arms. As a father there was only one thing to do- find a ladder and climb up to get him. It was a close call, but it ended well. From that time on we told him to continue climbing but to try not to get stuck hanging by his arms. I think he had learned his lesson.
My next son was playing in his room when he fell out of his bunk bed, head first on to a hard floor. For a long time he was unconscious. I took him in my arms and ran up to the hospital that was just next-door. As I came in, the nurse was more concerned about my ID paper and if I had money than my two year old son in my arms. When we were finally seen some great nurses and doctors cared him for, and again all was well.
As a family we have lived by the value that children should discover their limits by climbing trees and being active. Too many children live over-protected lives and don’t learn how their body is meant to function. So my third son found out what his limits were when he was climbing a tall tree and fell down. He came down with a bang. The issue was that under the tree there was a pile of big stones, so to avoid them he landed on wooden pallets. This lesson ended with a short trip to the doctor just so we could have peace that he was all well and fine.
It is all fairly normal. Most people go through some doctors visits, get some scratches and we come out on the other side just fine. But some people go through harder times. My own experience was with our youngest son. He was born and we were proud parents of our four boys. At the time we lived in a YWAM community in Norway. It was a fantastic time, and a few days after my wife came back from the hospital we were in the dining area of the community. The little baby boy was lying in the stroller as my wife got a cup if tea. A man bumped into my wife and she lost her grip on the cup sending hot tea through the air and the hot liquid came down on the little boy. Long story short, we were at the hospital for weeks with operations and medical care. He came out well but with some scars that he will carry with him for the rest of his life.
These kinds of events form you. They shape you and force you to see how vulnerable we are. Many of us, at some point in life, find ourselves in situations we could never have dreamed of or anticipated. I just visited some good friends whose lives were turned upside down in just a matter of weeks. Their whole life, jobs, where to live and so on, took a 180-degree turn because of sickness. I am full of admiration for my friends, as they just dove in and did what was needed.
Other friends have lived with sickness for years and the abnormal became their day-to-day life. Living like this is like building a house in a war zone. Some have lost someone very close to them. Time to grieve, space to cry and to feel the pain is something we need give ourselves and others the freedom to do. I heard someone that had lost someone very close to them having leaders around them saying, “Move on. Get busy. Man, don’t cry.” That’s all just rubbish as far as I am concerned, because we need to deal with the pain and for that there is no formula.
I’ve learned that when we have to, we just do what is needed. We live maybe in a vacuum or in a place of emergency, but in these times of suffering and weakness we also find the greatest strength. I am so impressed by my friends and colleagues who have found strength to go on in the midst of chaos. At the end of the day, these are my heroes; the ones marked for life but still going. Some go on just one little step at a time, others moving on at a normal speed, but all with a life changing experience that is unique for them. They are day-to-day heroes who make life work.
As a father and a husband with an amazing wife (see her ministry at www.botnehagen.com) and four fantastic boys, I am a privileged man. We have had some small scratches and a little bigger one but we are all on our feet and going strong. To all of you who have gone through harder things and have seen hopelessness in your eyes as you looked in the mirror, my prayer is that the rest of us will be able to care for and support you; helping you and doing what we can to just be close.
I also pray that no one will build a house in the “vacuum” place or in the “war zone”. Marriages need to be watered and cared for. Couples need to process and vent but also to find romance and love for one another. Family members need attention as the stress level of sickness and pain needs to be processed and attended to. One child being sick can put a mark on the whole family. Once we give ourselves time to go through the pain, eventually we can leave the war zone behind. Although saying goodbye and leaving the “war zone” can often be just as hard as being thrown into it. Its another part of the process that needs support and attention.
Whatever hardships we face, may we find courage to face them and in the end find ourselves even stronger than when we first began. I want to say a big thank you to all the leaders I have had the privilege to work with and with whom I was able to share life with. That is what makes leadership so real but also so vulnerable.
Until next time,