If you’ve read one of my books, you probably know about Katie Davis Majors already. She founded an incredible organization in Southern Uganda called Amazima. You can go to Amazima.org to learn more and check out Katie’s books: Kisses from Katie and Daring to Hope. You don’t want to miss it!
This is really exciting for me, because I believe this person, though she would not make a big deal about it, and she’s probably going to laugh at me for saying it, but she has impacted my life almost more than any other person. Watching her faith and obedience over time has meant a lot to me.
If you haven’t heard Katie’s story, it’s pretty incredible. She was writing a blog from Uganda and had brought several girls into her home as a young twenty-something year old girl. I’m a decade older than her, and I was just watching her faith and it changed something in me. It wrecked me that much.
Sometimes we think to change other people’s lives, we have to say something really important or do something big. But the truth is, while what you were doing was unique, you were just obeying God. You weren’t sitting there thinking about how to inspire a generation to love God more, but you did. There were so many of us that followed your blog back then, and we truly wanted to obey God in a deeper way because of it. It was that simple for me. I didn’t feel the need to do exactly what you were doing, but I knew I had to do whatever God wanted me to do.
After reading Katie’s blog, my husband and I began to pray and tell God we would do anything He asked of us. We didn’t want to play it safe anymore. Those prayers were the beginning of a lot of the storylines of our lives, that I don’t think would’ve happened without that catalyst.
It’s honor to talk with you, Katie. And we’re talking to you while you’re currently in Uganda! Give us some context, for the readers who don’t know about your life in Uganda.
I’m going on my 13th year in Uganda, which is crazy to me. I’m rapidly approaching a point in my life where I've lived here as long as I've lived anywhere else.
I moved here when I was 18 because I felt that the Lord had my heart here, and I also wanted to be here. I thought I was only going to stay for a year, but I really fell in love with the people that I met around me. So I took in my first few little girls and ended up staying. I’ve been here ever since, just doing my best, like you said, to obey God and do the next thing that He puts in front of me.
Over the years, God has put a lot of different things in front of me and Benji, my husband. We have 15 kids, 13 girls and 2 boys, and beyond that, we’re engaged in several different ministries here. Benji pastors a church out of our home, and I’m part of a ministry team that runs a Christian school and does sponsorship.
For us, it’s all grown out of a desire to do the next thing. I do laugh a little bit when you say I changed your life, but I mean, I also look back at that 18-year-old version of myself and think first of all, I was so young and naive.
But also, there's something really good about a childlike faith that takes God at His word.
And as I've gotten older, there's a tendency to grow away from that, but He's been faithful to continue to lead us.
Today we’re talking about sin, and how to understand sin as kids and also as adults.
Childlike faith, like you said, was so contagious to my husband and I with 3 kids at the time in our thirties. We all need to view God with that childlike faith.
As we’re talking about the basics of Christianity, which of course includes sin, how do you come back to that? I don’t think any story on earth means much if there’s not something difficult in it. Sin was the part of the story that set the stage for God to show His great love to us.
So, let's start with your story with Jesus, and your kids. How did you find that love where you were so moved by it, that you were going to surrender your life in the way you did?
You know, it's really so clear to me. The older I get, I find that God just finds us and grabs a hold of us wherever we are.
I wasn't doing anything different than all my high school peers. There wasn’t anything on the surface that was wildly special about me. I know my own sin, but to me, it’s so abundantly clear that God is after us everyday.
God seeks after us despite all of our brokenness.
I don't feel like it was a choice of my own, but instead, it’s been His strength that He continues to put in me, and He gives me the desire to follow after Him.
When you’re a “grown up”, we try to hide our sin or cover it up. But my son Noah is more honest. He will say things like, “well, I wanted to hit my brother. It felt good because I was mad at him.”
That same temptation to sin is in me too, but I’m better at hiding it. It’s an eye-opening thing to see my sin all over again.
I was reading Isaiah 53:6 this week, and this verse talks about how everyone has turned and gone their own way. And that passage reminds me of parenting toddlers, because everything is about their own way! But as it turns out, the desire of all of our hearts is to have our own way.
But in watching the way you live, we can see that there has been several times of laying a desire, and not choosing your own way.
Why did you continue choosing God’s way for your life, instead of your own way?
For me, it's a good thing that I’m as stubborn as I am.
I believe that God can take our sins, our faults, and our flaws and still use them.
Even the things we mess up; God can use these things for His glory.
For me, the wrestling came from my stubbornness. I wasn’t going to leave where I am, even on the days that I wanted to. I wasn’t going to rush back to comfort. Not so much because of some great desire to do right, but more of a desire to not have anybody say, “I told you so.”
That was probably mostly in the first year of getting here. It was a completely different culture from what I was use to, and I was so young. There were parts of it that were awesome, but some parts of it that were so uncomfortable. My stubbornness won out, and I started to love the life God had designed for me.
I started to love the place of dependence on Him, and the place of surrender I found myself in.
I recognized that the more uncomfortable I was, or the harder things were around me, the more I felt really close to Him.
I found myself really pressing into Him. There were some really hard, hard days. There were a lot of days in the middle years where I had to lay down my desire to ever get married. I didn’t think that was something God was going to do for me here.
There was a wrestle with why God would call me to something that looked so different than what I thought.
But it was that place of closeness to Him in the middle of the difficult that drew me to Him more. I think once you’ve tasted that, it enables you to continue to choose obedience even when it’s inconvenient.
Once you have tasted the goodness of God, you don’t want anything else.
That’s so helpful Katie. When I look back at the season where your faith was pressing into mine, and causing me to have greater faith, I think that’s what it was. There was a delight over what you were doing. I didn’t want to miss out.
I think that’s how we have to view sin. We have to realize that the enemy wants to shut us down. The first sin was basically catalyzed by Satan saying, “don’t you want to be like God and know everything He knows?” And that’s a lie he still gives us. “Don’t you want this? Won’t this make you happier? Won’t this be more satisfying than God?” The ultimate lie is that we would want other things more than God. But when we want God more, that’s what I saw for you as were you were living a life I didn’t envy, but I did.
The way you were running after Jesus made me envy. The way you talked about Him, I could just tell that you were walking with God in a way that made me realize I didn’t need God. I grew a desire to live a life that actually needed God. I didn’t want to live a life that was only safe and comfortable. A life where I got my own way, and I never actually needed God.
Sin isn’t only “bad'“, and it doesn’t only “offend God”. But it’s important to realize that there’s a better way. We get God, and we don’t want to miss that. God has opportunities for us that when we get to heaven, we would look back and think we were crazy for missing them.
I remember when we adopted our son Cooper, I was fearful of how it was going to change our family. But I kept picturing getting to heaven and meeting an African man and realizing that was who I could’ve adopted. I know that’s crazy, and God doesn’t necessarily work that way, but I think the idea of it is true.
We can miss out on plans and purposes that God has for us if we always choose our own way, and choose sin. Katie, the storyline your life tells is that there is a better way.
Can you talk a little bit about how you experience temptation now? What does it look like to sin after so many years of following Him?
The enemy is crafty and smart. He just knows how to tempt us. He doesn't want us walking with God. He doesn't want us to be close to Him.
You can get in a place where you’ve been walking with God for awhile, and the temptations maybe don’t seem so big or glaring anymore. But they're still sneaky.
I recently had a conversation with a good friend of mine, and we got to talking about the things that rob us of time with God.
Honestly, mine is my smartphone. And that’s probably true for most people. Why do I want to endlessly scroll? Why do I want to compare?
It’s not in itself sinful, but the enemy wants to use whatever is in your path to distract you. He wants to say, “no, God alone doesn't satisfy.”
The fight against temptation looks like constantly examining my life, and our lives as a family, and asking ourselves, “okay, what is taking our gaze away from the Lord? What is taking first priority instead of Him?”
The hard part is that it can be good things! It can be things such as cleaning the house so that it's not a disaster when people come over for church on Sunday. That’s a good thing. But anything that is setting the stage for me to turn my gaze away from God, take my time away from Him, is ultimately leading down the road to sin.
It’s important to realize that there’s no “arrival point” when it comes to overcoming temptation and sin.
Katie is one of my heroes in the faith, but she’s still sharing her dark sins with us. We all have them. The Christian walk is not meant to be lived perfectly. It’s meant to be lived in relationship to God. What separates us from God is our sin.
You might look around at people that have been walking with Jesus for a long time and think they don’t struggle like you struggle, but they do. The temptations might be different, but the lies are the same. And in God’s sight, all sin is sin.
We have to realize that the enemy is after all of us. The more you follow God and the more you surrender your life to Jesus, the more the war heats up! I’ve struggled with deeper, darker issues since I surrendered my life to Christ than I did before. And I don’t think this is by accident. I think that’s the enemy.
What does it look like for you to fight for your kids? What has it looked like for you to help your kids see their own sin, and to help them know what it means to fight against sin?
The longer I parent, the more I realize how much prayer is my weapon.
Parenting is hard because you see your kids sin so clearly. You see all their shortcomings. My personality is quick to want to say, “stop doing that!” But instead, I’ve slowly learned to call out the good I see in them. There are times to pull a child aside and to address their sin with them gently, and with humility.
And now, we’ve had girls go off to college, and this has become my favorite parenting. You still love them just as much, and you want to protect them just as much, but all the sudden, they’re out there in the world. For me personally, there's a huge time difference, and I can't get even get in touch with them at the right time of day.
Seemingly small things like this makes me want to put my arms around them. This has reminded me that our kids are God's first.
I have to believe that the same way He was chasing after me when I was 15, He’s also chasing after our kids. Now we get to pray for His mercy over their lives, and pray that He would show them their sin.
I’ve learned that we can't correct the heart. We can strive to be a good example for our kids, but at the end of the day, God is going to change a heart. We’re not going to do that. We have the powerful tool of getting to pray for them, and praying specifically that God would have their hearts.
Even though it’s hard, I also try really hard to let my kids in on when I mess up, and model for them how to own my sin. I try my best to apologize for what I did. Even if it’s something in my private life, like misjudging a woman I saw that day.
Having teenage daughters to be able to talk to about my ugly sin, and model for them how I go to God with my sin is really, really powerful for them. They need to know mom and dad mess up too, and when they do, they go back to Jesus, and they try again.
I want our kids to see that their parents continually go back to His grace, so they realize they can, too.
I can’t tell you how many people have also said what you’re saying about parenting. Our mistakes are the best breeding ground for our kids to learn.
I remember how much pressure I felt when I was younger. I wish I would’ve known that the best parenting came from our mistakes, our confession, and just saying, “I’m sorry”. I don’t know why we think we can do this perfectly, or why we think that our kids’ welfare and who they become is completely dependent on our leadership. That’s a lot for parents to carry.
It is. I’ve had to learn that one again and again. I’ve had to remind myself that I’m not ultimately in control of the outcomes in my life. But instead, I just need to be obedient to God in parenting. And at the end of the day, I’m not in control.
When you’re a parent it’s easy to believe that you’re in control, but really, it’s God.
It’s God’s grace and mercy that’s going to lead your kids to the cross, just like it did for you.
Hopefully this truth helps to take some of the pressure off. You won’t parent perfectly because nobody does, and nobody's ever going to. And it's good for your kids to see that they don't have to be perfect, too.
What has it been like to raise kids in a different culture? How has this shaped your view of sin, of Jesus, and of faith in general?
I’ve only ever parented here, so this is my only view. In the culture that we're living in, children are taught from a very early age that sin is shameful, and you should hide from sin.
I remember when my girls were really little, if they would break a dish accidentally, they would just be so upset. They were upset because they were afraid that they would be in so much trouble.
In the culture we're living in, discipline is a really important thing. It's been challenging to walk them through what it looks like to sin, and to be sorry, but to also receive grace and forgiveness from God.
Oftentimes in this culture, forgiveness is equated with not receiving any punishment. I remember when the girls were little they'd say, “forgive me, forgive me, forgive me.” What they really meant was, “can I not go in timeout?” Or, “can I not lose my privilege of watching a movie with the family later?” They didn't yet understand what forgiveness meant.
I would repeatedly say, “I do forgive you, and you're going to sit here in time out to help you learn not to do this again.” Or, “I do forgive you, and you're not going to watch the movie tonight. Next time, let's try to do it differently.”
Even now, we continue to practice this method to let them try again. It’s a really good model for what God does with us. God gives us second chances.
Even now, we continue to practice this method with some of our younger guys to let them try again. It’s a really a good model for what God does with us. God gives us second chances.
What do you wish we understood better in the United States that you’ve learned while you’ve been gone? What do you experience there that we’re missing?
Over the last several years I haven't spent much time in the States. But we did visit as a family last Christmas, and it was fun, but also so overwhelming. When I visiting people at home, I find that they’re always moving so fast, and they’re distracted. There’s just so much technology in our faces all the time. Instant gratification is always there. And as a culture, we’ve forgotten how to wait on anything. We’ve forgotten how to need to figure things out because we have the internet at our fingertips all the time.
Our brains seem to be moving really, really fast. And I don't exclude myself from this. We do live at a much slower pace of life in Uganda, but we also have access to a lot of the same technology.
Slowly, people are forgetting how to listen, and they’re forgetting how to have real, deep, meaningful, face to face connections and conversations.
I believe that this impacts our kids, and it specifically impacts the way we teach them about God, about sin, and about forgiveness. I know for me, when I'm in a hurry, I don't want to take the time to let them try again. I just want to send them to their room. I want it all to be easy, quick, and done. But parenting isn’t ever easy, quick, and done. And neither is sharing the gospel.
Sharing the gospel with our children requires time, input, putting away our screens, and slowing down our pace.
After the holidays when we got back home to Uganda, I found that I was finally able to breathe a sigh of relief. When we returned, it felt like life was just a little bit slower, simpler, and people have a little bit more time to stop you on the street and ask how you’re doing. Ugandans are really amazing at just sitting with you and staying for awhile. There's a real sense of presence and community here. It seems like a lot of developed cultures are losing this, because of the fast pace of life.
Being busy doesn’t make life more meaningful. In fact, a lot of the most meaningful parts of life happen in the slow, and in the still.