At any given moment, our house is filled with a din of giggles, squeals, thumps, and babbling. It’s hard to imagine, but in just a couple of decades or so, the nest will be empty again. And when it is, we will either find ourselves overwhelmed with emptiness as we clamber to hold onto a shred from the vanishing past, or we will be fulfilled, rejoicing in a mission accomplished (and overwhelmed with occasional emptiness). If we can somehow look beyond the temporal experience of raising kids, we can discover a deeper purpose behind the fading joys of parenting. Children last but for a season. A purpose can last for eternity.
Almost everybody has a general idea of where they are going in life. Few, however, have gone to the next step of developing a purpose statement for themselves and their families. Even fewer still have established clear goals that guide their families day to day.
In determining your direction in life, it is essential to understand the difference between the following three basic terms:
VISION: In general, what burden has God given you regarding the state of the world? What conditions are most likely to reach you at the emotional level? When you envision the world as it could be, how does that picture differ from reality? This is your vision.
PURPOSE: More refined, how do you envision God using you to move things in the direction of your vision? Why has He given you this place in history and equipped you with your resources, talents, and connection? (Read Esther 4:14b) What role is your family to play in His divine plan? This is your purpose.
GOALS: Specifically, what steps would God have you take to pursue your purpose? There are your goals.
Have you ever truly sought God, as a husband and wife, and searched your hearts to find what is important for you and your children? Once you actually do this, God will pour out wisdom for your family in the form of a vision concerning your family’s purpose, and even more specifically, your family’s goals. Then you can begin to evaluate whether your personal and family activities work with or against your family’s purpose. It is much easier to decide what to include in your schedule (and what to remove!) when you know your family’s purpose.
These days, there’s no end to the forces that compete for our time, money, and energy. Every time you turn around, new activities are begging for a piece of you. Sunday school, neighborhood association, PTA, tennis team, soccer team, piano lessons, play group, symphony, ESPN, great novels… the list is endless. They want your time, your money, your energy…your life. And they will take as much as you are willing to give.
All claim to enhance your life in legitimate ways. And yet, they can bring subtle confusion and destruction to life if not governed by some outside force…a vision…a purpose…goals!
Ironically, the things that seem to hold the greatest potential rewards for our families also pose the biggest threats. There are many great opportunities for family enrichment, but if we don’t plan wisely, we plan for our own ruin.
Psalm 127:1 says, “Unless the Lord builds the house, they labor in vain that build it.” The suggestion is that no matter how constructive our intentions, the effort is wasted unless each of our activities contributes to a driving purpose. Before we sign up for anything, we need to seek God’s face for His plan and purpose for our lives, and the collective life of our family. Once we have a picture of what He’s up to in our family, then we can select activities that fit our family’s unique purpose. Even the most demanding activities can be fulfilled if they serve a purpose.
So, how can you find your family’s purpose?
First, pray that God will cause you to love him with pure love…that you will “be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God” (Ephesians 3:14-21)…that you will be concerned with what concerns God. Allow God to convict your hearts. Pray for a preoccupation with the things of eternity and the person of heaven – Jesus! As God reveals His character, He will reveal how He chooses to reflect it through us. God wants to enable us! He wants us to bring glory to Christ and His righteousness. As we more and more grasp God’s big picture perspective, we are motivated to be “imitators of God.” As “dearly loved children,” we will want to “be like Daddy” and please our heavenly father (Ephesians 5:10).
Second, listen! Get away for a weekend together…or at least get a babysitter for the evening. Tell God that you want to discover His purposes for your family. Ask Him to reveal any part of His plan that you need to be pursuing intentionally. Tell Him that you trust Him to use you even if He doesn’t make all of His plans known at this time. Then keep looking for His clear direction. God has a plan known at this time. God has a standard in His word for every area of our lives. Seek Him with your whole heart.
Third, get to work! Take out pen and paper, and as God impresses on you a divine plan for your family, set goals accordingly. Start a family calendar to regulate your activities and record your goals. Be reasonable and pray for guidance about area(s) with which to begin and whether gradual or radical change is necessary. And above all, don’t stop listening now. God told Abraham to sacrifice Isaac, but the dialogue didn’t stop there. Look for God to modify the plan as you go. Whatever the goal, act with your faith in God, and trust Him to bear fruit in your lives. Depend on His faithfulness.
Remember, this is not a plan for life, get organized, control your destiny kind of scheme. No! This requires dependence on God and will result in spiritual growth. The whole purpose of intentional living is to know God and have a relationship with Him. God wants to interact with us in our daily lives. God is in control of all things and He has the freedom to refine our vision as we remain surrendered and listening for His marching orders.
This blog posted from the Christian Family Heritage vault. Originally written by Ben & Lisa Ortlip and published in a previous Along the Way newsletter.