What are you aiming for in life?
Please actually think about it. What are your goals? Your aspirations? Your dreams? What are you working towards?
I (Scott) write this as I sit on a train on my way back from a lovely trip to London to see the new Harry Potter play (incredible, in case you were wondering!….and there won’t be any spoilers so don’t look away now). This is a trip that has been planned for a long time – the theatre tickets were a gift from my dear friend, bought before Cathy and I were even expecting the baby. Cathy very kindly had the boys while I was away. The journeys have given me a rare opportunity to sit – on my own, without distraction – and think. It has made me realise how infrequently I do this.
So why don’t you take the opportunity to do it now. Answer that question above: what are you aiming for in life? Be honest with yourself. If you’re a Christian, you’ll know many of the right answers: to become more Christlike; to serve his people as well as you can with the gifts he’s given you; to work towards the growth of the kingdom; to love your family and point them to Jesus…
You’ll know the right answers, and you’ll no doubt be doing these things. But I want to challenge you today. Are godly ambitions what drive you and what you purposefully strive towards? Or are they simply things you hope will happen along the way?
If you’re wondering what this has to do with parenting then don’t worry – we’ll get there!
I used part of my journey to London to listen to some podcasts, including a really interesting TED talk. The talk, in large part, was aiming to challenge the listener to examine their ambitions for life.
The culture that we’re immersed in doesn’t simply neutrally exist around us. The culture around us promotes a worldview. We’re constantly bombarded with truth claims and messages about what matters in life – what it means to be successful; what we need to do, or own, or achieve to be happy; what gives a person significance. Many of these claims are contrary to the Christian worldview, and yet it is so easy to unquestioningly imbibe the messages that our culture feeds us.
For me, if you’ll permit a moment of honesty, the truth claim (or lie!) that I’m most easily deceived by is the lie that life and security is found in financial success.
As with all convincing lies, there has to be an element of truth. It is certainly true that having money can enable one to do lots of things that one wouldn’t be able to otherwise. It’s true that poverty robs people of life and is not good. But does it bring security? No – so many things can cause the foundation of financial success to crumble very quickly. And does it bring life? No – not the true ‘life to the full’ that Jesus offers.
What lies deceive you? Is it the pursuit of comfort and leisure? Or academic success? Beauty? Popularity? These things, and more, are all held up by our culture as ultimate things – things that we need for true life and happiness. So what lies deceive you?
As we see the lies that we’ve come to believe, we begin to see how we’ve shaped our lives around working towards achieving what these lies promise. They shape how we spend our time, what we think about, what we talk about. They shape our dreams.
It’s so important then that we take time to ponder this, to repent, to reevaluate our priorities and use of time and to reset the course of our lives again. To get back on to the path that we so easily fall from.
Aspirational Family Life
Let’s get more specific here and think about parenting – this is a Christian parenting blog, after all. What are your goals and aspirations for your family life, and for your children? Again, please try to take a moment to really think about this. Don’t just deceive yourselves with the right answers.
A helpful way to evaluate this might be to think about the following questions.
- What do the things you encourage your children to spend time doing say about your priorities for them?
- Think about some of the conversations that you’ve had with your children over the past week – what do they communicate to your child about what you see as important?
- If you asked your child what they think makes you proud of them, how would they answer? Or if they wouldn’t be old enough to answer that, answer it yourself – what things are you most proud of in your children?
- When you let yourself dream about how you want your children to turn out, what does that picture look like?
Just like us, our children are being constantly influenced by the truth claims of the world around them. But the biggest influence in the formation of their worldview, frighteningly, is you. And me. Their parents.
If we are buying in to the lies of our culture, then we will be passing those lies on to our children.
This post isn’t intended to induce guilt as a motivator for change. Guilt is a poor motivator.
As we’re confronted with our failures as parents, we must remember that there is grace for us. But more than that we (and our children, if they’re believers) have the Spirit in us to enable us to change.
It is grace that enables us to face hard truths about ourselves. It is in the context of full, free acceptance in Jesus that we are liberated to pursue change, to be honest about ourselves and to realign our gaze. We know that Jesus loves us as we are, but loves us enough to long for us to not stay as we are.
It is grace that enables us to dream big even when that exposes us in the present – it allows us to envisage a heart for ourselves and our children that is captivated by Christ and that finds true life in him, in stark and yet beautiful contrast to the world around us.
So if you’ve got this far in the blog post and have still not taken the time to examine your goals and ambitions in life, please do it now.
And then take the time to dream.