Over the past two years, Rick Warren’s book, The Purpose Driven Life: What on Earth Am I Here For? , has astounded the publishing world. After dominating the Christian market for months, the book moved into rare territory as it began to scale mainstream best seller lists. At the time of this writing, The Purpose Driven Life sits at #4 on the New York Times Best Seller List , after having obtained the coveted #1 spot earlier in the year.
How does a Christian book by a relatively unknown author end up topping the New York Times Best Seller List ? I believe it’s because it speaks to a desire deep in the heart of every person. We all want to live a life of purpose. Whether we know it or not, we were created for a reason, and life is most satisfying when we are living out our God-given purpose.
This applies not only on an individual level, but also on a family level. God has a purpose for your family, and it involves using the gifts and resources He has uniquely given you to love Him, and love the people around you.
As you begin to reflect upon your purpose as a family, here are some thoughts to keep in mind.Intentionally Pursue a Life of Purpose
A life of purpose is never stumbled upon accidentally. It’s been said that if you aim at nothing, you’re sure to hit it, and that statement has a lot of truth to it.
As leaders of our families, we need to take personal responsibility for the direction of our lives and families. This cannot be left to chance, and it cannot be left to others – not even your spouse. A boat with two people rowing in opposite directions goes nowhere. As a couple, you need to be on the same page about where your family is going and how you’re going to get there. It is a partnership.
If you’ve never taken the time to really think through your purpose as a couple and a family, I’d encourage you to set some time aside in the near future to do just that. Start with a period of prayer and reading the Bible, to get God’s perspective on how He wants you to order your lives. You might even read The Purpose Driven Life , paying special attention to what it might mean for your family. Then, schedule some uninterrupted time together to talk about what God is saying to you. Dream big about the plans God has for your family, and then begin to put together an action plan to see those dreams achieved.
If you have older children, it might be a good idea to draw them into the discussion at some point. Of course, as the parents it is your responsibility to set the family direction, but your kids might have some fun and creative ideas as to how you can live it out. Again, one of the keys to achieving any goal is having everyone on board.Keep Your Priorities Straight
It’s all well and good to have an inspiring purpose laid out on paper, but whether or not we ultimately hit the mark depends upon the extent to which we let those values guide our daily choices. The world is full of distractions that will pull us away from what is most important, if we allow them to.
Fifteen years ago, I was flying with my brother-in-law in a Piper Aerostar. I was working on a list of my life goals, and I found they were all focused on achievement – giving more things to my family, but in the process giving them less of me.
As I contemplated my list, I watched as the left propeller came to a stand still. We had lost an engine! I looked again at my list, and I felt God speaking to my heart. Two questions popped into my mind: How do you want to end? And who is the most important to you? I knew immediately that I needed to refocus my priorities; it was one of those watershed moments for me.
If you have allowed lesser things to pull you away from the central purposes of your life, I would challenge you to take a hard look at your priorities. How are you spending your time, money and energy? Is it on the things that really matter?Stay Flexible
The song “I Did It My Way” has no place in a family. Being effective as a family requires each person at times to be willing to subjugate their own desires and goals for the good of others in the family.
Denise and I had a goal of owning a home, but we had to set that goal aside so that we could help our three sons through university. They also had to help with the cost, but we felt this was an important investment in their futures. As a result, all three of them received valuable education, and as an added bonus they all found spouses who went through the same school and share similar goals from this educational experience.
We recently purchased a town home and moved from renting to getting into the marketplace, but it came later than we had expected and planned. It was not easy at this stage to enter into a booming real estate market, but God has honoured us and our family for the decision we made years ago.Find a Godly Mentor
Never be too proud to ask for help. No matter how far along you are in your life and family journey, you can always learn something from those who are further down the road than you are.
It is crucial to seek counsel or coaching when you need it. It may be in times of financial struggle, or in seasons of grief and loss, or in the face of a particularly trying parenting challenge. Books are great and there are many helpful ones out there, but they cannot take the place of having growing relationships with people who have already been where you are and are willing to help you along.Live Life Well Today
I have tended at times to live my life in the future, saying “Once I have accomplished this or that, then I will then do this or that for my family. I suspect that you have said this at times too. The sad reality is that tomorrow never comes. There is always more to accomplish.
The song Cats in the Cradle by Harry Chapin has deeply impacted me:
My child arrived just the other dayHe came to the world in the usual wayBut there were planes to catch and bills to payHe learned to walk while I was awayAnd he was talkin’ ‘fore I knew it, and as he grewHe’d say “I’m gonna be like you dadYou know I’m gonna be like you”
And the cat’s in the cradle and the silver spoonLittle boy blue and the man on the moonWhen you comin’ home dad?I don’t know when, but we’ll get together then sonYou know we’ll have a good time then
My son turned ten just the other dayHe said, “Thanks for the ball, Dad, come on let’s playCan you teach me to throw”, I said “Not todayI got a lot to do”, he said, “That’s ok”And he walked away but his smile never dimmedAnd said, “I’m gonna be like him, yeahYou know I’m gonna be like him”
Even the pursuit of a noble purpose can become a bad thing if it’s not done in the right way. You do not want to sacrifice your family on the altar of your purpose. So whatever you do, do it with integrity. Always keep your word and make absolutely sure that your family knows they are your first priority. The journey is more fun and more rewarding when you make it together.
Copyright © 2006 FamilyLife Canada. FamilyLife, Canada is a ministry of Campus Crusade for Christ, Canada
By Bruce Gordon, with Glen HoosBruce is the Senior Advisor to the President of Campus Crusade for Christ, Canada . He and his wife Denise speak regularly at FamilyLife Marriage Conferences. They also assist individuals and organizations in maximizing their team and leadership effectiveness.