I can’t even count the number of times growing up, whether it was public school or youth group that I was challenged to “make a difference in the world.” That I could be a part of seeing life-changing transformation in the lives of those I reached out to.
Fast forward a few years to my current life filled with laundry, meal preparations, and conversations about screwdrivers, milk, and pretending to jump in imaginary pools of water.
Surely if I could somehow get these responsibilities over with, I could get to the really important stuff, (followed up by letters of appreciation from people telling me how their lives are so much better because of me and God must surely be pleased with all the people I am impacting.)
At times, it’s easy to see my toddler as an obstacle to what I am trying to accomplish, rather than part of my purpose.
It feels like the Christian life should be separate from wiping the hairs off the bathroom sinks, paying the electric bill, and picking up another box of diapers from Walmart.
But most of the time, those tasks are exactly what my days consist of.
What happened to changing the world?
How do we have a vision while still holding our plans loosely (because little people aren’t as predictable as we might like them to be)?
How do we invite our families to be part of that vision, instead of imagining all that we could do if we had a break from them?
In Philippians 3, Paul lists his accomplishments and reasons he would look pretty important to the average Jew. But in verses 7-9, Paul says,
“But whatever were gains to me I now consider loss for the sake of Christ. What is more, I consider everything a loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whose sake I have lost all things. I consider them garbage, that I may gain Christ and be found in him, not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but that which is through faith in Christ—the righteousness that comes from God on the basis of faith.”
In verse 14 he goes on to say, “I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus.”
What is Paul’s goal? It wasn’t changing the world (though God used Him to share His truth in many places).
His goal was knowing Jesus and living in the hope of the gospel for today and for eternity.
This goal was meant to be pursued as we go about our responsibilities, instead of getting our everyday tasks finished as quickly and efficiently as possible so we can get to the really important work.
Picking up toys for the hundredth time and organizing leftovers can be part of God’s work as we let His pleasure and presence give each task meaning.
Rachel Jankovic, in her book Fit to Burst, shares that “It does not matter what is on the table when the people around it aren’t at peace. It doesn’t matter how clean your house is when bitterness is growing in the hearts of your children.” (p.31)
Goals vs. Desires
So is it pointless to have dreams? Should we throw all our goals out the window?
It’s important to make a distinction between goals and desires. Goals can’t involve others’ behavior, because we don’t have control over that.
I can desire to get my closets organized, but if my son starts running a fever, or my husband has to work late, I can’t consider the unaccomplished task a failure.
On the other hand, if my goal is to invite Jesus and His joy and favor earned on my behalf into every task and interaction I have, I can keep working and fighting to reach it.
Rachel Jankovic shares that “[Our children] should see us setting realistic (but maybe difficult) goals, and working hard toward them. They should see us being visionaries who are anchored firmly in reality. . . They should see us laboring hard to make a beautiful life for them while not losing sight of the them in it.” (p. 31)
It’s exciting to be around people who are passionate about something. When my husband comes home telling me all about how he’s learning to use the incredible software that designs the metal parts at his company, it makes me smile.
When I have the chance to talk about the draft of my novel with someone, I can hardly choose whether to talk about plot, character, or the storylines I’m trying to weave together.
It’s good to want to make changes to be healthier in mind, body and spirit.
But when the snooze gets pushed too many times, or moments to write get sucked up by phone calls, or I end up dealing with a tantrum when he should have been napping, I can still be succeeding.
If my ultimate goal is to know Jesus and invite His gospel truth to fill my mind each day, the actual circumstances are only the avenue for accomplishing the goal.
John Piper, a pastor and teacher shared in one of his sermons that “God is always doing 10,000 things in your life, and you may be aware of three of them.”
Will you trust the God who shaped the universe and has all the power to accomplish His perfect plan (and let you be a part of it) as He leads you into the future?
Will you lay your desires for this next year in His hands?
Will you let your children see what it means to “press on toward the goal” in His grace?