Ever feel like you’re being controlled by your schedule? Are you tired of juggling all of life’s responsibilities; caring for children and aging parents, keeping up with work at work and work at home, trying to volunteer at church and recharge your own battery? In the midst of the many intense demands, how can you intentionally model an unhurried Christ-like life to your kids?
Our world is becoming increasingly busy and fragmented. I’m confident you feel this reality in your life. Social media makes “connecting” easier than ever. Each of us has our own social network, entertainment profile on Netflix, and afternoon/evening activities. The result is a family lifestyle and rhythm that’s more separate than together.
The fragmentation challenges our notion of family. What’s the foundation of your family? As a parent, what’s your family culture teaching your children? How does your family decide which opportunities get a “yes” and which get a no? What values are expressed through your lifestyle? Does your family have a mission that you’re pursuing together? Is that mission supported by your choices and how you prioritize your time?
As many of you know, three years ago we returned home after ministering overseas. On the plane I felt like I’d been punched in the stomach and the assailant was walking away—a strange mix of relief and throbbing pain. A call that took ten years to fulfill was ending after only four. It hurt. It still hurts. As I sorted through my feelings of disappointment and grief, inadequacy and relief, God reminded me that only my mission field was changing, not my mission.
I was just twenty-one when I first understood my mission in life: to make disciples of Jesus to reach the nations. Our return from Asia, was an exercise in heart break as we said goodbye to people we’d shared life with every day for the past four years. We loved them as hard as we knew how, and now it was time to go. During the thirty-hour trip home, God impressed upon me that my mission wasn’t just mine; it was ours.
Our readjustment was slow. My wife was 7 months pregnant, we moved in with my parents, looked for a house, and waited for our hearts to catch up with our bodies. Over the course of a year, we closed on a house, moved to a new neighborhood, gave birth to a premature daughter five days later, endured a two week NICU stay, began a new job, and cried tears of joy, grief, longing. We wrestled with God and one another.
The transition was tough, but it also provided space for us to get on the same page as a family. After lots of prayer and discussion, my wife and I developed a family mission statement. It wasn’t an easy or quick process. We prayerfully discussed each word and concept. Today, our mission statement serves as our family’s pocket-compass. As opportunities and decisions come it helps to direct our steps. Let me share it with you:
“Our mission is to love God and others like Jesus did. To understand who we are, both our strengths and our shortcomings. To seek freedom within and peace without. To faithfully walk the road laid out before us with compassionate eyes and grateful hearts. And to sacrifice for the benefit of others.”
I LOVE this statement. Let me flesh out why by highlighting key phrases…
Like Jesus did: He’s our model for life. We want to have the type of relationship with God that He had. We want to love others like He did. We want to make disciples like He did. In short, we want to walk like Jesus walked.
To understand who we are: We want to be strong in self-awareness. We’d like our awareness to extend not only to our strengths, but also to our weaknesses-to those places within ourselves where we are wounded and reactive. To the ways we self-protect and manipulate others relationally. This is important because when we move toward others to get approval, admiration, or respect we aren’t loving them.
To seek freedom within and peace without: The Gospel is about bringing freedom from sin and its effects. As we become more free, we become more whole. We seek freedom from things like our need to be respected or liked, freedom from fear of conflict or failure, freedom from social anxiety, etc. As we experience freedom within, we’re able to bring about peace and restoration to the world around us. Our lives are meant to leave behind a wake of restoration that can be seen in the people we’ve loved and the places we’ve lived.
With Compassionate Eyes and Grateful Hearts: Jesus modeled a heart of compassion to the hurting and oppressed. It’s a foundational character trait of a mature disciple. As we become more like Christ, we should be more compassionate, not more dogmatic. Seven times in Scripture, we see Jesus moved to compassion for the crowds. Gratitude flows out of an awareness of what God has done and continues to do in this life. These two are connected. To love others requires compassion and to experience love from others requires gratitude.
To Sacrifice for Others: Our lives are not ours to do with what we want. They are to be laid down and poured out for the benefit of others.
Once we had our mission statement, we memorized it. In our family, we begin the process of memorizing it around two and a half. That may seem young, but two-year olds can remember a lot! CLICK HERE to watch our daughter reciting it when she was two and a half.
As our kids grow, we’ll continue to unpack each phrase of the mission statement, so that they can really understand it. As they grow to adulthood, they’ll have to decide for themselves if this mission statement aligns with how they’re going to live their lives.
A family mission statement helps filter the many requests, demands, and opportunities that desire our time. It simplifies life by bringing focus to what's most important.