Do you have a vision for your family?
You may have an idea of what your ideal family would look like with the perfect house and the fluffy dog, but do you truly have a vision for your family’s purpose?
This month, on Wednesdays, I’ve been wanting to give you some practical tools to grow your marriage and keep it close. First we talked about using the 5 Whys exercise to help you uncover the root of the problem; last week we talked about discovering each other’s emotional needs. And today I want to talk about vision!
When Keith and I speak at marriage conferences we talk about the idea of drift in marriage. Our natural inclination, in relationships, is to drift apart. Staying close and keeping the relationship healthy takes work! And one of the ways drift happens is when you get so caught up in the daily routine that you forget to talk about where you’re actually going. So today let’s fight the drift by talking about vision in marriage: pursuing your dreams together. In many ways, this post is the closest to my heart of anything I have written about marriage on this blog, so please listen to me here. It can be summed up like this:
If we do not live intentionally, then we will never, ever live out our values or have the impact we long for. Too many of us let life happen to us, we don’t bother to live it.
Are you familiar with the saying, “without vision a people perish?”
It’s from Proverbs 29:18, but I don’t think God meant that just for the nation of Israel. I think He meant it for marriages and families, too. If we have no clear idea where we are going, then we will never, ever get there.
I have heard people say, “You can tell what someone values just by looking at how they spend their time,” but I don’t think that’s necessarily true. If you look at many men, they spend more time on video games than they do talking to their kids. Does that mean they don’t love their kids? And many women spend more time on Facebook everyday than they do talking to their husbands. Does that mean they like Facebook more? No, I honestly don’t think it does.
I think what happens is LIFE. We love certain things, and we value certain things, but we’re not intentional about actually living those things out. We don’t take the time to figure out how to make those things part of our daily routine. And so, when other things threaten to crowd in, like technology, or screen time, or too many extracurricular activities, we let them. And then we wonder why we feel so unfulfilled, as if something is off, not quite right. It’s because we’re not valuing the things we value! It’s because we’re not living our lives with purpose.
And so today I want to invite you to take a journey with me first, and then with your husband.
I want to invite you to dream: to dream about what you want for your family, and what you want for your marriage, and what you want for your home.
And then I’m going to encourage you to share those dreams with your husband, listen to his, but most importantly–figure out practically how to put them into action. I’ve even got some a free worksheet you can download to help in that conversation later in this post! But first let me tell you two stories, of two families that I know. Some details have been changed to preserve privacy, but both families are quite wealthy. In both cases the parents are totally committed to Christ. Both sets of parents serve in the church. Yet only one family is on solid footing.
The first family, and we’ll call them Sam and Betty, are both family doctors. They could have focused on making a ton of money, but they didn’t. They lived moderately, and the mom worked very part-time when the kids were small. Once the kids were big enough, they started involving them in volunteer activities, even taking them on missions trips occasionally. Whenever the kids would mention a problem or something they found was disturbing, Sam and Betty would always turn it into a challenge: What do you think God is asking you to do about it? Anything? How can you be part of the solution? How can we pray about it?
Their attitude, in everything they did, was, “how can we shine a light here?” They taught their kids to be lights to their neighbours, and living in a really small town, with few good churches or a good youth group, they had to provide that themselves. And they worked hard to do so. Even though the parents could have been the most important people in the town, the ones everybody wanted to know, they became more beacons for those a little down and out, and to many teenagers. Even though they were wealthy, their favourite place to shop was the second hand store. They had oodles of fun trying to come up with new outfits and learning how to live by a budget. Because of that, other teens never thought Sam and Betty’s kids “were too good for me”. They were regular people. Their kids are grown now; Sam and Betty are empty nesters. And their lives are focusing more on each other as they continue to pray for their kids, who are all out in the world, asking, “how can I shine a light here?”
The second family I’ll call John and Helen. They loved their kids with a fierce love, too. Helen stayed home with them; John worked major hours in the corporate world. Helen made sure the kids always went to church and were always involved. But Helen also wanted the kids to have fun. Everytime there was a party, she’d make sure the kids had new stuff to wear. The kids were involved in all kinds of activities; because John was always at work, Helen found it easier to have the kids be busy, too. And so gradually the kids’ friends came primarily from outside the church. And as those kids entered high school, Helen was often shocked to see what was on their Facebook statuses. But “kids will be kids”, she thought. And so she did nothing about it, and the kids are really drifting.
Both families had more resources than most, yet only one had a firm vision of how they were raising their kids and who they were raising them to be. And because they had that vision, they were able to figure out how to put things into place so that their kids would pick up on the vision, too. And the kids grew up caring deeply about the things the parents also cared deeply about. I went to a family camp every summer with Betty and Sam, and I will never forget how they would use that week to do their planning for the year, pulling out their calendars, scheduling in all of their conferences and work, and then figuring out what they were going to do with their kids this year, and what they would concentrate on as a family. They spent time praying, visioning, planning together. If we don’t take time to take stock, plan, and develop a vision for our family, it’s very unlikely that we actually live out our values. Other things will creep in and steal our time.
And what is a vision?
A vision for your family, I believe, is simply a plan of how you will live out your values.
God gives us specific visions about specific things we are to do, certainly. But sometimes I think we wait too much for God, and we don’t bother to work with what He’s already given us. And so today I’d like to give you some tools to turn the values that you and your husband already share into a vision for your marriage and for your family.
Here’s how it works:
I’ve got a visioning worksheet to download that you can pray through and create an “action plan” to live out your vision.
It’s divided into three sections: Character things (like what God wants to refine in you); The “Feel” of your home (like what vibe you want your home and family to give off); and Calling things (like what role God specifically has for you as a family).
I’d suggest working through this on three different “date nights”, or nights when you set aside time to talk. Stress to your spouse that this isn’t about telling him what he is doing wrong; it’s about you both thinking and praying about where your family is heading. You both get equal input! It helps you figure out what you value–because each family will value slightly different things–and then it encourages you to break these things down into small, manageable steps that you can do to work toward this goal.
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Family Visioning Worksheet!
Betty and Sam, for instance, valued service and generosity. That was their big family value, and they lived it out. Other families may have slightly different values: one may value being a host to people with less stable family situations; one may value pursuing music and self-discipline; one may value becoming self-sustaining on a farm. There isn’t a right or a wrong; it’s what you feel called to as a family. But if you both have dreams of being self-sustaining, for instance, but you’ve never learned how to can your own tomatoes and you still order pizza 3 nights a week, you likely have to work at making this dream more of a reality.
I’d encourage you to work through this sheet with your husband. I’ve tried to keep it simple and relatively short, but with enough “meat” that you can talk about the issues. I truly hope and pray this helps you. Most of us do value good things; we just have little vision of how to put that into practice. I pray that these worksheets help you do just that as you develop a true vision for what God wants to do in your family!
Download the printable on this page and make a list with your spouse about your future marriage dreams and talk about how you can work towards these dreams together. Then spend time praying over this list together.
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If you could use one word to describe your family’s calling or mission, what do you think it would be? Have you ever talked about this before with your spouse? Let’s chat about it in the comments!