Dreaming God’s Dreams for our Children
By LESLIE LUDY
Not long ago, Hudson felt God speak to him about his future. He learned about the many needs in the country of Cambodia and feels called to be a missionary there someday. Already, he’s begun to prepare to live overseas, even though he’s only nine. He’s been challenging himself to eat more rice (something he doesn’t really like), and do extra homework in hopes that he can graduate early and begin language study and missionary training during his teen years.
It has been really exciting to see his passion to share the Gospel begin to develop such a young age. While I know that Hudson’s future plans may shift a bit as he grows up, it’s clear that God has been working in his heart to give him a deep burden for reaching the lost. He is aware that choosing the life of a missionary may mean discomfort and difficultly, but he is catching the vision for the kind of poured-out existence that God has called him to live.
As mothers in today’s world, we hear countless messages about helping our children achieve their full potential and realize their destiny. Enabling our child to “go after their dreams” and “pursue happiness” is considered one of the loftiest achievements of parenthood. We are often led to believe that an excellent mother is one who gives her children the opportunity to do whatever they want to do, go wherever they want to go, and achieve personal satisfaction. Encouraging our kids with inspiring “self-fulfillment” messages such as “do what makes you happy!” is considered healthy for a child’s outlook and future.
But when we train our children to be self-focused as they think about their life and future, we are diminishing their understanding of the Gospel and limiting what God can do through their lives. Self-fulfillment and the pursuit of personal happiness isn’t all it’s cracked up to be. A life built around selfish desires only leads to emptiness — as is clearly evidenced in the miserable, wasted lives of the rich and famous that we see on the tabloids and in the news. Celebrities have everything that supposedly brings fulfillment. Yet they don’t have anything beyond self to live for, and their lives lack true purpose which often plunges them into drugs, alcohol, affairs, depression, and even suicide.
Jesus said, “Whoever desires to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life
for My sake will save it” (Lk. 9:24). In other words, when we encourage our kids to cling to their lives, make their own plans, and pursue their own dreams, we are not leading down the path of true life.
The Bible makes it clear that the only kind of lifestyle that brings real happiness and fulfillment is one of self-denial and sacrificial love. So why not encourage our children toward that kind of future, instead of a shallow and self-focused one?
Sometimes people look at me cockeyed when I tell them that my son is preparing for the mission field — that he’s training for a life of hardship, suffering, challenge, hard-work, and spiritual battle. “Don’t you want him to be happy and comfortable when he grows up? Don’t you want him to get a well-paying job and live the American dream?” their incredulous statements and comments imply.
Yes, I long for my children to find true happiness. But I know that it doesn’t come in the package that most people today think it does. Happiness can’t be found in material comforts, personal success, or the American dream. Happiness is found in the center of God’s will. And God’s will for our children’s lives is usually very different from what our society applauds.
That’s not to say that having a nice house or well-paying job is bad. But if that is the ultimate dream we have for our children, we are not dreaming God’s dreams for their futures. He desires them to be ambassadors of the Gospel, no matter where they live or what they do. Money and possessions should only serve that goal.
My deepest desire for my children is that they would surrender their lives to Jesus Christ and radically live for Him, holding nothing back. Most of the men and women I’ve met or heard about who have chosen this life are not among the rich, famous, comfortable, or successful. Rather, they are the true heroes of the faith that Hebrews describes as “destitute, afflicted, ill-treated.” But the Bible also says that these are men and women “of whom the world is not worthy.” My ultimate dream is that my children would be counted among these great heroes of the faith — not applauded by this world, but applauded by Heaven.
As Christian parents, we must always remember that this earth is not our home — or our children’s home. We are merely pilgrims passing through, and our true citizenship is in Heaven. So as we help our children shape their vision for the future, let’s be sure we are promoting them down a path of real Christianity. Let’s be sure we are not passing on a soft Gospel in which they can live a self-focused life and tag Jesus on somewhere in the background. Let’s be sure that they are pursing God’s dreams for their lives — not the world’s empty allurements.
Remember that God has entrusted our children to us for a short season, not so that we can cling to them and shape their lives according to our own desires. Rather, He gives them to us so that we can surrender them back to Him.
One of the most powerful stories I’ve ever read is the story of John Paton’s father in 1858, on the day that John left for the mission field. His father had always desired his son to live a poured-out life for Jesus Christ. He had prepared him, trained him, and helped him discover a passionate, vibrant, daily relationship with Christ. Now, John was grown, ready to sacrifice his very life in order to bring the Gospel to the lost. His father knew that he would very likely never see his son again once he left for the mission field. Here is John’s description of their parting:
My dear father walked with me the first six miles of the way. His counsel and tears and heavenly conversation on that parting journey are fresh in my heart as if it had been but yesterday; and tears are on my cheeks as freely now as then, whenever memory steals me away to the scene. His tears fell fast when our eyes met each other in looks for which all speech was vain! He grasped my hand firmly for a minute in silence, and then solemnly said: “God bless you, my son! Your father’s God prosper you, and keep you from all evil!” Unable to say more, his lips kept moving in silent prayer; in tears we embraced, and parted.
I ran off as fast as I could; and, when about to turn a corner in the road where he would lose sight of me, I looked back and saw him still standing with head uncovered where I had left him gazing after me. Waving my hat in adieu, I was round the corner and out of sight in an instant. But my heart was too full and sore to carry me further, so I darted into the side of the road and wept for a time. Rising up cautiously, I climbed the dyke to see if he yet stood where I had left him; and just at that moment I caught a glimpse of him climbing the dyke and looking out for me! He did not see me, and after he had gazed eagerly in my direction for a while he got down, set his face towards home, and began to return, his head still uncovered, and his heart, I felt sure, still rising in prayers for me.
I watched through blinding tears, till his form faded from my gaze; and then, hastening on my way, vowed deeply and oft, by the help of God, to live and act so as never to grieve or dishonor such a father and mother as He had given me. The appearance of my father when we parted has often through life risen vividly before my mind, and does so now as if it had been but an hour ago. In my earlier years particularly, when exposed to many temptations, his parting form rose before me as that of a guardian Angel. It is no pharisaism, but deep gratitude, which makes me here testify that the memory of that scene not only helped to keep me pure from the prevailing sins, but also stimulated me in all my studies, that I might not fall short of his hopes, and in all my Christian duties, that I might faithfully follow his shining example.
This story never fails to challenge me with the question: have I surrendered my children completely to God? Am I willing to allow Him to do whatever He wants to do with their lives and futures? If He calls them to suffer for His sake, am I willing to allow it? If He calls them to a life of difficulty and sacrifice, will I allow it? Will I continually point them toward the narrow path, even if it means they will not be recognized or applauded by this world — even if it means that God may call them to the ends of the earth, far away from where I am? Do I long for their lives to reflect His glory rather than reflect my own parenting achievements?
In the eternal scheme of things, it really doesn’t matter if my children graduate at the top of their class, become amazing athletes, or receive worldly accolades. All that really matters is that they give their lives wholly and completely to Jesus Christ and live for His glory alone. So each day of my parenting journey, it is my goal to point them toward that end.
If that is your desire for your children as well, here is one practical way to begin:
Give Them Deeper Truth
Our world promotes shallowness. Even Christianity has become shallow in many circles. Kids are capable of grasping much deeper truths than we often give them credit for. But if we are facilitating a shallow, worldly lifestyle built around television and video games, or a fluffy Christianity that leaves them comfortable with mediocrity, their hearts and minds will not be able to receive the deeper truths of God’s Kingdom. So we must be purposeful about bringing rich Gospel truths into our conversations and activities at home. Here are a few of the tools that have helped me with this goal:
Torchlighters Series — these powerful animated videos detail the lives of Christian heroes throughout history, such as Richard Wurmbrand, Jim Elliot, Amy Carmichael, Corrie ten Boom, Eric Liddel, and Gladys Aylward. These videos have been a wonderful way for our kids to catch the vision for true Christianity, and it has sparked some amazing discussions around the dinner table!
Kids of Courage — Voice of the Martyrs has created a wonderful resource that helps kids gain a heart for the persecuted church and what it means to suffer for Jesus. The Kids of Courage materials have given our children a heart for Christians around the world that are suffering for their faith; they have been promoted to pray for them, write letters to them, and even send money and gifts. Reading testimonies about those who are standing strong for the faith under persecution has helped them get their eyes off themselves and has greatly deepened their understanding of the Gospel.
Stories from the mission field — we have several close friends and ministry associates who are working in overseas mission situations, especially in orphanages around the world. Whenever possible, we expose our children to their testimonies and accounts of how they have seen the faithfulness of God even among the difficulties they face on a daily basis. Taking Hudson to Haiti also made a tremendous impact upon him and opened his eyes to the incredible need around the world. As our kids get older, our desire is for them to gain a lot of firsthand experience in mission situations, in order to prepare them for the poured-out lives God is calling them to!
Personal testimonies — Eric and I have become purposeful about sharing with our children the many specific ways that God has challenged us, trained us, convicted us, refined us, and shown Himself faithful in our lives. Recently I took Hudson on a special outing and told him in detail about the time I first surrendered my life to Jesus Christ. Hearing firsthand accounts of how the Gospel has changed and impacted our lives has made a significant and lasting impression upon our children and giving them a great passion for the Gospel.
Isn’t it exciting to realize that God’s plans for our children are so much bigger and better than anything we could plan for them ourselves? This week, I encourage you to pray God-sized prayers over your children’s futures, point your children toward His dreams for their lives, and then watch and see what He will do!