We all have hopes and dreams for our children! In fact, many of us start dreaming about their futures while our children are still growing and developing in the womb. God surprised me with our first child. I had never given much thought to children or parenting until that moment. After my first positive pregnancy test, and after I stopped shaking, I started imagining what my child would be like. I also began to brainstorm plans and strategies to help shape my child’s life. How would we raise a child who would flourish?
As a youth pastors’ wife, I had seen many young people who achieved great things, but had no passion for God or His church. I had also seen teens making choices to fully follow Jesus in spite of the cost; leaving behind the achievement of what others called success. Then there were the ones who encountered great personal tragedies. Some of these teen’s lives fell apart: but others pressed forward into intimacy with God and flourished. I observed the parents of these young people and was determined to discover the common factor in raising children who would actually passionately follow Jesus and would experience a full and satisfying life in spite of all of the bumps, bruises and wounding that would most certainly take place. After all, now I had a very personal stake in this whole parenting business.
So what does it look like for our children to flourish?
- Be good and responsible and follow all the rules?
- Be successful in school?
- Be liked by other children?
- Be attractive?
- Be talented enough to get a college scholarship?
- Be emotionally and physically healthy?
- Get married and have a family?
I think most of us would not identify any of those descriptors as primary goals for our children, mistakenly believing that the realization of these goals leads to flourishing. Sadly though, I have been the parent who is anxious over my child’s failure to achieve them. So what is it that I’m really hoping for, dreaming of and prioritizing?
I really like the Wikipedia definition of flourishing: “In positive psychology flourishing is living within an optimal range of human functioning, one that connotes goodness, generosity, growth and resilience. Flourishing is the opposite of both pathology and languishing which are described as living a life that feels hollow and empty.”
This definition sounds strangely to me like Jesus’ dreams for us: “I have come that they might have life and have it abundantly,” (John 10:10). The word in Greek that describes this life that Jesus is talking about is not the word for biological life. This word refers to a beautiful, eternal kind of life that we can access here and now and ultimately, eternally. Jesus’ dream for us, and for our children, is that we experience a full and satisfying life in communion with God. He came to restore the life originally intended for us when God breathed life into the first human in the Garden of Eden.
The first man and woman were made in God’s image, His glory displayed through them. St. Irenaeus makes this statement describing God’s dreams for us: “The glory of God is man fully alive.” Flourishing means living a life fully alive, fully satisfied, in full union and communion with God.
We hope and dream for our children to flourish and we want them to fully experience the life that Jesus came to offer us. But how? Together, through our workshop, blogs and podcasts, our passion is helping you to guide your children into a life that flourishes.
Linda Noble is a parent, mentor, educator and curriculum writer in Southern California. She and Linda Stewart, a friend and former coworker, joined forces to create THE conversation to meet a need previously unmet.