What were your childhood dreams? Did you want to be an astronaut? What changed your mind? How do you know if changing your mind was what God wanted for your life or if He had another plan you missed somehow?
These are extremely important questions, not only for your life, but also for the lives of your children. The God who cares enough to know the number of hairs on their head, who sent His Son to die on the cross for their sins, and who tells us multiple times in scripture He will guide their steps (Proverbs 3:5-6, Isaiah 30:21, James 1:5-6 and many, many more) – must surely care about where they go to school, whom they date and marry, their career choices and their ministry choices. Our children have free will, but how much more rich and fulfilling their lives will be if they can align their decisions with what God knows is best for them?!
So what do your kids need to know about having godly dreams? There are a lot of things they will learn as they go through the process, but here are some I have learned over the years:
- Your kids need to believe with all of their hearts that God’s Plans for their lives are always the best option – even if it doesn’t always feel like it at the time. I think of Joseph of Joseph and Mary fame. When Mary got pregnant, he was not at all sure he should go through with the marriage. God informed him that was God’s plan for him and so he married Mary. I’m sure he may have still had some doubts, but what an adventure that must have been – to be the earthly father of Jesus! Your kids need to believe God’s plans are the best for us. They need to be willing to seek God’s guidance when making decisions and “follow the bread crumbs” God provides (as we say in our house). Sometimes that may mean letting go of their own dream, at least for a time. Assure them that looking back over time, they will always find God’s dream for their life really was the best.
- Teach your children to pray often and specifically about the choices they have in life. God has made it clear in the story of the persistent widow that he is okay with us praying more than once about things that are important to us. Psalms is full of David’s prayers to God as he struggles to understand what God wants from him. Encourage your children to have long, honest conversations with God about their hopes, dreams and choices. Often just being aware they have asked God for clarity will open their eyes to the ways He is trying to guide their paths.
- Encourage them to check their dreams with scripture. I would imagine truly ungodly dreams are rare, but sometimes the dreams your children have may put them in situations that will slowly pull them away from God. They need to really check their dreams with scripture and notice any areas that may cause them problems in their faith walk. God will not lead them towards something that will cause them to sin or pull them away from Him. Help them realize Satan however make try to trick them into taking an ungodly path towards their dream. I think of the mother of a pop star who said a manager came and told them God wanted him to manage the child’s career so they could “make a lot of money”. God may bless us with money, but He has made it clear that was never to be our motivation. Encouraging an ungodly motivation should have been a strong hint, they should have run from that manager.
- Help them learn to see and accept when God opens and closes doors. A quick reading of Acts will show you the ways God opens and closes doors for His people. There are many stories where someone was planning to go somewhere or do something and God in several different ways made it clear a change of plans was necessary. Teach your children how God uses circumstances and godly people to show them the next step He wants them to take (or to not take!). Sometimes a godly journey will have a few bumps in the road because we live in a fallen world. If your child feels like he is constantly running into a major brick wall that is very painful, it may well be that God is yelling at your child to take another path. In our house, we call it following the breadcrumbs God lays down for you to follow. The more observant you are and the more you ask God for those breadcrumbs, the easier it often is to find God’s path for His dreams for you.
- Help your children learn to accept some very confusing and fuzzy views of the future. Most of us love to have a very clear roadmap of the entire journey before we start. Where am I going and how am I going to get there? Once I know that, I can relax and let that lovely GPS person tell me tiny step by step directions. Our lives are often like that of King David. God gave David hints that he would eventually become king, but then led David on a journey that must have seemed extremely confusing at times to David. Yet I’m sure God had very important reasons why David had to go through all of those things to be prepared to become a godly king. Your kids may get some sort of hint from God about where they may ultimately serve God – many of us can think back on our youth and remember that hint – but then the path may seem confusing and a little round about. I remember thinking I would end up serving God like I am currently, but I also remember the confusion when He led me to jobs in sales and marketing for several years. I couldn’t figure out how to connect those dots. Now I realize those were important skills I needed to learn and practice to be more effective in my eventual ministry. Teach your kids sometimes God has them doing things which don’t make a lot of sense in the moment but are His way of preparing them for some future task God has for them.
- Teach your children to enjoy and appreciate the journey. Full confession. I will often read the last page of a fiction book before beginning to read it. I want to make sure it has a happy ending before I invest my time and emotional energy in the book. Your kids need to understand an eternity in Heaven with God is their happy ending. If they are committed to finishing their book called a Christian life, they are guaranteed that happy ending. Just like most novels though, their story will have ups and downs – twists and turns – before they get there. Teach them to see the joy in the journey. Teach them about the excitement at watching God actively working in their lives. Teach them about the pure joy of serving God in ways that fit the unique gifts and passions God has given them. Teach them to relax as God leads them through some confusing twists and turns – while having faith God knows why those twists and turns are necessary.
- Help your children realize that if it becomes obvious their dream does not align with the dream God has for them, they need to let go of their dream and trust that God’s is ultimately better for them. I think we all experience this to some degree. Sometimes it’s giving up a childish dream. Other times it means trusting in God’s timing and being patient to wait for our dream to be fulfilled until God’s perfect timing. At other times it means doing something that may seem foolish to the world, but is obviously what God wants us to do. Refusing to let go of their selfish dreams that don’t align with God’s can cause all sorts of problems and consequences in their lives. Teach your kids to mourn if they need to, but then follow God’s path.
Giving your kids the gift of knowing how to see and follow God’s plans for their lives is such an amazing present! If you can teach them how to dream godly dreams, their lives will be so rich and fulfilling – in spite of the negative things that happen because we live in this fallen world. Starting them young will help them experience that journey much sooner and find those paths much easier than stumbling upon them much later in life. It’s definitely worth some intentional parenting on the topic!