Do you wonder what you’re accomplishing when you have to cajole and cheerlead your kids through their homework each night?
Or how about getting up at the crack of dawn to play air-traffic controller for the morning routine—packing lunches, making sure they’re getting up and dressed, getting some breakfast in them, and getting them to the bus on time?
If you’re a homeschool parent, multiply these daily responsibilities by a lot.
Os Guinness explains that serving our families is a secondary calling after our first call, which is to God himself. In addition to our call to family, other secondary callings are to church, community, and vocation. For many, caring for our families is also a primary component of our vocation.
What is the purpose of the family? God’s design and desire for his creation are that it flourish and experience abundance, albeit imperfectly in a fallen world:
God blessed the first family, Adam and Eve, and said to them,
Be fruitful and increase in number; fill the earth and subdue it. Rule over the fish in the sea and the birds in the sky and over every living creature that moves on the ground (Gen. 1:28).
Today I want to look at the relationship between fulfilling our call to the family and flourishing.
Love and Flourishing
A recent NPR interview with D.C. Public Schools Chancellor Antwan Wilson titled “What’s Love Got to Do With Student Success? Everything Says D.C.’s Schools Chancellor,” would seem to point to a connection between family and flourishing.
Wilson is on a mission to have all K-2nd grade DCPS students reading on or above grade level in five years and increase graduation rates from 69 percent to 85 percent. DCPS’s stated vision in its A Capital Commitment Strategic Plan 2017-2022 is that:
Every student feels loved, challenged, and prepared to positively influence society and thrive in life.
The shift in focus this year is toward social and emotional learning in order to “[coach] students on how to handle their emotions so they come to class ready to learn,” according to the NPR article. Part of their strategic plan will include efforts to get families and the community more involved in the children’s learning. The new initiative suggests that where parent engagement in a child’s life is diminished, for whatever reason, academic outcomes for kids are also diminished.
Real Life, Real Families
A few years ago, PBS featured 180 Days: A Year Inside an American High School, which was a snapshot of the 2011-2012 administration, teachers, and some students of DC Metropolitan High School over the course of the school year. This is one of many DC public schools that had been tagged as not making “adequate yearly progress” under No Child Left Behind.
The principal and staff are enthusiastic and motivated to be there. The students are loved on and welcomed back warmly on the first day of school. The school facility is sparkling and new looking.
But half-way into the school year, all of the already small basketball team is ineligible to keep playing because of their failing grades due largely to attendance issues. We already know that one of those players has lost a mother to breast cancer and his father is absent. He and his siblings are raising themselves. He recognizes that he needs to get his grades up to keep playing basketball. He remembers how his mom and grandma used to push him to make good grades.
After an audit that reveals attendance is down and that their budget will be cut for the next year, the principal remarks:
When you have a school that deals with students who never come to school, you have to have certain resources or make provisions so that those kids will eventually come to school…at the end of the day it’s viewed as the leader’s [principal’s] fault if you can’t get the kids in the school.
All this to say, are we asking schools to do something families are supposed to be doing?
When the family is struggling, it is harder for the members to flourish in school and in life. Even a school equipped with a decent facility and a qualified and caring faculty can’t make up for a supportive, engaged family.
God’s Plan for Family as a Conduit for Flourishing
God has a clear plan for the family to be a foundational part of the flourishing of his people. We hear this in the cultural mandate (Gen. 1:28), in God’s instruction through Jeremiah to the Hebrews in exile in Babylon, and in Paul’s exhortations to the Ephesians:
Build houses and settle down; plant gardens and eat what they produce. Marry and have sons and daughters… Increase in number there; do not decrease. Also, seek the peace and prosperity of the city to which I have carried you into exile. Pray to the Lord for it, because if it prospers, you too will prosper (Jer. 29:5-7).
Children, obey your parents in the Lord, for this is right. “Honor your father and mother”—which is the first commandment with a promise— “so that it may go well with you and that you may enjoy long life on the earth” (Eph. 6:1-3).
IFWE theologian Art Lindsley speaks to the importance of family in a child’s ability to flourish:
…parents’ love and instruction should lead children to reach their full potential…Both teaching and discipline are for the child’s good, to keep them from harm.
And Lizzie Moyer has reflected on the perfect flourishing or shalom that God established in the Garden of Eden, between Adam and Eve, our first family:
God created family in the very beginning before sin entered the world. The original peace and flourishing that was present in the Garden of Eden—shalom—included the relationship between Adam and Eve.
For certain, we are not in Eden anymore. No family is perfect, and brokenness and sin mar even flourishing families and diminish God’s original blueprint. Even when family relationships aren’t broken, we still inwardly groan over the monotony and thanklessness of serving difficult family members or constantly having to guide or redirect our children.
But family is part of our calling. Being faithful to this calling and attending to the details of family life—loving, supporting, reminding, guiding, listening, disciplining, forgiving, helping, and just plain being there—matters. When we don’t attend to these things or when our ability to do these things is impaired, flourishing doesn’t happen.
For this reason, we need to refocus on family—to restoring that basic building block of society and means of flourishing.
And committing to families, our own and others, reveals the great love and plan of our Father for his relationship with us—his children—and, in fact, with all of creation: restoration.
Editor’s Note: Help the children in your life learn more about God’s calling in Understanding God’s Calling, a high school homeschool curriculum suitable for a variety of audiences.
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