If I could break up the clouds and have a bird’s eye view of my life, what would I see? What type of things would I find repeated? What would stand out against the landscape of my ordinary life? Often my eyes are clouded by what is directly in front of me. Therefore, it is good to step back and observe what I am giving my time and attention to.
I have been a tad reflective lately. Having sent my oldest son off to college has me thinking. As a mom, I want so many things for him. You too probably have a mental list of things you hope for yourself this school year — to pass your classes, to get an internship, keep your loans down, have good friendships, build your resume or to work hard in order to have a meaningful or successful job. There is a world of possibilities out there for giving our attention and focus — maybe too many possibilities. I know I am feeling that pressure. If you are a student and have finished the first few weeks, you definitely feel the pressure. If I did have a bird’s eye view, there are a few things I would want to stand out more prominently than anything else in the landscape of my life. As for my son, it really boils down to one thing: I want my son to have things that will help him to flourish as a person during his years in college. What about you? If you stood back and had a bird’s eye view, what kind of things would be most noticeable? What would you find to be the “sky scrapers” and “land markers” in your landscape– that point out what is most important to you?
We each are at different points, different places in life, but one thing we probably all have in common is that we hope for things to end better off than where we started (or at least have the fewest bumps in the road along the way). No matter how you are feeling at this moment the following three questions should help guide you to having a year that is marked by growth– one that is flourishing. Even if you are not in school, these three questions will help to facilitate growth and help to give focus during the coming months.
The Three questions
- What would it look like for you to “flourish” this year?
- What are habits or patterns you want to establish now that will help you to flourish in the years to come?
- How are you going to take steps of faith to make Christ known?
Question 1: What would it look like for you to flourish this year?
A Few Signs of Flourishing
Not what others think, but what do you think it would look like for you to flourish this year– so that you would be able to stop and say, “I think I am growing as a person.” Take a minute to think about this. Here are a just couple of thoughts on what it might look like to see “flourishing” in our life.
I just returned from a trip to visit my sister in Florida. One thing that always surprises me (and I have been to Florida countless times) is the lush and diverse plant life. Plants seem to grow quickly and spread rapidly, unlike in my dry, hot Texas climate. Plants flourish there. One way to know we are flourishing is, not only do we see personal growth in our character, but that we are “multiplying” just as these plants do. Let me explain. We find ourself growing in our concern for others. We notice steps from selfishness (things just being about us, our goals, our time, etc) to selflessness (growing in putting God’s ways and others needs before our own). We desire, even in a small way, to be apart of God’s mission and what is on His heart. God continually demonstrates His love (and always has), as a giving God. He demonstrated His ongoing love, as Christ gave His life for us. A sign that we are flourishing is that we are becoming a person that is positively influencing, impacting and loving others (multiplying and spreading)– pointing them to Christ and overflowing Christ to them.
A flourishing person– God’s love is reflected from them and seeks to bless others.
The love of Christ
I do have some plants in my backyard that are doing really well– with tall stems and bright purple flowers. They love the sun and the heat; so this is still the perfect season for them! At one point during the winter, they didn’t look so good, for we had unusually low temperatures. Unfortunately, they were cut way back by the harsh cold temperatures. However, this summer I discovered this “cutting back” was the very thing they needed. They became thicker, stronger, and taller, with more blooms. Sometimes flourishing comes with a cost and usually is not void of pain and disappointment. This of course, is the very thing we try to avoid because it feels contrary to our feelings and desires. Difficulties in the landscape of our life are not necessarily a sign that we are not flourishing, but may be the very thing that causes flourishing. Pain becomes a stepping-stone to growth. The hope is, that whether there are difficulties or not, our lives our growing and becoming more like Christ. The pain can press us into experiencing the love of Christ more deeply AND can be used to point and show others the love of Christ.
A flourishing person– is growing in the love of Christ.
Roadblock to Flourishing
Let us step back. Another way to say this: a “flourishing life” is one that is abundant. To flourish is to have a full life. Let this sink in-
Jesus said, “I came that they may have life, and might have it abundantly.” John 10:10
And,“These things I have spoken to you so that my joy may be in you, and that your joy may be full.” John 15:11
In so many different ways Jesus said this– that He gives full life and life is in Him. Naturally, we will look for life in other things. In other words, He (not following a list, being good or successful) is the source of life. A flourishing life is found in Him. He is the one that produces growth. He is the source that sustains and produces His fruit in painful seasons. He is the One that causes our lives to overflow and spread the love of Christ,
Life in other things
If someone did get a bird’s eye view of your life and the way you spent your time, what would they find standing out? What would they say is predominant? A roadblock to flourishing is often looking for “life” (sometimes unknowingly) in other things. These are often the “skyscrapers” in our landscape– building the good resume, working longer hours, filling our schedule to the max, having the right amount of money, seeking approval, seeking an easier life, the right activities, being seen as successful, the kids doing well, etc. We may feel like we are flourishing if these all line up. If the grades, reputation, activities, relationships are in order than we may mistake this for flourishing. We can even look at others lives from the outside, and think they are doing well– when everything is insecure and falling apart in the inside. Yet, a flourishing life is not found in those things. I have to remind myself that life is in Christ. When things are rough- I can still have life in Christ. True life will not be found in a well-managed schedule, one more activity or by everyday successes. Life is Christ.
A roadblock to a flourishing life– finding life in other things, beside Christ.
Preserving my life
After my junior in college I found myself studying the book of Colossians when I landed in Colossians 3. My life had already taken a major shift in direction after going overseas on a summer mission project, but somehow, some way God used a few sentences to alter the direction of my life.
Set your mind on the things above, not on the things that are on the earth. For you have died and your life is hidden with Christ in God. Colossians 3:2,3
I was doing good things, and desired to live an abundant life in the years ahead. Yet, I realized I was playing it safe. I was still trying to have “life” in a safe, nice acceptable life on earth. I wanted it to be manageable, predictable, and certain– basically, a life I wasn’t going to have to completely trust Christ with. I wanted a career in which I could see where it was going and how it was going to turn out. I had my plan. It wasn’t that my thoughts were completely on the earth– but I realized I needed to set my sights completely on the things above. Jesus also said that if we lose our life we gain life in the end. He was not calling me to preserve my life, but to lose it in Him. Soon I discovered that the major roadblock to a flourishing life is trying to preserve my life.
Roadblock to a flourishing life– trying to preserve my life
The Bird’s Eye View
Take some time to step back and try to get a birds eye view. Recently I was in a plane and I had a good view of the land as we were descending. There were grassy squares, marked off by roads, tiny cars, water, a house here and there. But the one thing that really stuck out to me was the lakes. In one area, a larger lake dominated my view.
Becoming a flourishing person is one thing that sticks out that needs to dominate my view. Specifically, the “sky scrapers” are finding true life in Christ, not our successes or activities. It is finding our life caught up in multiplying and blessing. It is a life reflecting Christ increasingly, as I grow in the love of Christ. If I do this, I will find my life flourishing. Christ as my life, is the abundant life.
Just some thoughts:
- Your schedule reflects your values. If you had a birds eye view of your schedule what would be predominant?
- Do you have time set aside to develop close community? In our CRU Gatherings, we have purposely tried to build more connection. We need to be built into so that we can build into others.
- Do you have regular time in God’s word?
- Do you desire to engage with others about life in Christ? Are you willing and teachable to grow in this?
Yes, I want my son to flourish while he is at college this year. I too want to flourish. Instead of being overwhelmed and caught up in so many things, I want to find myself at the end of the school year continuing to find full life in Christ– that my life is fuller and overflowing because of Him. That would be a flourishing year for me. True Flourishing is found in Christ.
Continue reading, Question 2: Habits and Patterns that pay dividends in the years to come…
Overflow: allowing God’s ways to touch our lives and then our lives to pour out to others
- Where are you finding life?
- Look at your schedule. Does it reflect what your really value?
- What steps can you take to become an overflowing person?