We often talk about our individual destiny and it is a common theme in movies - the heroic destiny of the warrior princess or the destiny of the couple to fall in love and live happily ever after.
Of course, we can think of great heroes of the faith who have been invited to share in a God given destiny - but what circumstances around them nurtured them in accepting a God shaped destiny? Was it some obscure mystic plot woven into the fabric of time or God working one-on-one with isolated individuals? Well... no.
It's not that God doesn't break in and make himself know to individuals, but rather that he loves to work with us to be his agents of change in the world - but often we're slow to get going or need God to do something crazy to get our attention. Nearly everyone who plays a a part in scripture is connected to other human beings who have an impact on them (for good or bad). Wouldn't it be amazing if God set up a place for humans to be invested in by other humans who are amazing mentors and guides who represented God well to them.
Guess what? He has. It's called Family!
God has designed human beings to be in family (Gen 2:18, Psa 68: 6) and even when this nuclear family goes wrong God's desire is to set us back into family - in fact, that was the very first effect of the cross (check out John 19: 25-27) and indeed the church is meant to be family (check out how the early believers lived at the end of Acts 2 and Acts 4).
It is in family that we're meant to learn our destiny, not in some weird pre-determined way where our choice is taken away but in a way in which we are released and empowered to be everything that we're created to be. Here we are meant to learn from people created in the image of God that we too are created in the image of God - really this is the core of our destiny, to be God's representation here on earth - his image - his likeness - people who look like God.
But it's not just an individual thing, as a family we also realise that together we have a destiny - a distinctive flavour of being human that represents God to others and to all of creation. We never exist in isolation as humans, we always belong to families, clans, tribes and nations; all of which we are impacted by and impact upon. The proximity and intimacy of family means that this is the primary place of shared destiny and also the primary place of our personal formation to be more like Jesus. When a few families do life well together with God, clans tribes and eventually nations begin to do life well together with God.
Practical Tools for Exploring Family Destiny
Parents Blessing Children
"Abraham will surely become a great and powerful nation and through him all nations will be blessed" (Gen 18:18).
Abraham blessed Isaac, Isaac blessed Jacob, Jacob blessed his sons, the blessing passed through the generations of Israel, Jesus was born to the nation carrying blessing and he has blessed All Nations.
It is the natural order of things that parents pass on what they have received to their children. This often happens incidentally or accidentally through our genes or our habits and passions. What if we got intentional about passing on the things of the Lord?
One way to do this is to speak blessings over our children. Words are powerful, God created with words & called humans to name the animals with words demonstrating creative authority. When a believer speaks in authority things shift, diseases get healed and the powers of darkness take a hike.
Take some time to speak blessings over your children. What do you want them to receive today? This can be something simple like 'I bless you with joy today' or 'we see how wise you are and bless you with increased wisdom that will be a blessing to you friends and school this week'. When we speak blessings, we prophesy and call things into being. Make a habit of doing this regularly. Top-Tip: Rather than ask God to bless your children, bless them in the name of Jesus - model to them that you, and they, are an active agent of stewarding blessing.
Blessing isn't a one way thing. As family members we can bless each other with quick-fire one-word or one-liner blessings. Younger ones often find this easier. Lay hands on each other and popcorn away 'peace', 'joy', 'more energy today', 'funky dance moves'. This is great for getting kids into the rhythm of stewarding blessing.
The tough things of life are a reality and the whole family experiences them. It is also the whole family who has the authority to speak out against those things and usher in a kingdom alternative.
Stand in a circle, place your hands in the middle together. Identify something you want out of your family. All together, shout the name of the 'thing' and 'out' (e.g. fear, out!) and fling your hands wildly outward and away from you. Together, identify what is in the opposite spirit to what you have taken out, shout the 'kingdom alternative/opposite' and shout 'in' (e.g. love, in!) whilst shooting your arm flamboyantly back to the middle starting position.
What is in our Hands?
Make some time and space to sit down together. Grab some paper, draw round your family members' hands to give you an outline of everyone's hands. On your hands write or draw things that represent what your family 'carries'. These can be gifts and talents (sport, music, business acumen), attributes, family values (hospitality, creation care, integrity) passions (international mission, justice, politics). Initially try to identify things you all share as a family to begin with rather than for each person.
Thank God for the things he has placed in your hands and ask him to use them for His glory.
This is an oddly titled exercise but stick with it.
Ask God to show you, as a family, an animal. Maybe get the kids to do this, they are often better at hearing God in the abstract - adults have often been detrained in this. Once you've heard an animal or animals ask God to show you what it is about this animal He would like to speak to you about. For instance God may show you a penguin (as he did with our family) - as we asked about the penguin, God told us he was proud of the way we share the role of parenting like penguins. He also showed us that, like a penguin sliding down the ice into the water, we don't need to be so highly strung and forceful but rely on God's grace to move and get things done.
You can also practise hearing God's voice and sharing what you've heard for other families you know or people you meet out and about.
Family shields and crests have been used for centuries as a symbol that represents a specific family. Carve out a chunk of time or some smaller bits of time, regularly, over a period, to sit down together and design a family crest that symbolises your family. This can include...
The things God has put on your hearts as a family
Experiences (holidays, adventures, life events)
People that are important
Frame this and put it on your wall or stick it on the fridge.
You can also make alternative symbols such as a family staff, adorned with trinkets and memorabilia that tell your family story - let us know what you come up with.