I slipped into his room late one evening to give him a goodnight snuggle only to find him wide awake snuggled under the covers. “Hey Dad!” my 12 year old said. “Tonight was our date night! You forgot!” Has it happened to you yet? In the midst of the holiday sales and the eggnog latté’s the dashing and the prancing for a place in line at Denny’s after a long night of shopping for the perfect gift? Have you forgotten the most important thing God has entrusted to you? It’s the gift of our family and those we love. It had been weeks since my wife and I had a date together, just the two of us. I knew things needed to change and fast.
We set out to meet our work and family goals and somehow in the midst of all the holiday rushing, we forget that waiting at home is that young boy waiting to play catch, that teenage girl who needs to talk about boys or that spouse that needs to be treated with all the attention we gave them back in the spring when things were moving at a slower pace. Why does it happen? Why do we feel like we need run so hard during the holidays?
Recently, over a cup of coffee with a friend, in-between the sips of Starbucks and the glint of the bright sunshine, the truth about his family came out. The friend I was meeting with told me the real story of where things were with his work. You see, his work as a leader was doing great, it was his family that was suffering.
Nobel Prize winning Harvard biologist Dr. George Wald has some thoughts: “What one really needs is not the Nobel laureates but love. How do you think one gets to be a Nobel laureate? Wanting love, that’s how. Wanting it so bad one works all the time and ends up a Nobel laureate. It’s a consolation prize. What matters is love.”
If we were sitting at that Starbucks near your house and talking over our day, would you allow me a pretty personal question? What’s the Nobel Prize you’re striving for? Is it possible that the prize you’re striving for has edged out your precious family?
Well, before the Starbucks gets cold and we’ve both gotta run, if it’s time for a bit of a life re-balancing, here are ten ideas to help you get back on track. Got a pen? Jot em down on your napkin.
- Get your family together and craft a family mission statement. It’s just as important to be intentional as a family as it is to do so where you work. We wanted our family to be on the same page as to why we were here on earth. Need a head start? Here’s ours. “Our family is going through life’s journey together, growing roots in Christ and wings for our mission, becoming equipped to make a difference in our world by learning to live like Jesus, for Jesus and in Jesus.“
- Carve out time for your family each week…in advance. Put it on your calendar. Stop saying you have got to get ‘one more thing done’ before you leave for home.
- Jettison things from your schedule that aren’t important. March to the mission that Jesus called you to, not the mission that others want you to do for them. Be ruthless here!
- If your work situation requires constant excessive hours to get the job done, it’s time to evaluate other ways to accomplish the task. You can’t accomplish the mission of the organization single-handedly! Pray for supernatural results throughout your day, then go home and be a minister to your main mission field, your family.
- If you’re a leader of others, have people actually write into their job descriptions the need to be committed to their family and specifically how they will be do this.
- Develop an activity together with your family as a whole and or with individual family members; maybe it’s hiking, a date at Denny’s for breakfast on Saturday or coffee with your spouse.
- Create a spiritual ‘life development plan’ for each of your kids outlining their strengths, areas for improvement and your plans to shape them as they grow up under your care. Our children are arrows that are being sent to a world that we will never fully see. It’s our job to shape them into arrows that will travel the distance to the kingdom target that God has intended for them.
- Schedule a date night of at least an hour once a week with each child or your spouse where you just focus on them. It doesn’t have to be expensive, time alone is the critical ingredient here.
- When you’re traveling, send email or a postcard back to your family. Pray with them on the phone in addition to chatting.
- At the end of a day, ask your kids or spouse these three questions…’What happened today that you’re proud of ?’ ‘What happened today that you wish you could do over?’ ‘Where did you see God in your day today?’
OK, just one more question…If you asked your children to share words that define your parenting, or if your spouse was reviewing your life at your funeral service, what words would they use? If you’re not happy with what words are echoing around in your head, it’s time to make some changes. I love how Eugene Petersen in The Message puts it, “Exploit or abuse your family, and end up with a fistful of air…” (Proverbs 11:29). When my work years have come to an end and the castles of my work stand tall and strong, I want to be holding more than air, don’t you?
“Hey Dad! I passed!” said my 15 year old girl. You see, I’m writing this morning from the Department of Motor Vehicles waiting room where I came with my daughter to get her driving permit. Some days you just can’t get to ‘balance’ so lately I’ve been working on “integration” – aren’t laptops great? As my daughter and I celebrated her passing the test with a big hug in the lobby, I was glad I’d decided the to-do list at work could wait. The memory of this morning with her will last forever, and I think we’ll celebrate with a long, slow eggnog latte.