I didn’t think that it would ever happen to me.
Other people had warned me of the dangers, but if I’m honest with you, I didn’t really listen to them. Call it youthful arrogance or ignorance if you want, but I simply thought that I would be “stronger” than them and not make the same mistakes. Arrogance is probably more fitting if you knew me back then…or maybe today…sanctification is REAL SLOW people.
What I didn’t realize is that this mistake wasn’t something I would see coming from a mile away. It would happen one degree it a time. It would be a small decision here, letting something slide there, and justifying each time.
What was this thing? What was this mistake?
Loving my work more than my family.
I thought I would naturally be this incredible husband and father like Jack from This is Us, but I soon learned that it takes WORK to be a good husband and father. I mean Jack is a freaking super hero who leaves water out for Rebecca at night and goes to every kid’s practice while I’m over here trying to remember to put the toilet seat down.
It was easy for me though to justify, right? I was “working for Jesus”, “doing ministry”, “changing the world” by giving all my spare time to the church and not to my family. My wife would make the sacrifice. My daughter would understand that “daddy was laying his life down for others”, right?
I was being selfish, working for my own glory, searching for the praise of man and building my kingdom. Other times it was sheer laziness. It was a lot easier doing ministry tasks than getting on the floor and playing with my little girl. It was more glorious to counsel someone who was hurting and then receive their admiration, than it was to enter into the messiness of my own marriage. The applause of ministry or work success can seem more appealing than simple faithfulness to our families, but is never as deeply fulfilling.
Yes, we ARE called to love and serve the church. We are NOT called to worship it or forfeit our family for its sake. Yes, we ARE called to work and do all things to the glory of God. We are NOT called to prioritize it above our family.
To Change the World, Love Your Family
I came across a quote attributed to Mother Theresa that I wrote in my journal one of the first days of my sabbatical. “If you want to change the world, go home and love your family”. One of my sabbatical goals was to give an inordinate amount of time to my girls. It was arguably, the best part of my time away.
If we want to truly change the world, we must not begin outside of the walls of our homes, but within them. Furthermore, if we want to change what’s happening inside our homes, we must begin within our hearts.
During our time in New York, I had the joy of getting to spend time with a man that I deeply respect. He is a pastor, entrepreneur, family man and was a chaplain for the New York Yankees for a decade. In one of our conversations he shared a story with me that I will never forget.
As a chaplain, he would serve the team and be available for the players. During one of the games of the World Series his son also had the city championship soccer match on the same night. He had a choice to make. Would he go serve in his duties as a chaplain or would he choose his son’s soccer game?
He chose the soccer game.
Then he looked straight at me and said that it was the best decision he could have made, he had no regrets and he would make the decision over again.
Scripture Calls Us to Love Our Families
God calls us to be fruitful and multiply (Gen. 1:28). This is what’s called the cultural mandate, we are called to fill the earth, subdue it and rule over it. That includes loving, leading and serving our families. We are to raise our families up in the way of the Lord (Deut. 6). One of God’s Top Ten is to honor our father and mother (Ex. 20:12). There is command after command in the OT to love our families.
The Apostle Paul also gives us an abundance of material on loving our families. He tells us that if we don’t take care of our families that we are worse than a non-believer (1 Tim. 5:8). An elder in a church must manage his household well (1 Tim. 3:4). We must love our wives as Christ loved the church (Eph. 5:25).
Scripture is commanding us to love our family. God is commanding us to love our family.
Practically Loving Your Family
I don’t have this thing figured out. I’m still fighting to learn what it means to love my family well, but these were some practical things that have helped me.
- Frequent date nights with Chels.
- Family walks when I get home.
- Going home early and not staying late.
- Cooking meals multiple times a week.
- Putting my phone away when I get home.
- Limiting my social media and time on the internet.
- Committing to being home multiple nights a week.
- Daddy-daughter dates.
- Yearly marital goals & family goals.
- Call your mom, dad, siblings & grandparents on a regular basis.
- Take time to play & create memories.
- Take your parents out to eat.
- Share holidays with extended family.
Again, these are just some of the things I’m implementing. I’m not doing them perfectly and I’m constantly tweaking to make it work, but it’s a good first step.
Look, there is no shame in busy weeks, having to stay late, traveling, working hard at our jobs and putting in the effort. I’m just saying don’t lose your family in the process.
Most people don’t get to the end of their life wishing they had worked more, but many people regret not having spent more time with their family.
I’m not saying we need to be perfect, nor am I saying that we shouldn’t try to change the world, but I am saying we should probably choose the soccer game more often than not.