I have heard much talk recently about prioritizing "kingdom" work and family time. What should reign supreme in our lives, who should come first, etc. And as I have been chewing on this I have been convicted. Ironically, my conviction has come in the opposite form of what was intended. I am not guilty of putting my family before ministry, I am guilty of the reverse.
I am guilty of putting tasks that others are capable of doing over the one job on this earth that only I can do. Anyone can organize a church potluck. Anyone can head up a new program. Anyone can counsel with a struggling youth. Anyone can teach a Sunday School class. Anyone can serve in a church building.
But I am THE ONLY ONE on this earth who can be a mother to my children.
And I am THE ONLY ONE on this earth who can be a wife to my husband.
Grasping that little nugget has put a lot of things into perspective for me. And as my husband readied himself for a long day and left the house this morning, and I lay in our warm bed with still a few hours left to snore, it occurred to me that while I have struggled with this, he seems to have figured it out. It took me by surprise when I sat at t-ball practice a few weeks ago by myself and my husband showed up. He had left work early to come and watch our son run around a field acting like a crazy man. What motivated him to do that, I wondered. Could it be because every father was once a son, and a son knows, better than any one, what it means to be a great dad?
Days after that practice I attended a funeral for the father of a dear friend. I had never met him, but from the funeral a few things were apparent. One was that he loved God, and the other was that he loved his family. One of his sons stood up to share about his father, and one of the most heartfelt remarks that he made was that in all the years he couldn't think of a single ballgame that his father had missed. What he didn't say was that he couldn't think of a single church program that his father hadn't attended and served in, nor did he comment on how faithfully his dad attended church work days or the like. What stood out to this son, was his father's commitment to him. He had know question of his dad's love for him, and I wonder if his own understanding of God's love didn't flow from that. I would be willing to bet that it did.
So much to ponder, as I sit here listening to my boys discussing the magical happening that is "snacks" at church, I wonder how many times I have hurried off to tend to "kingdom work" when I should have been here serving on this mission field that is my home. My family. Filling the shoes that only I can fill.
There is balance in this, as in all things. Of course we are not exempt, nor forbidden, from ministry work, and that is not what I am saying. But I tend to be an all or nothing kind of person. I don't like to simply wade in the shallow end, I like to dive head first and fully submerge myself in the waters of whatever I'm doing, and that works a little like quicksand. Once you're involved in one area of ministry you begin to see how much more effective ministry on the whole would be if all areas would work together in synchronicity. And so you start to pull threads from other areas and try to weave it all together, and soon you're all knotted up. I think this comes, in part, from limited resources. As is so often the case, there tends to be only a few who are really engaged in service, and rather than delegating things out it becomes easier to just do it yourself. A monster results.
As I type this, the pendulum has swung from one extreme to the other, and I am completely untied from all things. And so I will, soon, begin to seek a way to serve, but I will do so with a renewed sense of perspective. Why am I doing this, and what am I sacrificing in the process? I will be honest with you, for fathers and mothers who have kids at home, in this delicate season of life when we are trying to be effective parents and raise effective human beings, I feel the biggest chunk of our ministry work should take place at home, as we pour into the lives of our children and our spouse. Every thing else is bonus, and should be carefully weighed against the sacrifice of precious family time. Because in the end, there will always be a Sunday School class to teach, a program to serve in, a struggling person to counsel, a bible study to attend, and a potluck to organize, and yes, a blog to write, but we only have one shot with our kids. One chance to raise them.
You are the only mother or father your children have, and the only husband or wife to your spouse, cherish that, above all else.
There is a recurring dream that I've had for as long as I can remember. The scenario changes, sometimes I'm young, other times I'm old, sometimes I'm trying to get to something and others away from something. But what remains the same is that I never make any progress. Not forward at least. In the dreams when I try to move forward I begin to float upwards instead. The harder I try to run, the more frantic and desperate I become to move ahead, the higher I float. It is extremely frustrating, because once my feet leave the ground I am helpless, unable to navigate in any direction, all I can do is steady myself until I float back down. And every time, when my feet are once again firmly planted on the ground I try to run. And up I go.
I hate these dreams. I have them often, and they have become the bane of my unconscious existence. They represent a struggle that I never seem to make any progress through. I can gain no more ground in them today than I could twenty years ago. As crazy as it may sound, I would prefer a nightmare. At least when I'm being hunted by a shark or when Freddy Krueger is coming out of my toilet, there is some hope for escape. But when I'm floating, there is none.
It was in that room that I first picked up our family story bible and resolved to read the entire thing. I gave up after Jonah, deciding the author had just copied the Pinocchio story and threw in some god stuff to make it sound bible-y. Later I decided I would just start in Genesis and go through it, King James style. Once I got to Leviticus and determined that eating bacon meant I had to slaughter a baby animal I bowed out again. By the time I left that little room and went out into the great big world I was pretty darn sure that if there was a great big god sitting on a throne in the sky he would find me, though the possibility seemed slight.
We began to talk about the things we have, how much we have, and how little others kids do. We talked about food, water, roofs, warm beds, and after several minutes my inquisitive son looked at me and said, "Mom, if God gives us those things, why won't he just give them to the other kids, too?" He then began to hatch a plan that involved Mr. Incredible and a team of random characters who would band together to distribute necessary essentials (including a copy of "Cars") to all of the children of the world. It was a good plan, and I was proud, but he still wasn't satisfied.
There are few people in this world that I regard as highly as my sweet Gramma, so when Rachel Held Evans hosted her Woman of Valor contest several months ago I knew who I wanted to write about. I am honored today to have my essay shared on her site. Please go check it out, and while you're there look around a little. If you don't read her blog you need to. It's good stuff. So, back to Gramma...