How You Can Step off the Conveyor Belt When You Can’t Find a Switch to Stop It?

By Keith Miller | February 16, 2009

What can a Christian do when his spouse confronts him with the fact that he is so busy that: “You never have time for us any more. Sometimes I feel like a single parent.” Are there any effective ways you’ve found to remind yourself to stop and smell the flowers with your family?

Recently, after I wrote about the problems of being a husband and father when one’s calendar is loaded with trips and meetings, I jotted down some things that have been helpful tome in trying to move from the periphery toward the mainstream of your family’s ongoing life.

Years ago, when my writing and speaking career accelerated, I first started praying about trying to be a better father and husband.I made some disconcerting discoveries.In the first place I am controlled by habit to a larger extent than I realized.In certain ways I had put “other people” and “my ministry” (or business ventures) ahead of my family for so long that I did not know how to begin changing without going overboard in the other direction.

These are some of the mechanical changes I made to move back into the bloodstream of our family’s life: At the first of each year, I take my new appointment calendar and write on each family member’s birthday, “Commitment to Family.” Then I do the same thing with our wedding anniversary, and with my wife I try to plan a vacation time with the family and put it on the calendar. For a while I added a couple of random two-day “commitments” so that she and I could get away together. Later in the year, when some new project came up or someone called about a meeting that fell on one of the family’s days, I said without any hesitation, “I’m sorry, but I already have a commitment on that date.”

I remember the first time an invitation to participate in a big meeting came on one of the children’s birthdays. I was very interested in the meeting but said no. The man, who was a friend, must have sensed my hesitation, because he asked, “Why can’t you come? This is an important convention, and your witness might reach a lot of people.”

I was a little embarrassed to say that it was “my little girl’s birthday,” but I went on to tell him, “You can get half a dozen speakers in an hour, but I am the only daddy she’s got.”

He was quiet on the other end of the line for a few seconds, and I thought he had rejected me as a fool. Then he said quietly, “I wish I could do that.” And I knew I had started in the right direction.

Before that time, I had been away on three family birthdays in a row. Now, I hardly ever miss a birthday unless something comes up that seems to warrant a very special exception and we can all agree together to slide the celebration to another date.

Another thing that helped us while the children were small was to get a sitter so that my wife and I could go out of town for a day or two by ourselves once in a while. We generally went to a nearby city to avoid the expenditure of time, money, and energy required for a long trip. We checked into a hotel and relaxed. We might window-shop, read, see movies, eat quiet meals together, sleep late, and not contact people we know well.These mini-vacations without the children helped each of us know that we are being heard by the other and do something special for our relationship. This has not solved all our problems, of course, and I realize that many people cannot afford the money for this kind of “taking off.” But we have gone when we could not afford it, and somehow the sacrifice has said to us that our relationship is very important. But if traveling is out, a little creative thought may help a couple to come up with another way to find time alone away from the children.

As to specific ways one relates to a mate and children at home, that which is natural for one person will not be for another. But the thing good parents and good husbands and wives we know seem to have in common is the ability to make each member of the family feel important, and that both the woman and the man of the family are aware of each member’s needs and their accomplishments. The message I am trying to get across to my family is: “Although I am a busy person who will probably always be away from home some, each of you is very important tome. Among people, you arefirstin my life.”

There have been times when this was impossible to say, because I was mad, or anxious, or because I was off trying to participate in the building of a new kingdom for God (or for me). But I try to come back again and again and build time for my family into the fabric of my life. I do this because I love them. And I have to resort to mechanical means because it is so easy for me to avoid the responsibility of thinking of anyone but me.

I may not make as many speeches, attend as many meetings, or write as many books for Christ. But I hope I will at least have lived for Him more in my own home. There have been some horrible and excruciating failures, and Christ’s way of confession and making amends is the only hope sometimes.

For the trouble is that we are self-centered, and no effort of the self can remove the self from the centre of its own endeavour; the very effort will plant it there the more fixedly than ever. The man of science is drawn out of himself as regards one whole range of his activity by the concentration of his attention on the object of his study in his search for truth; the artist, by a similar concentration in his search for beauty; the good man, or public-spirited man, by a similar concentration in the service of his cause. But none of these cover the whole of life. Always there remains a self-centered area of life, and sometimes by a natural process of compensation those who are most selfless in the search for truth or beauty, or in public service, are most selfish, fretful and querulous at home.
William Temple, Nature, Man and God

Lord, You know how many days I cannot turn loose and be a good husband, how many times my mind is filled with visions of my work or myself. Yet I want to be Your person in our home. I love my family very much. But sometimes my behavior tells me I love what I am doing more. Help me to find a balance, so I can be free in my work and yet enjoy being the person my family needs. In Jesus’ name. Amen.

Enjoy life with the wife whom you love, all the days of your vain life which he has given you under the sun, because that is your portion in life and in your toil at which you toil under the sun. Ecclesiastes 9:9

Topics: Christian Living, Weekly Devotional | Comments Off on How You Can Step off the Conveyor Belt When You Can’t Find a Switch to Stop It?
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