Last week I wrote about my realization that I have been living a reactionary life at home, at work, and at church in a way that has prevented me from enjoying life, enjoying relationships, and pursuing excellence in all areas of my life. I received some good feedback and some questions, so I thought I would elaborate on each of those areas as I seek to be proactive in the coming year.
One of the most common things I’ve seen in my life and others is getting to the end of the week and feeling like every night of the past week and the coming week is full, feeling overwhelmed and overcommitted. It’s the result of saying yes to invitations without setting any aim for how you would want to spend your weeks. Maybe you want to be busy every night, but not by doing the things you have committed too, maybe you want to see a date night become a weekly reality, maybe you want to see a night of rest and relaxation happen.
The reality is you won’t see any of it happen unless you set out to plan your week and your month. What’s funny about this is scheduling is natural for work, but somehow doesn’t transfer to the home.
We love having people in our home as often as possible since we desire to be hospitable, to build community where people are cared for and invited to be a part of our family life. We also have 3 kids who we desire to have a great relationship with through fun evenings and now we have a kindergartener with homework.
Juggling all of these without a schedule isn’t something we do well, but luckily I have an amazing wife who likes to organize/create a color-coded calendar (I use Google Calendar, but she prefers less technology), but we’ve added to this recently a general daily schedule that reminds us of our family goals in displaying Christ to our kids, to our friends, and to our neighbors through a healthy home life. We by no means stick to it by the minute and feel the freedom to shift things around depending on the day, but it provides a guide for us that, so far is enabling our family to thrive more than the reactionary life.
Somewhere along the line, pre-marital classes became the beginning and end of working on your marriage, as if it were a college class that certified you to have a good marriage. The benefit of pre-marital classes and counseling is being forced to discuss and work through potential troubles, but all too often they become one-and-done conversations instead of the foundation of a pattern of communication in your marriage. Then you get married and try to merge two lives into one way of living and become surprised when it isn’t natural and easy because you have that pre-marital class certificate that said you were ready.
I continue to learn that cultivating a healthy marriage is a continual process, that a healthy marriage is what enables me to thrive in every area of my life. But if I only give it attention when something is wrong or a disagreement occurs, I’m only trying to maintain a relationship that was made to evolve and grow over time. Amber and I have a great relationship, but I want it to continue to grow, to thrive, and to be even stronger than ever.
Moving to be proactive has led me to create more date nights, which for us means seeking out more generous babysitting (read: we pay with food) earlier to plan for the month. I’ve set a reminder on my phone to daily set aside time to consider how I’m caring for my wife and cultivating my marriage. We are cultivating as close to nightly a routine as possible of sitting together to connect.
Luckily there are a slew of new books on marriage to continue the discussion together with Mark Driscoll’s Real Marriage, Tim Keller’s The Meaning of Marriage, and Tim Chester’s Gospel-Centered Marriage (cheesy cover included for free).
Just like any new habit, it takes time and can be challenging, but the rewards of joy are worth it.
There have been times in my reactionary life where I’ve felt like I’ve spent the whole day correcting or disciplining or trying to overcome a meltdown of one of my kids. I felt like I never got ahead of them and they won that day exhausting me and bringing out my oh so many flaws.
In addition, every child is uniquely designed to thrive in certain ways, to learn in certain ways, and it is a never-ending task of parenting to know your child and pursue their holistic well-being.
In early December it hit me that no one is waiting around to teach me to be a great dad or even a great husband. Plenty of people would love to cultivate a great leader or invest in a pastor’s ministry, but becoming a great father and husband has been left for me to figure out. I had been waiting to react to someone else initiating those conversations with me, but sensed God convicting me to pursue it as hard as I pursue ministry.
So I started googling children’s ministry curriculum for the home, asking friends what they do to teach and empower their children to know Jesus, and how they seek to enable their kids to thrive in what they were designed to excel in.
I found sojournkids.com, which pointed me to a number of great resources, our friends in youth ministry pointed us to Southern Seminary’s Connecting Church & Home Conference audio (I’ve listened to the first session twice) and it’s been amazing. It is really just the beginning as I’ve read What Fathers Should Teach Their Sons by Glenn Brooke and pre-ordered What Every Man Wishes His Father Had Told Him.
Capturing a vision and a hope for having a healthy, proactive home life has been incredibly empowering for me and it excites me for the coming year. My hope, and I would certainly welcome your prayers, is to see my family blessed and each member of my family thriving in their love for the Lord and for others at the end of this year as a result of being proactive instead or reactive at home.