Chapter 4 from my book Deeper More Meaningful Life:
In a world that is over-committed and under-connected we must fight for quality family time. This fight is a Biblical fight to honor God and to honor your family above other things and above yourself. It’s amazing what God makes happen for us when we make things happen for others. The pursuit of happiness tends to be about how I can spend my time working at being happy. The pursuit of blessedness tends to be about how I can spend my time investing in and blessing others. Somehow the pursuit of blessedness achieves for me what the pursuit of happiness never could.
Rom 12:10 Be devoted to one another in brotherly love. Honor one another above yourselves. NIV
Interestingly the Greek word that translates, “honor” is actually spelled “time” in the Greek language. There is no greater priority we can assign to others than the assignment of our time. Money is a resource that can be replenished if spent foolishly. Once our time is spent it’s gone and is no longer recoverable. We are allotted a certain number of years, months, weeks, days, hours, minutes and seconds and then our lives on this earth are finished!
To honor God and to honor my family I resolved that I would devote myself to embrace every season of life wholeheartedly to the best of my ability. It takes discipline not to merely rush through one season of life with another season in mind. Each season is a purposed time from God to be honored, appreciated, valued and embraced.
After twenty-three years of marriage the time had come. We’d been faithfully saving and now Tracy and I were ready to build our dream home. We’d been searching for a few years and finally gave up on buying so we were building. Our two girls were almost in their teens and we wanted them to have wonderful memories in their home before moving away to college. We discovered a wonderful two-acre lot that was heavily wooded. It was settled; this was the spot! We were introduced to a man who could clear the area for the pad of the house and his work began. I stood taking video of the first tree that fell. Excitement filled the car as we drove away leaving him to his work. It would be about six hours later I received the call voicing confusion about the task.
Driving my daughters back out to the lot we saw that much work had been accomplished. The lot looked terribly different now with a huge pile of trees at one end. As the discussion began my heart started racing and I could feel the emotion begin to rise like a volcano ready to erupt. What?! Are you serious?! Somehow the man got turned around and instead of clearing the lot so the house would face to the North, he cleared the lot so the house would face to the West. My emotional gaskets blew as I was standing there processing the money wasted and the dream destroyed.
Ultimately it would all work out, but at that moment I didn’t know this and my emotions were running high. I went to bed that night feeling terrible about myself. The next morning I woke up and the Holy Spirit gently spoke to me that I needed to move from the task of building a house to the experience of building a home with my family as part of our life experience together.
That week I bought a chainsaw. Every family member was issued a pair of work gloves. We went out to cut limbs knowing we’d not make a hint of a dent but we did it for the homebuilding memory as a family. Taking the time to enjoy the journey is a very important part of life. It’s not just spending time in the same vicinity but it’s being disciplined to invest quality time focused on the people God has entrusted to our care in an engaged and deliberate fashion.
There really is a difference between merely making a living and truly making a life.
Every year, as a Pastor, I stand with many couples who are devoting their lives together in marriage. The progression is always the same. With great excitement and enthusiasm the young couple gets engaged. Tension and pressure begins to mount as the day draws near and the total focus tends to be the wedding ceremony. My responsibility is to bring their focus and attention beyond preparing for the wedding to what it takes to prepare for the marriage.
The preparation is rigorous because marriage takes work. The wedding immediately captivates the focus of everybody surrounding the newly engaged couple. The problem is that the wedding will come and go and it’s the marriage that must remain. My premarital counseling requires young couples to read four books with meetings after the book assignments are complete. We write a mission statement, work on a budget, discuss effective communication, talk about where to spend Thanksgiving and Christmas, how many children will come about when, who cleans, who cooks and what intimacy is really all about in the relationship.
It takes time to effectively plan for something as meaningful as abundant life. If we’re not careful we grow distracted from meaningful investments. God is always stretching us into a deeper, more meaningful plan that is filled with eternal significance. Today really isn’t about today. My life isn’t even about my life. An honorable life is a life that invests time in purposes beyond simply getting all “I want” out of “my life.”
Living purposefully takes us from merely spending time to truly investing it. Our job is what we’re paid to do but our work is what we’re born to do. It’s easy to get locked into the vicious cycle of earning, spending, eating and sleeping. The spending medicates the disappointment resulting from a lack of purpose, which requires us to work harder to earn more. Before we know it we’ve lost ourselves in meaningless existence where time and money just passes by and slips away.
There is a very well known adage, “Time flies when you’re having fun.” Our culture has become so entertainment central that it’s no wonder life is so fleeting. Adolescence is now extended well beyond the teen years as corporations have successfully developed the art of servicing “kidults.” Adults who are held hostage with childhood interests make great customers and easy prey to profit-pursuing companies who gladly keep you entertained and self-absorbed. This keeps you spending your money and your time “having fun”.
We carry in our pockets, in the shape of a phone, the potential capacity to waste our entire lives. So many men and women well into their twenties are nowhere near ready to live responsibly, invest in a marriage or inspire children to live deeper, more meaningful lives. QUOTED STAT REGARDING the average high school student, by the time they graduate from high school, will have spent more time watching television than attending school. The average single guy, depending upon what survey you believe, spends between three and four hours a day playing video games.
Our culture has become so obsessed with being entertained that it’s no wonder life is so fleeting. Just because fast food fills your stomach doesn’t mean it’s nourishing your body. We are a generation that knows how to be served well. Unfortunately the key to a deeper, more meaningful life has more to do with serving others than it does with having people serve us. The problem with the rat race is whoever wins is still just a rat!
Every life ends with the same conclusion. There are always two dates and a dash. The dash gets very little attention, as the beginning and the end seem to be the focus. It’s interesting how this resembles our lives. There is a lot of attention at the beginning and again at the end. Only those who are closest to us through the years of our lives know what that dash really stood for. Those years mattered!
The problem is that the “dash” explains how we tend to live those years. We dash here and we dash there. We dash everywhere rushing through the days of our pressurized lives! One day I noticed a continual command I gave to my six and seven year old daughters. Over one of our weekly family meals I shared how I was no longer going to say, “Hurry up!” I was amazed at how challenging this was.
When I needed to get the family moving toward the car to be on time I would start to say the forbidden phrase. Suddenly I would catch myself and would rework the phrase to communicate the same thing only using different terminology. Then I began to realize just how deeply rooted our rushed lives are with subtle messages everywhere. To lose weight you can buy slim fast. When you need a forgotten grocery item you can stop at a Quick Mart. There are ten-minute tans, Federal Express and you can even swim in a Speedo!
The message is constant and our minds are conditioned to rush through life. Life is better when we slow down and take the time to remember that what we are doing is not as important as who were doing it with. Jesus was the most important man who ever lived on the planet yet he was never in a rush. I find it interesting that many of his miracles took place as a result of interruptions. Walking through a crushing crowd a woman with an issue of blood touched his garment. His response was to stop everything and cooperate with the priorities of God the Father. Teaching in a packed building some men cut a hole in the roof to lower their friend into the meeting.
An experiment was conducted with students at Princeton Theological Seminary. Students were informed that they would be recorded when speaking on an assigned topic in another building. On the pathway they would walk the students encountered a “victim” slumped in a doorway. Half of the students were assigned to talk on the Good Samaritan Parable. Some were told they were late and should hurry; some were told they had just enough time to get to the recording room; and some were told they would arrive early.
The variable that made a difference was how much of a hurry they were in. 63% of those who were in no hurry stopped to help, 45% of those in a moderate hurry stopped, and 10% of those that were in a great hurry stopped. It made no difference whether the students were assigned to talk on the Good Samaritan Parable.
The way we structure our schedules has a profound impact on how we translate beliefs into behavior.
We have no indication from Scripture that Jesus ever rushed from place to place trying to fit everything in. Yet the weight of the world truly was resting upon his shoulders. Somehow he was able to effectively respond to interruptions without neglecting purposeful opportunities in those unexpected moments of time. How do you respond to people when they interrupt your busy schedule? This question has forced me to face a painful reality in my own life. However, being honest about our weakness is not only the way we receive help but it’s also the way we mentor others effectively.
Journal entry to my daughter Faith from May 13, 2006
Wow! What A Date!!! Every week I take mommy out for our date. Yesterday she had a dental procedure and wasn’t feeling very well afterward. We were actually attending a very formal banquet. You volunteered to go so I discussed with Lexi. I told her how I would take her out for a very special night soon if she was okay with your going in mommy’s place to this event.
I went to the store and got flowers and came to knock on the door to pick up my date. You and Lexi were both so excited to receive flowers. Then you and I whisked off in the car. As we drove down the street you were so cute as you started working to impress your date. From nowhere you said, “I know what 2 + 2 is…..4.” Then you said, “I know what 3+3 is…” I inquired and you began frantically counting your fingers to come up with “6”. I was so proud to be somebody you wanted to impress.
We went to a very formal banquet hall in downtown OKC surrounded by huge buildings. You had on a beautiful dress and silk gloves. You were definitely the talk of the banquet. You were so big sitting there following all the rules of dinner etiquette. We left early and drove through all of the big buildings downtown with the top down on the car. You were in awe and I was absolutely thrilled! You finally said, “I wish Lexi were here!” I thought it was so special. Thanks for an amazing time.