Family :: The pursuit of perspective and productivity
For the last couple weeks I was on my own, a bachelor if you will! My family was out of town. The first 4 of those days I was home alone and then for week or so I was touring around Southern California, trying to do some writing, thinking, dreaming with a good friend of mine. Not to forget the NT Wright conference I was able to attend. Which was amazing! Here’s a thought I had during this time. It was a surprising thought to me. While sitting at home alone, family gone, a rush of excitement came over me — I was going to be so productive while my kids and wife were gone! I mean I love them, I’ll miss them terrible (eventually) but let’s face it, kids are work, full-time - attention demanding - energy draining - beautiful but hard WORK. Marriage is a bit different and consumes one differently but let’s be real, if you’re not working at it you’re probably failing at it. I don’t believe that takes anything away from the beauty of having kids or being married but confesses the reality that it’s work and all the other things on your to-do list come in behind this and rightly so. So when my family is out of town for 2 weeks and I think, “productivity here I come” it’s understandable. Right?
You see, the thought is that I’ll be able to read more than I normally do, write more than I normally do (I wrote most of this blog during that time), watch more, play more and sleep more than I normally do! Sleep was last on that list but maybe first in my heart! I have an almost 2 year old, come on now!
But as I sat to do some of that extra reading I realized something, productivity is great but in what area of my life do I really want to produce greatest results? The first thing that came to my mind was discipleship. I want to be a better and closer disciple of Jesus. But after that, the greatest “product” I can invest my time, talents, heart, soul and energy in is my family!
The health and vitality of my family will reflect my investment. The more time I give, the more energy I give and the more love I give to my family the greater and closer we will be. If I give my family the leftovers and the afterthoughts of my energy and "production," the product that is my family will not be very fruitful itself. Is this not true of any relationship? The more you invest in it the more you will get from it and out of it, the more produce there will be to go around for everybody.
I don’t love the production / investment metaphor because this is not some economic - consumer system, it’s a relationship! Maybe we can think of that word "produce" in the same vein as the scripture talks about it. The organic produce or fruit that comes from a life connected to the giver of all life and produce. So it’s not, “what did you produce or make today?” but “What kind of produce did you gather from the crop or field that you have been working in during this season of life?” For me it’s important to remember that you can’t buy or earn this kind of produce, the only currency is your heart, soul and mind and a little blood and sweat or strength. The of Deuteronomy 6 and Matthew 22.
// The best way to experience the most productive growth in your life as a disciple.
The other thought I had around this was that if being a disciple is truly the top priority on my productive desires list then the investment into my family is also the way to have the greatest growth and productivity in this area of my life.
There is no better way for a man to grow as a disciple then to serve his family and love his wife well!
A book I read once said that “the goal of marriage isn’t happiness but holiness.” I’ve found that to be very helpful. Nothing comes even close to growing me as a disciple of Christ in the ways I hope and pray to grow then giving myself to my wife and kids. They sharpen me, the stir love in me, they sand rough edges and kill selfish bents.
I would add that this is also the effect of a healthy, biblical community and close genuine friendships for those in different places and stages of life. To find a community that you can give yourself to and can receive others in can be vital piece in your life as a disciple. For the Christian, family can and must take on broader and more inclusive definitions. This is true for single people and married people but that would lead to a much broader conversation.
So, first and foremost I desire to daily become a better disciple of Jesus. My family is the best playground in which I will be the most productive in that aim.
Secondly, my family, it’s heath and closeness and love for Jesus is absolutely the greatest thing I can ever “produce” with my love and effort.
That is a really important perspective for me! It is something I don’t think I often have in mind as I work and wrestle with life. There is nothing I can produce that will every be more valuable than my family. And when I give myself first and foremost to that aim I will produce more and deeper life and virtue in my pursuit of Jesus. There is a beautifully tangled relationship between the two. So to have the perspective that family is a distraction to real creativity and productivity is a crime, one I have way to often committed. And It’s a perspective that many men I know hold as they think about work and family.
The real productivity will come when we invest in the most beautiful things we can ever co-created with God, our kids, our marriage, our closest community and primary community that we share life with. For me this is my wife and kids!
Jesus is always and already pulling back the veil and releasing the Kingdom into my life. Sometimes I just need to have the eyes to see it and a centered heart to experience it in the laughter of my kids and the kisses of wife.