Last spring my husband and I whizzed by each other in a flurry of children’s sports, activities, recitals, practices, graduations, musicals, field trips, and so on. Any extra time we had was spent at work (we both work full time), and trying to keep all the balls in the air. By the time June rolled around, my husband and I were exhausted. One night, I looked at him and said, “I don’t want to live like this.” We lamented how we spent more time away from our home than in it. We had spent the previous year literally building a house (like with our own hands!) and we were barely there. We did not have time to connect with each other or our children. We had barely met our neighbors and we moved into our home 7 months prior. We had begun leading a marriage study in our home, but we both felt so spent that what should have been a blessing quickly turned into another mundane task on the list to complete.
By July, we were spent. So many weeks of running in different directions had taken it’s toll on our family and on our marriage. So one Sunday we woke the kids up and did not go to church. Instead, we sat on our back porch as a family. We broke bread. We read the bible. We asked questions. We worshipped. We talked about heaven. We prayed for each other. It’s what our souls desperately needed.
We also shared with our children how crazy life had felt the past year between building our home and running constantly from activities. They agreed. We then talked about all the things we wished we could do as a family. The beauty of children is that often their wishes are simple. They wanted to play more with us. Running in the woods, building a fort, and playing games were high on their list. They wanted us to join an R-Group (small group) again as we had taken a break during the building of our home. We all agreed that we wanted more time to open our home to others and to love our neighbors. The ideas that we had were great in theory but we explained to our children that we were all given the same amount of time in a day. We would not be able to continue to do all the activities and have time to open our home to our friends and neighbors. We also pointed out that our youngest child hadn’t even started any organized sports/activities. We still all felt exhausted!
We asked them to think about what was truly important. What activities did they enjoy the most? What activities did they think would be useful to them in the future, which ones could they use for telling others about Jesus? Over the next several months, we began to add in what our souls longed for, while peeling away activities and events that did not serve us as a family. One daughter decided that soccer wasn’t really her passion. So we dropped a sport. Another daughter, who wanted to learn another instrument, came to the realization that we couldn’t add in another lesson or recital to our schedule. We told our kids they could each choose one sport a year and only during one season. One son wanted to join boy-scouts but we were already committed to 4-H, which is only once a month. We’ve tried hard to keep one Sunday morning a month as a day of family worship and connection. We don’t do corporate church on those Sundays. We did join an R-Group again and are co-hosting and co-leading it. My husband and I have begun to work on our marriage and I carved out time for therapy. Our fall has been so much more enjoyable. We have had more time to play with our children. We are hosting neighbors, friends, and church community in our home. We are volunteering. We are intentionally discipling our children and are an active part of our church again.
So often we do what the world expects of us. This world is mad. Literally. Insane crazy for all the temporal things that will pass away. Many of the things we cleared off our plate are “good” things. These good things were mainly kids activities and sports. However, the majority of them hold no balance. They are all-consuming of time. They are not inherintly bad but so many of them come with a worldy expectation of constant practice, games, contests, and recitals. I will not be the first to say that the we have made an idol of busyness and we have pushed our children into this lifestyle as well. We often tell them that loving Jesus and others comes first. In reality our schedules and calendars, where we actually spend the majority of our time, tells a more true story.
Pursuing Jesus and living out Jesus’s words, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. 38 This is the great and first commandment. 39 And a second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself. 40 On these two commandments depend all the Law and the Prophets.” (Matthew 22:37-40 ESV) is not an easy task. However, one cannot love Jesus first when everyday is spent chasing worldy passions without room for anything else.
Clearing away and measuring the things that fill our lives is a delicate dance. One that will look different for every person and every family. Making room in your schedule to pursue Jesus as a family will change depending on the seasons of life. There is not an exact recipe for what this will look like. However, I challenge you to sit down as a family and go through your schedule. Ask these questions.
What would an ideal day look like for our family, for each person in the family?
How do family members feel about the pace of life recently?
Have everyone write down their responsibilities, events, activities, sports, and even regular social engagements. Are these serving them? Are they serving others? Are they manageable for the family? Is there one or two that they would prioritize or feel more passionate about then the rest?
Is there anything that the family wishes they had time for? Make sure to ask about if they feel like they have time to learn about God, love their neighbors, play, volunteer, or become more active in church.
Pray about it. Be open-handed. Truly ask God where to focus your time. Maybe it’s your marriage (like was our case). Maybe it’s spending time with your children. Maybe it’s getting to know that neighbor you’ve been meaning to talk to. Maybe it’s focusing on one sport for each child and really getting to know that team of kids and parents, real relationships that lead to natural serving opportunites and gospel-centered conversations.
How we spend our time and what we do will leave an incredible mark on our children. And most of them will pattern themselves after us. Let’s be intentional to make sure that we are modeling for them a life that is manageable and life-giving. One that models to seek God and his Kingdom first, not just in word but also in the way we spend our time for as long as we have breath.
Written by Jessica Delp