There are truly two perspectives on life that challenge a healthy, gospel-centered life. The first perspective is allowing the pendulum to swing so far away from “busy” that a person begins to live life on the defensive. The temptation is to simply float through life, living it one week or one month at a time. You have an unspoken mantra of, “I don’t want to be driven by worldly success and busyness, so I will stay calm and live one day at a time.” While this kind of living might be well meaning, it can cause a person to lack intentionality and spiritual proactivity. With this attitude, you suddenly realize the last six, eight, ten years of life have had little to no actual quality. No money has been responsibly saved, your marriage is a daily charade and your spiritual life has been reduced to Sunday morning attendance. Only being responsive and not taking initiative can leave a person feeling barely better than a work-horse.
The other perspective is a kind of corporate hyper drive. The temptation is to not just keep up with the Joneses, but make the Joneses jealous. With this attitude, a person will often find their identity in what they can accomplish and what they can possess. This doesn’t necessarily mean you will come across as a materialistic person, but deep down you are driven by what you can see and hold in your hands. You never feel there are enough hours in the day. Your children lack nothing and your wife has everything she wants. It’s entirely possible that everything in which you are engaged is good. You’re at church every time the doors are open, you never turn down an opportunity to volunteer and your closet if filled with t-shirts and wrist bands supporting everything and everyone. If Facebook were to create the picture-perfect person they would use your account! While even this kind of living might be well meaning, it is obvious this lifestyle can stand in direct opposition to the gospel.
Is there middle ground? If so, where is it? We agree passivity can plague the Christian life as easily as the material and socially obsessed. Let’s see parenthood and marriage through the lens of Pastor Bill’s quote:
Children If you are a parent and we are all honest, there has been more than one time we have asked ourselves, Am I a good parent? I think we are asking the wrong question. “Good” is a subjective word and is nearly always defined by production and provision. Parents are deemed “good” if they do more than what is expected for their children and provide more than what is needed. Instead, as Christian parents, let’s start asking ourselves, Am I a present parent? Without a doubt our children do not need more money, toys or activities. Whenever we are dead and gone our children will scarcely remember what we let them do or what we let them buy. The single greatest thing we do for or give our children is ourselves – wholeheartedly, unconditionally.
Do you remember every single Christmas present or the piles of toys you got from past birthdays as a child? Sure, one or two presents might be particularly memorable – but no child will grow up to write a parent’s eulogy celebrating the stuff they gave them.
Don’t think to yourself, “I will see them tomorrow” or “I can spend time with them later.” No parent who loves their child has ever stopped to spend time with them and gone on to consider it time wasted. Mistakes will be made and money will run out. There will be times when you are The World’s Greatest Parent and times when you get the silent treatment. But as long as you prioritize presence over production and provision, you will surely have a healthy, God-honoring relationship with your children.
Spouse If you are married you know marriage can be a challenge. A quick look at the Self Help & Relationships section at your local bookstore will tell you everyone seems to be looking for the magic formula for success. Like parenthood, marriages which do the most activities and have the most stuff can be mistaken for the healthiest. Countless times when we learn another marriage ended, someone will inevitably say, “They looked happy…” While it is true that every person may not have the same love language (click here to learn yours), every person who is married has a natural longing to spend time with their spouse. The trouble is, there is a massive difference between being together and being married. Whenever we are together before marriage, as in dating, our feet don’t touch the ground. We are on cloud nine. There are puppy-love lenses that are blurring our vision. Then when we do finally tie the knot, we realize a sincere relationship requires vulnerability, trust and companionship. So rather than engage in those things, we give our spouse gifts or go on expensive vacations. Rather than be open and vulnerable, we make ourselves so busy we don’t have time to truly experience one another.
A great marriage takes more than production and provision. A healthy marriage requires taking the time to be in each other’s presence.
“Too many of us are trying to have hundred-dollar conversations
in dime-sized moments.”
– Paul David Tripp
What does it gain a husband if he has the whole world impressed with what he can produce and provide but has lost emotional intimacy with his wife? Or for a wife to build a relationship with her husband on domestic duty and material possessions. The truth is every person was created with a desire for companionship.
It seems nearly everyone agrees a works-based faith is not the gospel Jesus taught. It’s a no-brainer that the presence of God is far more valuable than His blessings. If we truly believe this, let’s start living that way as parents, as spouses.
Stop finding your worth as a parent or spouse based on what you can produce or provide. Create relationships with your loved ones built on the foundation of presence.