Well, this post may get me in trouble. Let me say from the get go, I am striving to challenge you to think and struggle through this particular topic. I am not the expert pontificating from on high. I am smack in the middle of a very strong youth sports culture where I live. And although sometimes I loath it, I have also come to appreciate many aspects of sports and what they develop in the youth I work with. But with that said, I will come out directly and say what I mean:
If you are a disciple of Jesus and would like your kid to become one, then they cannot play certain sports.
I am not targeting specific sports, although there are historically certain sports that are the worst offenders. Even that is changing though. Oh, and by offenders, I mean they have two traits in common:
1.) They play games/have regular practices on Sunday mornings.
2.) Take up inordinate amounts of time/money for the reward that is gained from them.
I know this is not something that will earn me kudo points, but this is a serious problem and I feel the need to speak directly to it. And it is certainly complicated. Because sports isn’t really the issue; it’s priorities. We are in a culture anymore that has no boundaries. I remember a common complaint in college was that every professor gave homework like their class was the only one you were taking. We live in a world that is the same way, where everything is weighed as if it has the utmost importance, as if you and your child could give all your time to that one thing. So in order to not end up with an absolutely hectic life, or even worse, raising children in a “Christian” household without instilling any Christ-like values in them, I have three questions to ask about whatever sport/activity you are contemplating with (or let’s be honest and say for) your child:
- Will you through participating in this sport be able to bring glory to God and minister to others in Christ’s name?
- Will this sport fit within the priority structure of what is best for your kids discipleship, their family life, their personal improvement?
- Will the cost of participating in this sport outweigh the benefit your kid will receive?
Some sports will not fit these questions. You cannot consistently miss Sunday morning worship with the community of Christ and claim that the benefit of being of the sport outweighs being brought up in the teachings and community of Christ. You cannot claim that a sport or activity which pulls your family in all directions and makes for a hectic schedule will benefit your child’s family life. You cannot watch your child compromise their faith while improving as an athlete and claim that brings glory to God. The thing is, your “yes” to allowing a certain sport or activity always means you say “no” to something else. It is a basic truth of life. “Yes” to this kale and being healthy, “no” to this doughnut and being fat. “Yes” to practicing your piano, “no” to the hour your child could spend playing video games. “Yes” to liking good music means “no” to liking country music (low blow). “Yes” to playing a sport or participating in an activity means “no” to whatever else could have filled that time. We are presented a clear choice. That is not to say that every “yes” to sports becomes an automatic “no” to following Jesus. But if that sport challenges your priorities and what you are doing to raise up your child in Christ, you better believe that saying “yes” to it will be a “no” to what God desires to do in your child’s life. If it seems a little black and white, let me end by offering some advice.
- Learn how to say no. It is an acquired skill and you use it already in a passive-aggressive way when you make decisions without declaring what they will truly mean. Teach your child how to say no and how to determine what they want to do and not what you want to do for them.
- Learn how to work with coaches/instructors/directors. I was speaking about this topic with Bob Witte from Ozark Christian College, and he gave some instruction on how to approach situations where you have to assert the priority of Christ. Have this conversation: “Coach, I noticed you have a practice on (whatever time that interferes with a priority of faith, family, etc.). My kid cannot make it, as we have a commitment at that time. What can they do to make up for missing out on that practice/game(what can they do to show that they want to improve and still consider this a commitment)?” Bob told me that in all of the times he has given that advice and heard feedback, the results were very positive, and that even now he is using that kind of conversation with his own kids. This conversation is only in a sport/activity situation that has fit within your priorities. You cannot tell a coach your kid cannot make it to the games that happen every Sunday morning because you shouldn’t be choosing it in the first place. There I am being direct again. And it may also not work. But it has to be done, and we are talking about a sport and a coach, not some slave master that rules your kid’s destiny.
- Speak with your minister about these decisions. I can say from my own heart, I want to help you in whatever way I can by teaming up with you on how to best disciple your child. What I despise and want to warn you against is the thought that by dropping your kid of at Sunday School/Youth Group/Children’s Church (when of course there are no other commitments), you are “discipling” your kids by letting the “professionals” do it. Engage in conversation with your minister or Elders on how your child can participate in sports and activities in a way that grows them in their faith. You may need a reality check and have to hear some things you don’t want to hear (or read them!), but it is necessary in the partnership between the household of God and your own household.
I hope your toes aren’t too sore. But I would love to hear any thoughts you have. Feel free to comment below with your profundities and thoughts, and send me a personal message with any beef you might have with me! Ha!
Until later, live well my friends!
As almost everybody knows, Robin Williams passed away earlier this week. At this point, it would seem that he took his own life after struggling with some very serious depression. This event is obviously what motivated me to write this post. Let me say to start, I am saddened at his death and I write not to tear him down. Far from it. I have been thinking about this over the past few days and considered as best I can what to write.
In my estimation, many of the responses take the form of either head or heart responses. On the one side, you have the head responses (Matt Walsh at the Matt Walsh Blog would be an example of this, which I will not link to because it will probably make you mad or will agree with it and miss my point). This is the response rightly noting that suicide is not something good or something to be glorified, but they make the point like wielding a chainsaw at a whittling competition. The other response is the heart response (typified by “There’s Nothing Selfish About Suicide” by Katie Hurley over at the Huffington Post, which I will not link to because I won’t link to the Huffington Post out of principle). These responses note that suicide is the cause of deep depression and empathizes with those who have made that horrible choice from a cloudy and hurt filled mind.
The first can be written off very easily. Bashing on those who commit suicide shows a serious lack of empathy and understanding of the hearts of those who are hurting. And it shows a lack of understanding about clinical depression (of which I will come out and say that I am still learning more). Shame on that type of response.
The second is more difficult to deal with. I care for both the person and family who committed suicide, but I don’t want to say things out of empathy that are not true. But a phrase from the aforementioned heart article really stuck in my craw and has been mulling around in my head. Katie Hurley writes:
“Until you’ve stared down that level of depression, until you’ve lost your soul to a sea of emptiness and darkness… you don’t get to make those judgments. You might not understand it, and you are certainly entitled to your own feelings, but making those judgments and spreading that kind of negativity won’t help the next person. In fact, it will only hurt others.”
The “judgements” she is speaking of, as best I can tell, are made in the statement “Suicide is selfish and hurts those who are left behind.”
The question I have is: How does she get to make this judgement?
I am not attacking her, or her experience. She is transparent in the article that she survived the suicide of a loved one, which grief and pain I cannot understand.
But I can understand in my own right the deep pain of contemplating suicide.
And for me, it would have been selfish.
I don’t speak about this part of my experience very often, because like most people, it seems a risk to speak about it. And like Katie, it seems a lifetime ago. But at two times in my college years, I contemplated suicide, and during the second one, was very seriously close to acting it out in a way that would have ended my earthly life. I have continued to struggle with depression, through counseling at the time, and since then through striving to live life in a faithful and holistic manner in submission to God. I have never been treated through pharmaceuticals, although if I ever find myself in as hard of a place as I did in college, it is not ruled out. My change in how I view my depression is mostly through prevention.
And part of that is a deep understanding that my life is not my own. To end my life on my own initiative would be to take something that is not mine, destroy it, and take it away from those around me. I don’t think I am Jesus by any means, but 1 John 3:16 is a reminder to me: “This is how we know what love is: Jesus Christ laid down his life for us. And we ought to lay down our lives for our brothers.” I have given my life to Christ, to my wife, to my soon to be child, to my broader family, to my brothers and sister in Christ, to everyone in the world that I am to serve in sacrificial love. My life is not my own, it has been bought with a price, given to God. I cannot take that life and destroy it on my own. It would be selfish.
I don’t know to what degree Hurley thinks you must have “stared down that level of depression” to be able to make judgements on the act itself. Yes, suicide is rarely done as a consciously selfish act. But though the lens I look at the world, it would be a selfish act for me that would inflict great harm on others. And to say that does not bring negativity into my heart or hurt others around me. From my faith in Jesus Christ, I have come to this conclusion and I do not do so out of negativity or condemnation, either towards myself or to others. It is simply how I weigh my life and understand it’s purpose. Let me just close with a few more thoughts about suicide.
1. Death is not freedom from pain or poetically beautiful.
Committing suicide does not end pain. Pain will continue after you die and if anything, the deep pain you are experiencing will transfer to others. The only time death freed anyone was in the death-destroying-death of Jesus Christ on behalf of others. We see shadows of it when others lay down their lives on behalf of someone else. I have found no other way to live life than in striving to lay down my life on the behalf of others. That is the way of following Jesus, and it is beautiful. Even in you don’t share my faith, I hope you can relate to this in how you see the world.
2. Find someone to “fuss” over.
The last time I struggled with suicidal thoughts, one of the elements was that I almost had to give up my dog for adoption. It sound silly, but having that dog to fuss over, to worry about and care for, was a big part of healing. Since then, it has occurred to me many times that I need to be fussing over things in my life. I need to be caring for the people around me, the world around me, involved in the outcome of things. Inevitably, this causes pain in your life because people and circumstances hurt you. But it is a kind of pain that is good for you, as pain in love is growth. Equally, you need to find people who will fuss over you. Maybe I should just say you need to find “love”, but that word is overused and doesn’t get at the action you and I need to take in being involved.
3. Never, ever, ever give up.
Like Jacob in the Old Testament, wrestling with the angel of God, do not give up. It will be long and difficult, it will hurt so very bad, but you will came out of it changed and with a new name. This story stuck with me through my first bout with suicidal thoughts. I know it may seem easy to give up, that others will pass you by and be better without you. But don’t give up. Don’t give up even if it comes back with a vengeance. Seek out others, professional help, whatever it is until you make it through. If someone brushes you off, keep seeking people out. You will find that fussy person. If some treatment doesn’t work, seek other treatments. Please don’t give up.
Well, this has not been easy to write for me but I hope it has been beneficial. If you need some help, I will do the best I can via a blog. Know that I will always point towards Jesus and the powerful way He has worked in my life. I strive not to give trite and religious sounding answers, I will just share what is on my heart and that is the main focus of my heart. My thoughts and prayers go out to the Williams family, and to all of you who are hurt by suicide or suicidal thoughts.
Live well my friend!
So, I forgot that this happened last year, although I seem to remember it in the back of my foggy brain. But I started to notice it again this year.
For lack of a better term, it is the “Anti-Mother’s Day” posts. A blog here, a status there, an article in the mix. Many of which talk about the difficulties in the author’s life surrounding Mother’s Day. They seem to be in 3 categories: 1.) Valuing mothers above other women devalue the life of women who are not mothers by choice, who chose a career instead. 2.) Valuing mothers brings up the hurt of infertility and miscarriage, in other word, women who cannot be mothers because of tragedy. 3.) Valuing mothers bring up the hurts of those whose relationship with their mother is painful or dysfunctional.
I am not going to deal with the first one, because I don’t want to. Just because we actively value mothers doesn’t mean we actively devalue women who choose careers. The second and third categories are ones that I want to focus on, and especially from the point of view of the Body of Christ. Here it goes:
1.) Honoring someone is different than suffering with someone.
Motherhood is wonderful and beautiful. Why would honoring that ever be a bad thing? 1 Corinthians 12:22-27 says,
“On the contrary, those parts of the body that seem to be weaker are indispensable, and the parts that we think are less honorable we treat with special honor. And the parts that are unpresentable are treated with special modesty, while our presentable parts need no special treatment. But God has combined the members of the body and has given greater honor to the parts that lacked it, so that there should be no division in the body, but that its parts should have equal concern for each other. If one part suffers, every part suffers with it; if one part is honored, every part rejoices with it. Now you are the body of Christ and each one of you is a part of it.”
This Sunday is a time of honor, and for a group of individuals who do quite a bit for not a lot of credit. I work in a church that has a large amount of working moms, and I tell you what, those women amaze me with how they care for their families. So please understand, you may be personally suffering in some way, but that doesn’t detract from the honor of others. I think was frustrates me about the fact that Mother’s Day is being put down is that it is out of place and inappropriate. Please understand, I am not downplaying pain or grief, I will be getting to that in a moment. But there is no need to downplay the honor that is due to good mothers. We deal with joy in different ways than we deal with grief. It would be HORRIBLY offensive to have an “Unable to be a mother’s day” because we give honor differently than we suffer. We honor by lifting up, looking at the good and laughing together. We mourn by holding each other up, looking at the heartache, and crying together. Those holidays that remember suffering and pain are fundamentally different. Mother’s Day is not meant to remember pain, although it is a part of every one of our lives in different ways and certainly is a part of every mother’s experience. And that leads me to the second point:
2.) In the Body of Christ, there will always be those who are mourning and those who are rejoicing.
When the preacher this Sunday morning praises mothers who are faithful and selfless, there are those in the Body who will feel the hurt of a faithless and selfish mother. When the preacher praises mothers for bearing and caring for children, there will be women who long to bear a child and have had that taken from them or are unable to. With all the sentimental tears being shed on this coming Sunday, there will be tears of heartache, loss, and pain that accompany them. Romans 12:15 has something to say here: “Rejoice with those who rejoice; mourn with those who mourn.” It is a wonderful verse, but life is messy sometimes. We will have in the midst of our celebration on Sunday those who are mourning. It works in reverse too. You may see a newborn child at the funeral of a loved one, or be mourning the loss of close friendships while looking forward to a new job or location. You and I are still called to rejoice with those who rejoice and mourn with those who mourn. That is why I am excited to see a young man or woman who did not have the best relationship with their mother praise a mother they respect. That is why I hope to see hand held, hugs given, and tears shed with those who have suffered the loss of miscarriage or the constant pain of infertility. Those who are in mourning are not honored any less, just differently; those who are rejoicing are honored as well.
So this Sunday, let’s be together. Let’s lift up those who rejoice, while not forgetting those who are mourning. Let’s honor those who have done so much to love us while also being there for those who have suffered so much.
And have a happy Mother’s Day!
They are EVERYWHERE right now.
“They” being blogs and articles about what you should never say to other people. Like this. Or this. Even this, from a blogger that I follow and really enjoy. All you have to do is enter, “Things to never say…” into Google and you will find out that there were so many things you should never say to so many groups of people who never need those things said to them.
All I have to say to that is: sheesh. Actually, more, and here it is:
People don’t have to say nice things to you.
And guess what? They won’t!!!
I am not trying to tell people what to do (that would be a little hypocritical in an article ranting about people telling other people what to say and do), but the way I see it, there are three responses when you come across a statement you do not like in conversation:
1. Get over it. (Note: This is highly under rated in the day and age where a single comment on the internet means you must muster the forces and defeat the other side verbally until you are all shouting about Hitler, racism, genocide, and inequality.)
2. Express your frustration in that conversation. You can either do this with your body language, which some people will not pick up on because some people do not have that ability whether you like it or not. Or you can express it verbally. You can be direct, or if they become belligerent, you can be rude back to them. Either way, hash it out in the conversation.
3. Write a blog about how offended you are that these statements are being made, and pontificate from on high why you think no one should ever say them. Or don’t explain yourself, just tell people they shouldn’t say them because they are mean and mean people say those things.
I like the first two because they involve the personal element. I cannot control other people, so most of the time it is best to deal with it myself or with my close loved ones. And to actually approach the issue in personal conversation is more convicting to the person who made the statement, as well as opens the door for apology or to clear up a misunderstanding. Granted, it probably is not as personally satisfying as sitting down and writing out a treatise on these awful people who do not have a nuanced understanding conversation of conversation like yours truly, but that’s life. It’s messy and rarely adapts to provide me with closure.
Two examples of this. One happened recently when I was preaching a sermon recently. My wife approached me and said, “So-and-so told me to tell you to speak slowly.” Now, I could write a blog called, “Never say these 479 things to your minister, or how not to wound your minister’s fragile ego before he speaks.” I was actually feeling unprepared that day, and when I am feeling unprepared, I tend to speak at a million miles an hour. So I had been telling myself all morning that I need to speak slow and to force myself to pause and be conscious of my speech. I approached so-and-so after the sermon, and said thank you for reminding me to slow down, a little sheepish that they knew about this flaw of mine (I don’t like people knowing my flaws. I like them to think of me as the perfect, glittery, multifaceted gem of a human being that I tell myself I am). So-and-so looked at me funny and said, “Oh, I was just telling you to drag it out because we needed time to get the potluck ready.” Whew! I laughed out loud! Crisis averted, I am still a flawless gem!
Second example. I was over at my sister’s house a few years back. For those of you who know me, I am a rather large individual with the proverbial bowl-full-o’jelly around my middle. I know, I should feel guilty about it, but I don’t cause I don’t. Anyways, her neighbors stopped by with their little kids, one who was about 3 years old. He was a hilarious kid, full of energy and spunk. Because he was awesome, I started playing a game with him that involved him running across the room right into my stomach. He did this a couple of times and stopped right in front of me. Sticking both hands into my pudgy belly, he articulated with amazement, “Wow! Why did you eat so much for supper?!?” Awesome! I almost lost it, but in one of my more witty moments, I quipped, “Son, I had to eat a lot for a whole bunch of suppers to get my belly like this!” I laughed a lot of belly laughs too. His parents looked mortified, and they stepped in before my comment could sink in, allowing this young child to grow up thinking it was okay to punch peoples’ bellies and make comments about them. They said the usual lines about how it is not polite to point those things out and other things I can’t remember, all of which I assure you I will remember and teach my kids someday. I am sure he no longer fat shames anybody. You know what they should have done? Gone home and write a blog titled, “Ten things kids ought not to say to prodigiously porky people.” That would learn him real good.
All that to say, people don’t have to say nice things to you and they won’t. There is a whole spectrum of human experience, emotional, physical, and social maturity, your emotions and thoughts that day, cultural differences, and just plain ignorance and stupidity that will prevent you from having nice conversations all the time. Get over it, tell the person not to do it, or write about it. Just maybe less on the internet. Oops! I told you what to do!
I see it ALL the time. I have example after example of students I have known from the camp and previous youth ministries who show these traits. It is the Christian drug, way more than coffee or I guess Coca Cola if you are a Mormon. It is MTD.
Here are a few examples. 1.) A selfie, with a shot of a young girl flashing the peace sign into a bathroom mirror. In the caption, there is something like, “I just gotta be me because God wants a bunch of me and I feel like being me and Jesus thinks me is beautiful” followed by a bunch of hearts, a series of punctuations marks in a face that expresses some sort of vague emotion, and other nonsense I still do not know how to interpret. 2.) You read a young person’s “About Me” or other description on a social site, and notice that they say Christianity makes them “better” and “nice” and “feel good.” You then observe that they write with real passion about some other person or pursuit that has changed their life and actually motivates them. Those things are not better, nice, or good; they are the air they breathe.
Those are just two examples that stand out to me of MTD. Gone are the days when “good” Christian boys and girls hid the behavior that their parents thought was bad. You see the signs of MTD everywhere: online, in schools, in the home, in church. And what, pray tell is this MTD?
Moralistic Therapeutic Deism.
The term and concept was first introduced in Soul Searching: The Religious and Spiritual Lives of American Teenagers
by Christian Smith and Melinda Lundquist Denton. They coined the term as a result of the 2005 “National Study of Youth and Religion.” Basically, they determined that youth were believing 5 sets of “truths” that did not really belong to any religion, but was a mish-mash of a little bit of everything. Here is how they articulated it:
- A god exists who created and ordered the world and watches over human life on earth.
- God wants people to be good, nice, and fair to each other, as taught in the Bible and by most world religions.
- The central goal of life is to be happy and to feel good about oneself.
- God does not need to be particularly involved in one’s life except when God is needed to resolve a problem.
- Good people go to heaven when they die.
A few troubling things come to the surface. No Jesus. That’s big. No hell because that’s mean, not because of any real thought. No theology or even concept of suffering and evil. No sin, unless it is the antonym “bad” or “non-fluffy.”
Okay, there are a lot of problems with this. But rather than tearing it apart and entertaining myself with a few witty remarks, let’s turn to what it means for us as parents and ministers.
We have to be on the same page first. I say this, because Moralistic Therapeutic Deism is so prevalent in youth today because it is a struggle for their parents as well. In Perspectives on Family Ministry, Jay Strohter writes,
“A difficult but obvious truth finally dawned on us: These were the same issues their parents were dealing with, struggles with deeper faith, authentic spirituality, and Christ-centered identity. In fact, one father had recently criticized a team member for encouraging his daughter to “read her Bible too much” and to become “too spiritual for hew own good.” There was a gap between the church’s ideals and the parents’ actual practices and expectations.” – pg. 142
These are the issues we all struggle with, and I want to share a few thoughts on each term in Moralistic Therapeutic Deism.
Moralistic – adj. “having or showing strong opinions about what is right behavior and what is wrong behavior”
Morals and the study of morality in Ethics is awesome. Moral-ism and moralistic behavior, not so much. Having strong opinions on what is right and wrong is a part of life and everybody has them. Period. Just look in the comment section on a youtube video of any controversy, and you will see this to be true. But very few know why they believe those things, and it often times boils down to how you were raised or what you learned in school. And can I just say that one of the dominant cultural values right now is: “Be nice.” I despise those words. They mean nothing in any real, practical sense. But this “moral” guides so much of what we do today, and yet we fail to live up to it all the time. Again, youtube video comment section.
In a world where we still have morals and fail to live up to them, what do you get? A mess. There has to be a better way. Morals and moralizing are not enough.
So, how do we deal with this? Study and live out Jesus. Point your kids to him and strive to live like him. Tell his stories and how he lived, died, and rose again. It is NOT simple and it nips moralizing right in the bud. You may think I am being simplistic here. Ah well, your loss, go back to moralizing and have fun!
Therapeutic – adj. “Having or exhibiting healing powers.”
The term “therapeutic” come into play in MTD is best expressed in this simple phrase: God wants me to be happy. To which I say: No he doesn’t.
Let me explain. Happiness as culturally defined seems to express two things. 1.) As long as what I am doing, thinking, feeling, or being brings no harm to other people, it should not be judged, condemned, or hated. 2.) Therefore, anything that goes against what I want to do that I perceive as not harming others is hatred, condemnation, and judgement and should be destroyed. Because of these two beliefs, God CANNOT in a worldview dominated by MTD be perceived as someone who stands in the way of your happiness. But God does. Clearly. He stands in the way of the cultures views on money, consumerism, sex, life, oppression, politics, the list goes on and on. That is not because God wants us to be miserable. It is because God loves us. It is infinitely more powerful than a desire for us to be happy or feel good.
So no, God does not want you to be happy. He wants you to be loved.
Deism – n. “The belief, based solely on reason, in a God who created the universe and then abandoned it, assuming no control over life, exerting no influence on natural phenomena, and giving no supernatural revelation.”
This last term is a little misleading. Those who have looked at MTD have noticed that the “Deism” mentioned is not Deism in the classical sense. Without being to trite, Deism was a product of the Enlightenment, and was based in a rational view of the world. We no longer live in a world that values rationalism to the degree it once did, which has both good and bad elements to it. Instead, the Deism of today is one that views God through the lens of the first two terms. God is moralistic, meaning he wants people to do nice and good things. God also wants us to be happy and feel good, the therapeutic element. Since what we want to do sometimes conflicts with scripture, we are left with a bit of confusion. So, out goes scripture as having any sense of authority (unless it serves our purposes) and God gets out of the way (unless we call on Him because we are feeling bad and need to be happy again). That means God is distant, but unlike classical Deism, I have the chance to call on God to make ME happy. God becomes a bail bondsmen, someone we don’t really think about day to day, but we are glad he is there when we need Him. Thanks God, for being so nice to us to leave us alone unless we need you!
Honestly, this one scares the living daylights out of me. How can you believe scripture has any authority, how can you be a meaningful part of any church, and how can you believe that Jesus was essentially God interfering in human history with this skewed view of Deism? It scares me to think that God is viewed in terms of convenience and culls from a variety of vague sources on God and not on anything specific like Scripture. I would rather deal with an honest difference of religion or atheism than a highly distorted and despairing view of God present in MTD.
So, what do you do?
If this bothers you, as it bothers me, how can you stop the ideas in Moralistic Therapeutic Deism from spreading?
I have three thoughts.
- God doesn’t want you to just make “good” decisions for yourself. He wants you to follow him.
- God doesn’t want you to feel good or happy. He wants to give you joy and peace.
- God wants to be involved in your day to day life, not as a boss, but as the Spirit who guides us.
I could go into detail on each of these points, but I will let them suffice and let you think it over.
Most importantly, engage on this topic. It is not an easy thing to counteract something that has permeated both secular and Christian culture. It will take some family discussions, lessons and discussions in church, and a presence that is both loving and challenging on this issue to make a difference. We live in a difficult age for the church, where voices on each side are clamoring for us to retreat or accommodate to culture. When we engage on this issue, we take the difficult path the church has traveled for centuries, of challenging the culture where it is at.
I pray that God gives you strength as you call others to the good and righteous, to peace and joy, and to a God who cares enough to be involved in human history. God bless!
Growing up, I remember the weekends very fondly. At least I remember them fondly now. But not so much at the time.
My family was home schooled and for most of my childhood we had one income, and my Dad would not pursue or take promotions to keep his schedule as free as he could. This meant A.) We did not have that much money (although we were not poor, not trying to make it sound worse than it is), so B.) We had some time, so we tried to save money by driving older cars, heating with wood, gardening, and being awesome. The majority of them were spent around the house doing work, although I am sure we did other fun things on the weekends. I think. But what could be more fun than cutting and splitting wood, fixing cars and lawn mowers, weeding the garden, cutting off the heads of chickens and watching them dance, and in general having a grand old time? Again, that may be a little idealistic. It is more like my parents endured the horrible plague of my youth and barely got stuff done.
Let me give you an example. When fixing cars, I remember my primary job was to be the “Tool Getter”. I would stand around waiting for my Dad to either show me some part of a car’s mechanics that I did not appreciate at all or to go and get a tool he needed. When I was summoned to get said tool, I had a little routine. I would run into the garage, look for 10 seconds for the tool, and then spend a minute or two wielding the machete my Dad had hung on the wall, or grab the bb gun and point it at invisible foes, or hold the butcher knife that was in the top drawer of the old wooden tool box and just feel like the most awesome person, wondering at how a butcher knife could cut through bones and entire cows. Over time, this took more and more of my tool gathering time, because I had built up quite a list of imaginary enemies and I learned abstract thought, so that was time consuming and what not. Then my Dad would shout at me, and I would return and at least half the time tell him I had not found the tool. I had ONE job, and I was terrible at it. My Dad should have fired me a thousand times, and I would have gladly welcomed it to pursue my true calling of chopping at dead saplings with a machete, catching frogs, and any number of things to ruin the local ecosystem.
But in all seriousness, why is this such a fond memory for me when it was such a drudgery at the time? I think it came down to the way my Dad chose to value and care for his family. He chose to do things with us rather than for us.
Let me unpack this a little bit. Most parents tend to think that caring for and doing things for your family is the way to go. Typically, this means parents work harder, take care of things around the house, and provide opportunities in sports, social clubs, or church ministries that they believe will do something for their children. This is not an all bad thing, as it does come from a sacrificial desire to care for your children. We want to give our children better things and opportunities than we had.
But where this gets destructive is that you cannot replace “doing with” with “doing for.” Doing for allows us to in essence step back from the family relationship and yet feel like we still care for our family. I do not want to be harsh, but you cannot replace the time and difficulty of family relationship with the time and difficulty it takes to work harder and provide opportunities. I am not saying that “livin’ the country life” is the only way to do that, and since I grew up, economic circumstances have made it even more challenging to find a way for parents to spend time with their children. But that really is the key: time.
And not just any old time. I have been reading Think Orange by Reggie Joiner the past month, and I came across a thought he presented in his chapter “The Essence of Family.” Joiner describes how there are myths surrounding both quality and quantity time. He compares it to his working out at the local YMCA. The office he works sits right next to the YMCA and he can see it every day. He pays monthly dues and spends hours every day in close proximity to a ton of people who work out. Some times, he would even sit in the lobby and do his work on the computer. But the combination of proximity and time do not equal actually working out. That is the myth of quantity time. Joiner also describes how a few years ago, he felt really motivated to go work out. He went over to the Y, and started to make up for lost time. He went from machine to machine for a few hours, and felt really energized and motivated. The next morning, he woke up in excruciating pain. Like you cannot move your body pain. It took a few weeks to get back to normal after only a few hours of intense working out. It turns out that a short burst of really intense working out cannot make up for months of failing to do anything physically. That is the myth of quality time.
You cannot expect to build a healthy family just by being in proximity to them. You also cannot expect to build a healthy family just by condensing down the time to a few really intense blocks. Instead, it takes a quantity of quality time with your family. There are no substitutes or cheats in this area, and your family will feel the lack if you do not strive for both of these areas.
How you do that is up to you. And I really mean it is up to you and what is best for your family. Some of what I will be sharing on this blog will include ideas and experiences I have been through to help with that, but that is not meant to be “THE” only way. Too much of parenting advice today is judgmental and condemning, and does not communicate how tough it really is and how much diversity there is. My family made some tough choices that both negatively and positively impacted my life to spend a quantity of quality time with my siblings and I. What will make all the difference in your family is that you are motivated out of love in pursuing this kind of time with them.
I hope and pray this encouraged you to do things with your family and not just for. Remember, I am just a 26 year old guy. If I sound like a know it all, put me in my place and I will do my best to listen. If you want to share a thought on how your family spent time with you, or how you are doing that in your family, write a comment below. Thanks friends, and live well!
I am starting up a new blog to focus on issues of youth and family ministry. I realize this is a little bold to do for a 26 year old man who knows “a lot” and has lived only a little. I offer up this blog as musings on whatever subject that I have been thinking about with the recognition that I could very well be wrong. I would love to hear your thoughts and input. Thanks for reading, and I look forward to interacting with you on this blog!
P.S. My personal blog is over at buckskinsandbones.wordpress.com. I will still be posting there, but on different subjects.
P.P.S – I am basically just going to use this blog know and write whatever I want!