I have two “part-time” jobs. Julie has a part-time job and also manages our household. We have two children who increasingly have their own schedules in addition to ours. In and through it all, we’re seeking to live life on mission and make disciples of Jesus.
And I know that we’re not the only ones. There are plenty of people like us who are trying to do a good job keeping all the plates spinning so that none of them fall and break.
There have been times since we’ve moved to Dallas to help start Storyline that it has felt like Julie and I were ships passing in the night, and on tougher days, that we had devolved into merely being business partners, co-parents and roommates. I thank God that we made the decision early on to stick with each other through thick and thin – because we certainly have experienced our share of thick times (as I’m convinced most marriages do). I share these struggles with Julie’s permission.
There is a constant temptation to forget and forsake my first calling – to love my family, support my wife and disciple my children. I think this temptation is probably there whether you’re a pastor, business(wo)man, or an insurance agent.
I’m learning that I can’t merely aspire to love my family, support my wife and disciple my children. Like anything else worth doing, this calling requires both the intentionality to carve out space for it to happen and the creation of life rhythms that nurture it.
I would count it a major fail if, when I looked back on my life, I had loved the church and made disciples but had not loved my wife and made disciples of my children.
I’d like to share seven rhythms that are breathing life and love into our family these days. Many thanks to Jeff Saferite, Sally Breen and Tommy Ballard for the way conversations with each of them have shaped some of these rhythms. Further, thanks to my parents, because several of these rhythms were embedded in my own childhood.
1. Daily breakfast and dinner times. We do our best to carve out and protect our table times at breakfast and dinner every day. In the morning we read a devotional book together and talk about what we’re looking forward to that day. We pray for the day together. At dinner we practice a version of the prayer of Examen by asking two questions: 1) What was your favorite part of the day? 2) Did anything make you sad today? Then we give thanks and pray for the things we talked about. These are simple ways we are helping our kids (and each other) discern God’s voice and respond to it.
2. Weekly family time. We have to be creative with this rhythm because Julie and I schedule our work calendars so that when I’m working she’s with the kids and when she’s working I’m with the kids. Most weeks our “family time” amounts to 1-2 half days together, like taking a walk at White Rock Lake and grocery shopping together on Sunday mornings (our church gatherings are on Sunday evenings) or having a family game night. I observe my personal Sabbath on Mondays so one of our family half-days always takes place on that day.
3. Weekly participation in Christian community as a family. Our kiddos are formed spiritually just by being a vital part of our spiritual community with us. According to Mike Breen, “The nuclear family has failed as an experiment in raising children.” In other words, the nuclear family doesn’t have all the resources it needs to raise kids. Parents need help. Children need more than they can get from their parents. What’s needed is extended family and/or extended spiritual family. So we participate in church gatherings together every week. One Sunday a month we do something as a missional community to serve or go on mission together, and we include our kids in those experiences as much as possible. We also include our kids when we extend hospitality to our neighbors. The best paradigm for family life is not “Family AND Mission” but “Family ON Mission.”
4. Monthly one-on-one time with the kids. At least once a month I do something special with each of my kiddos – just me and Ryan or Chloe. They can pick a restaurant (usually McDonalds, but I hear that changes over time, thank goodness) or a fun thing they want to do, and we do it together.
5. Bi-weekly date nights. We have recently recommitted to this rhythm after feeling the effects of its absence for a while: every other Friday Julie and I get childcare and go out on a date – just the two of us. Never stop dating your spouse, they say.
6. Semi-annual getaways. This is a new rhythm for us. Twice a year Julie and I will getaway for a couple days just to be together. We recently realized that other than a special 10th anniversary trip, we hadn’t made such a getaway in five years! No longer. I’m excited that in a couple weeks Julie and I will have our first 2-day getaway in this new rhythm.
7. Annual family vacations. Once a year, usually in the summer, we carve out a solid week where we retreat to some fun destination and relax together as a family (usually with our extended family).
These are just a few of many possible rhythms that nurture family life and discipleship. We definitely have not arrived as a family when it comes to these rhythms, but even the smallest movement in them has been so invigorating for us. Perhaps you’ll find some encouragement or inspiration in something here.
What obstacles make it difficult to create life-giving family rhythms?
What family rhythms have been life-giving for your family?