Thursday, April 5, 2012

I Hear Voices.....The Good Kind: Fatherhood Advice From Andy Stanley

Today, I'm going to introduce you to a book that changed my life.  It's called
Choosing to Cheat: Who Wins When Family and Work Collide? by Andy Stanley.  I'll point out two lessons from the book and how they changed me.  I am recommending this book so strongly, that I don't want to blow it for you when you read it.

Lesson One

"Simply put, you must choose to cheat at work rather than at home"(p. 12).  In other words, the law of scarcity applies to our very being.  Everyone wants all of us - our bosses, our pastors, our wives, our kids, our in-laws.  But you just can't be everything to everyone.  We all try at some point, and eventually we all fail.

Stanley says when you fail, make sure it happens at work, not at home.  I have unfortunate news for you.  No matter how important we think we are, there are multiple people who can do our jobs.  I know that hurts, because men gain a lot of their self-worth from being needed at work.  You can be replaced at work.

You can't be replaced at home.  Your kids have one dad.  Your wife has one husband.  There is no way around it.  God gives each of us a unique opportunity to lead our families.  Because of this, your role at home is WAY more important than your role at work - hands down.

How Lesson One Changed Me

If you have read this site for any time at all, you know that I used to be a vocational minister.  You also know that my marriage was on the brink of divorce before God rescued us (if this is coming as a complete surprise, read my story here).  One night, I went to my parents' to talk through things, just trying to get some help and encouragement.  My dad listened to me for quite a while.  Then he said something to me I will never forget.  He said at that point, my marriage and my line of work were no longer compatible.  I had to choose which I was going to keep.

By that time, I had already read this book.  Stanley showed me I couldn't just say "I'm called to ministry" and leave my family's health to chance - something far too many ministers do.  I had to choose to do something about it.  I had to choose to cheat on work rather than home.

Now, for me it was a ministry job that was too demanding on my family.  Others have secular jobs that are too demanding.  The point is, if your job is pushing your family to the brink, find a new job, or figure out a way to spend less time and energy doing your job.  You may have to sacrifice your lifestyle, but it's better than sacrificing your family.

Lesson Two

"When we ask our husbands and wives to carry our load as well as theirs, it is like handing them the rock. When we are absent at critical junctures in family life, they are left holding the rock. When we find ourselves pointing to the future to somehow make up for the past and the present, they are holding the rock. When we assure our families that things are going to change and they don't, they are holding the rock . . .mental willingness is eventually overcome by emotional exhaustion. And when that happens, the rocks come tumbling down" (p 44-45).

Physical presence is mandatory for sharing life, and that is precisely what marriage is about...sharing life.  A video, teleconference, text message, or phone conversation does not replace being in the same place at the same time doing the same thing with the people you love.  There's a point where you can be so exhausted that you just want to be alone when you get home.  If that is the norm, your family is in jeopardy.  I asked Ron Stohler, in his opinion, what is the biggest mistake men make.  He said, "We get so caught up in our work or personal mission that we can leave our families in the dust".

How Lesson Two Changed Me

In my old job, I would usually work a couple of 14 hour days during the week - at least one (I would still work five or six days a week).  When I traveled for work, I would be caring for teenagers and volunteers around the clock.  I would get home from a retreat, and would be ZAPPED for a couple of days.  I didn't have anything left.  Additionally, I was so focused on my own exhaustion, I would totally forget my wife had been working her normal, full-time job as a nurse plus caring for our young son alone.

The illustration about the spouse holding the rock helped me see I didn't have the right to use all my energy away from home.  She needed more of me, but I was too distracted by my own agenda to notice her needs.  I had to help hold the rock.

I am not telling you to leave your job or your ministry.  But it's always important for us to be keenly aware of the state of our families.  Leading your family is the the top priority on earth.  You can't be doing the will of God if your wife is about to drop that rock.  First, heal your family.  That is mission objective 1.  Then together heal others.  That is mission objective 2.

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