Today something "just happened" that stopped me in my tracks. I haven't gotten it off my mind all day. I think it's fairly apparent that I have a heart for the family, right?. This morning, I took my kids to the library for music, story, and craft time, which they loved, by the way. When I got home, Aspen was zonked; however, she was not zonked enough that I could put her down. Since I wake up at 5 a.m. every day and several times in the middle of the night with her, it's sometimes worth it just to sit and hold her, so that's what I did. Ephraim was busy playing with toys, and I sat in a chair in front of the TV for an entire hour (crazy, right!?). I couldn't change the channel, so I just watched what was on TV. For me, it was a divine appointment.
I saw an episode of "Kidnapped by the Kids" on Oprah's television network. It cut me to the core. I cried almost the entire time. At the beginning, I felt a little guarded because the title of this particular episode was "Practice What You Preach," and the father being kidnapped was a pastor. You just never know how people of faith will be handled, or how they'll represent the rest of us on TV. ;)
This family had fallen into a trap where I've been, and where so many of my close friends have been. I would say that I know more people in ministry who struggle with this balance than not. It's tough. For clarification, though, I do not see the leaders at my church in this light at all. I wouldn't go there if I did. It's hard to explain the difference where I'm at than where I've been, but I don't feel this huge pressure to be "there" all the time, and I don't even get the impression that the leaders pressure each other to be "there" all the time. In fact, it actually seems like they encourage each other to be "out here" and to take a break from the constant-ness of ministry "inside the walls." I know that a lot of people look at pastors and church leaders and think that they have really cushy jobs and only work one day a week. From experience, I can tell you that line of thinking is dead wrong. Being in church leadership and in the ministry are the absolute HARDEST jobs in the world sometimes. The adage that 10% of the people do 90% of the work is unfortunately usually the truth. On top of that, the church where many of us find haven, friendships, love, and fun is also their workplace. There are bills to be paid, ministries to run, positions to fill, and just a lot of STUFF to be done. It is hard work. In church leadership, you never want to feel like your burdening the members, but at the same time you just genuinely need help. It is a really tough balance knowing when to step up and when to step back. It is also really personal. You love the church you serve and its people. You are passionate about what you are doing, and you really want others to feel as passionately as you do. That isn't always the case, and quite frankly, that sometimes hurts. It is a struggle to stay in a place of finding satisfaction just in God, and not in your ministry, place of service, or even family.
I have honestly struggled a bit since moving to our new church because I know I could jump back into the fray and run myself ragged. I've done it before. After some of what we've experienced, though, I'm extremely gun shy... probably too much so. I'm still working out the balance in my own life of what God has called me and my family to do. I suppose that will be an ongoing thing. ;) However, I do feel guilty pretty often. I look at the leaders in my church and the people who serve in the same places every single week, and if they feel at all like I did at one point in my life, I know it isn't alway easy. In a sense, I'd like to jump in and give them a break. In another sense, I've got two little ones (although Ephraim did decide to go to his class this week, and he loved it!) to handle, and I'm not totally sure God has actually called me to something else.... like maybe this is my season of resting and learning.
I have had experience in church leadership that wasn't all bad, but we made a lot of mistakes. I'm thankful for that experience, and I know I won't make those same mistakes in the same way again. However, until having this year of sitting back and watching another group of church leaders flesh it out, I didn't exactly have my mind wrapped around how to avoid certain pitfalls and maintain balance between ministry and family. I am really thankful that the people in leadership at my church are doing this, that I can see it firsthand, and that it is obvious that even though they aren't in the church building until 2 a.m. every night, God is blessing this church! In fact, I honestly am starting to think that the more we back off, the more we allow God room to do HIS stuff, which is way bigger than anything we could accomplish on our own anyway. I know. This should not be a shocking revelation... makes me think of Gideon's army... but I guess when you are a perfectionist/control freak/do-er, you forget that God is the one who is ACTUALLY in control. No matter how perfect we try to make things, He is the giver of good and perfect gifts. End of story.
Anyway, that was a long digression to get me back to this show that I "happened" to see today. This father and pastor was kidnapped by his children because they missed him. It just absolutely broke my heart to hear how he'd missed every single one of his daughter's basketball games, and how disconnected he was with his family in general. At one point in the show, he was talking particularly to his son. He apologized to him and sought his forgiveness because he realized he'd been pushing all these other people to pursue their dreams and make things happen, but he actually had no idea what his own son's dreams were. He said that he thought that since his children were older, they didn't need him as much, and how he realized this was such wrong thinking. I could go on and on, but it really struck a cord with me, hit close to home. I know that Quincy and I will not be on the sidelines of ministry forever, and I want to be cautious about overwhelming myself with "to do's" and forgetting to sometimes NOT do. God can handle it.
This episode will air again at 2 a.m. on Thursday morning. I know that's not a great time for everybody, but if you are in ministry, I encourage you to watch it. I'll be recording it. This is not how the world should see us and our families. We should have the strongest, tightest bonds. Our kids shouldn't have to kidnap us from our pulpits.
If you are not in ministry, pray for your leaders and their families. Encourage them to take breaks and vacations. Actively pursue opportunities to relieve their burdens so that they can be with their families at church sometimes. It is hard work they are doing. Sometimes it is easy to assume that because they are in church leadership, they've got it all together and don't need breaks. Sometimes we can become selfish with our pastors and their time. Instead, I hope we can become selfish on their behalf, for their time. The more they are able to be excellent husbands, wives, fathers, and mothers, the easier it is for them to serve us well. Honor the families that sacrifice for us. Know that they LOVE to do it, but they also need our encouragement. Remember that they view their church and ministry almost like their children, laying their lives down for it daily. If there is something that you disagree with or don't like, talk to them. Then, take it upon yourself to fix it. They don't need something else to do. In fact, I believe that oftentimes, when we see an area of need in the church, it is God's way of calling us to fill the need - not His way of giving us an opportunity to pass the buck to someone "more equipped." ;)
So, here's a clip from the show. Enjoy! And figure out a way to watch the whole thing as soon as you can.