As you may remember from last year, my friend Paul and I always speak around the holidays about an overarching theme for the following year. You see, since we entered seminary together, we both had high regard for the burden that school would put not only on ourselves, but our families as well. In my case, I made a promise to Janet that homework would never interfere with our life as a family; and so I didn’t usually start my studies until Janet and Andrew were in bed.
Kristin was already married when I entered school and Jill was headed to Oklahoma so our home was almost empty during those years when I worked so hard doing Greek, Hebrew, theology and all the other courses you take in seminary. But I have to tell you, when you start your homework at 11:00 pm and don’t finish until 3:00 am or so, when the alarm is set to go off at 5:50, you begin to doubt the sanity of your decision to attend graduate school.
One of the ways that Paul and I got through school is that we studied together each evening. We did most of our homework individually, but then called each other to study together and make sure our language translations were up to expectations. We were usually on the phone more than an hour each time we talked. As difficult as it was, I miss those days. I have never been in greater sync with the Lord and I know that Paul would say the same thing.
One of the things that you learn in school is the importance of family and ministry teams. Of course, there is a ton of leadership training because most men and women who graduate become missionaries or pastors. Both of those callings require strong leadership skills and that wasn’t lost on either of us. So aside from everything else, Paul and I became, in a strange way, accountability partners. We spoke about our trials and tribulations, the things going on with our families and the increasing responsibility we felt as we expanded our training and classwork in seminary.
Almost a decade ago, we agreed that each year we would pick a theme and then concentrate on developing our skills to be better leaders in our ministry lives, in addition to the leadership we provided to our families. For me it was a little easier, because Janet and I only have three children, but Paul and Michelle have 10 children and Paul is always busy with some project for one or more of them.
And talk about a great family. They are all terrific kids and young adults. But that’s because Paul and Michelle decided early on that they would dedicate their lives to making sure they raised God centered, respectful, hard working children. Paul and I both thought that we had room to improve our leadership when it came to our families. Both of us had experienced periodic issues that we could have handled differently from the way that we did. So that first year, we decided to spend our effort on dedicating more time to improving ourselves so that be could be of greater benefit to our families. Hence, the first “year of the family.”
But a funny thing happened. We got the the end of the year and started to discuss themes for the next year. We could have picked devotions, or work, or ministry, or pastoral leadership or any number of other worthy goals to improve our leadership. But when all the discussion ended and the dust settled, we both decided that we both still had significant room for improvement as husbands and fathers. So, we extended the “year of the family” another year. Guess what… Our discussions are pretty short nowadays. Because we have come to realize that you can always be a better husband and father.
So now, every year is the “year of the family.” Sure, we discuss it, like we did at the end of last year, but it’s a short discussion because we know that aside from God, our families are the impetus that makes us stronger as ministers, teachers and leaders in our daily lives. Of course, we pray that our kids will become God centered leaders as well.
The verse for tonight is from Proverbs 23:25, “May your father and mother be glad; may she who gave you birth rejoice!” That is our hope for our families. We pray that through our dedication and hard work we will have Godly offspring. My encouragement this evening is that God entrusted to you a sacred trust when he gave you children. My prayer is that you will take that role seriously and that you will begin to ponder the “year of the family.” Have a great day in the Lord, grace and peace…