The Year of the Family
As most of you already know, Janet and I did not decide that I should go to seminary until I was in my late forties. The kids were grown, we had downsized the house, and as it had been when we were first married, we were pretty much alone in our home. At one point during my studies, Andrew came back to live with us for a short time, but by and large, it was just the two of us.
I had been pretty tied up in the corporate community for years and it is no secret that I was a pretty hard charging kind of guy, set on success. The company grew, and by most measurements, I guess one would say that we were successful, at least by the measure of the world’s standards. The company profits had ebbed and flowed throughout the years, and at one time we had more than 1000 employees, but there was an undeniable void in our lives that couldn’t be filled with more success, or a bigger bonus at the end of the year.
As this feeling of uneasiness continued to grow, it became more evident that God was leading me to seminary. It was there that I met my friend Paul, a person you have read about numerous times throughout the history of TBTB. We were incredibly unlikely friends – so different as to almost be humorous. He was an independent Baptist and I was an evangelical. He used the King James Bible; and I taught most of the time from the NIV. He was a pastor; I was a corporate guy. He and Michelle had 10 children, while Janet and I had 3. He sought the Lord before making decisions, while I usually tried to convince God that my way was right. How we ever ended up being friends is truly a miracle, but God put us together and it was one of the greatest blessings of my life.
Paul has taught me patience, and to wait on God. To be less direct, although my family would disagree with that one. He has taught his family to live at a standard that most of us in this country would find difficult to accept. He was excellent in learning the Greek and Hebrew, which frustrated me, and I swear he could almost recite the Bible cover to cover. Whenever I was around his children, they were well behaved, respectful, attentive and obedient to Paul’s desires and parental mandates.
Yet one December, as we contemplated our goals for the next year, I sensed an uneasiness in Paul as we discussed different themes for improving ourselves. We talked about vowing to do better in the languages, to be drawn closer to God, to study theology at a deeper level, to hold one another accountable as brothers in Christ, to devote ourselves to more prayer time and a host of other obvious things that I am sure you have already thought of to improve our relationship with God.
Nothing seemed to satisfy Paul as a theme for the upcoming year. Then, almost out of nowhere, he mentioned the area where he thought he needed additional work. He wanted us to devote ourselves to becoming better leaders of our families. One the idea sunk in, I was onboard. He mentioned some things that I had never really given much thought to. Since we both came from families that left something to be desired from a God-centered perspective, he wanted to concentrate on modeling a Christlike behavior. He also wanted to be a better listener and to prepare his sons as eventual leaders of their own God centered families; and to prepare his daughters to be diligent and competent in raising their children as parents as well.
Aside from these things, he also wanted to make sure that he spent more time with his family. That’s something that I never did very well when the kids were growing up. I worked quite a bit and frankly, I don’t remember as much of their childhood as I wish I did. And back in those days, faith was not as important to me as it is now. I know that the kids hesitated to bring their friends home, and although these are the realities, I can’t do too much about those days now. That ship sailed many years ago. But Paul’s reminder that we are fathers for as long as we have children really resonated with me.
We didn’t have to cease being role models because our kids got older; or moved out. So we adopted “the year of the family” as our official theme. The next year, when we thought about other topics, Paul let me know that he still could do better as father and husband. He was the one who had the courage to say what I was thinking about myself….. so, you guessed it, we kept the same theme the following year, and every year since. Because we both came to the realization that parenting is a lifetime commitment; and continuing to be a role model for our children is just too important to ignore.
Now Janet will tell you that I don’t fare too well in this area. The kids will all call me when they are in trouble, or really need something, but other than that, Janet gets the first call. I am viewed as somewhat judgmental, and none of the kids like that part of me. In fact, I’m not too fond of it myself. And there are other areas I could improve, but you get the idea, I’m sure.
So, as Paul and I embark on another “year of the family,” I invite you to join us. The verse tonight comes from Paul’s letter to his protege Timothy. In 1 Tim 5:18, Paul warns his young friend, “But if anyone does not provide for his own, and especially for those of his household, he has denied the faith and is worse than an unbeliever.” I guess I don’t need to explain, except that he didn’t mean “financial provision” as much as he meant to “care” for family members.
My encouragement tonight is to invite you to be the best parent you can be; and to improve the way you “do” family. There is always room for improvement. And my prayer is that your family will be blessed by your commitment to become a better leader for your spouse and children. Have a great day in the Lord….