One lunchtime recently I was chatting with an old friend and we got to talking about the unrelenting busyness that is eating into our family way of life. I know I’m not the only one who’s suffering from the stress of a busy life. Why do we let this happen, when we know better? Why does our work life often force us to sacrifice those elements of our lives that are most important . . . our families and friends? To think that a ‘choice’ has to be made is absurd. A balanced life respects the needs of your work, your spiritual life and your family.
This isn’t a new concept. In fact, our grandfathers worked hard to establish a balanced working culture. If my memory serves me correct, Labour Day in Australia (and probably around the world) was a signal for the balance to be restored. As a young boy I remember the mantra being spoken: 8 hours work – 8 hours play – 8 hours sleep and 8 bob a day (That was 80 cents per day for those of you who are much younger than me.)
Many studies have been undertaken on the impact of an unbalanced life style. There are negative effects we might casually ignore without knowing they are symptoms of a greater problem. You might have seen some warning signs like these:
• Stopped spending time with God
• A loss of intimacy
• A lack of time with the children
• Irregular meals with the family leading to disconnection
• A lack of friends
• Fatigue leading to inability to carry out home or work responsibilities
• Responsibilities have to be reallocated so needs are attended to.
There is a problem
Like any problem, the greatest hurdle is to recognize it exists. Guys are notoriously unaware of the hole they’re falling into. You can’t keep kidding yourself by saying that things will slow down. They don’t! Other justifications like I’m doing it for my kids or I have to do it, likewise don’t hold water. In the end, all of these statements are just other ways of allowing defeat in the situation.
Charles Hummel in his book The Tyranny of the Urgent says that our suffering is from jumbled priorities. When we’re at work we have no problem developing business plans, marketing plans, project plans. We have apps for tasks lists, Things to Do Today lists, electronic and traditional diaries. We spend time and money on strategy meetings and creating vision statements, mission statements and anything else that can keep us on track. But, what about your spiritual and home life? Even God had a plan for Jesus, and when Jesus had finished His work, He was called home. ‘I have finished the work which you gave me to do’ (John 17:4). If it’s good enough for God to have a measured plan, why not you? What’s your plan look like? Here are some ideas as you grapple with your priorities this year:
- Set aside time for reflection, reading the Bible and prayer.
- Make time together a priority. Your children need you to provide a stable and happy environment. They learn from how you relate not what you say to them.
- Plan to have at least one meal together each day. Sit down at a set table and develop the art of communication (without the TV on).
- Establish a vision for your home, and for each person, including your partner. If you don’t know how you wish your family to be in the future, how can you work towards it?
- Understand what stresses you out by asking your partner and then discuss how you can reverse the problem.
- Establish a central family diary or calendar and use it to plan what is coming up.
- Introduce some helping and fun routines back into the home. These give stability and security to all.
- Establish and communicate clear boundaries with your children. This is part of their security fence.
- Revive your romance. Think back to your courting days and find new or old ways to ‘woo’ your sweetheart.
Your spiritual life, work place and home must be balanced in order for you to enjoy all life has to offer. I have to constantly work at this, and for the most part I succeed. Doing something about it is a good place to start.
“”My son, do not forget my teaching, but keep my commands in your heart, for they will prolong your life many years and bring you peace and prosperity.” Proverbs 3:1-2 NIV