Some friends of ours had a baby last night. Quite an experience if you’ve never had one.
I still remember the feeling I had the week we brought Arwen home. I was driving my work truck into the yard and said to myself “I will work as many jobs as I have to to provide for this little girl”. I still remember the weight that came on me that day. I remember knowing why some men just leave when they feel it. I’m not excusing them, but it’s just not another day at the office, it’s heavy. Crushing.
On that day of unusual pressure, I made some changes. Some choices. Looking back, it was a narrow window of opportunity to reorganize some priorities for my wife and I.
Pressure can define you if you let it, or you can leave and let someone else make the decisions. I was unusually well prepared for the weight and reality of family by my mom and dad, but though it hasn’t been easy, it’s worked out so far.
What pressure and responsibility can do is sharpen your mind to cut unnecessary things away. And THAT is a gift!
When it falls on you, or it falls apart, you are in a rare moment! You can do what most people do and complain about it to as many people as will feel sorry for you, or you can USE IT! I really mean it. You can use it to make some decisions you’ve been lethargic about, or unwilling to pull the trigger on.
Canadians rarely use that window to cut unnecessary things from their lives. They think their main job is to survive that two-week period of pressure (or hell). I cannot say this more vehemently, YOU HAVE BEEN GIVEN A GIFT THAT COULD PLOT A COURSE FOR THE REST OF YOUR LIFE!
Lift your head out of the trenches and ask some real and painful questions: “If I continue a close friendship with her, she might continue poisoning my mind against my husband. Is that what I really want?” If we try to say “yes” to all these activities and “no” to margin in our lives, or real community, what will we say “no!” to twenty years from now? Our marriage? Our children’s relational future?
I watch people in that crucial spiritual crux when the world drops on them. I know they’ve got about two weeks to make some meaningful choices. Eternal choices. Two weeks before life goes back to normal, the trouble is…do you even want normal…(normal…you know, your life minus the questions about things that matter)? When the pressure lessens slightly, the window closes. DANGER! DANGER! Comfort makes terrible choices!
Opportunities = Activities = Overloaded Schedules = Things we HAVE to do!
Erin and I decided Family, Church, Work. Believe me when I say that everything else revolves around these three things. Our family works quite well actually. A decision to put our girls in soccer is not a “child” decision, it is a family decision. Does it work for the family? Our marriage also comes before our children. The best gift we can give them is a healthy marriage, not an opportunity to be involved in every sport under the sun.
We are very committed in our church community. Why? It’s the best thing for prioritizing our family. We DO life together with people. It reminds us of the most important questions, which are spiritual. It also reminds us that our family is not all about our family. My life is about the lives of others and our family is about other families. (I should mention that Venue Church is all about the people who aren’t here yet, not those who are). This keeps us in balance and moving towards goals that are healthy and make a difference in the long run to other people.
We work because it puts food on the table.
In one particular crisis, I decided I was going to make life decisions as if I was in that crisis forever. The clutter of life was peeled away by the pain and I could SEE clearly. I have attempted to see life from those eyes ever since then. I have never once regretted a decision along those lines. Ever!
I have made other people mad, I have cheerfully disagreed with friends, I have cheerfully disagreed with enemies, we have abstained from what everyone was telling us we just “had” to do, I have looked like the bad guy on many occasions, and none of this has killed me.
My family will thank me one day like I have thanked my own father. He taught me how to use the pain window and wasn’t particularly bothered about who agreed with him or not. The window taught him why he was really here.
Maybe the most important gift that narrow window has given me is this:
I have time to think!