It’s 9:17 p.m.
I just got home from a meeting and have to get my boys down, return a phone call, look over some mail and hopefully catch a few minutes of TV to unwind from a hectic day.
Already 17 minutes past the boys bed time and I haven’t even begun reading yet. As they recognize my familiar footsteps nearing their bedroom, I hear the all too familiar mantra: “Daddy, Daddy, read to us!” Tonight, reading is the last thing I want to do, and I’m racing against time. I’ve got more stuff to do tonight, so I better get right down to business.
As I enter their room I’m greeted with simultaneous bear hugs.
Instead of returning the hugs and meeting them eye to eye, my gaze is fixed elsewhere. The bookshelf. “Hmm, what’s the shortest book in here” I wonder. “If I pull this off right”, I think to myself, “I can have the lights out in 13 minutes”. Within seconds I’ve yanked the skinniest book in sight off the shelf and have begun reading. To meet my goal I realize that I’ve got to pick up the pace of the reading and give them an edited version (which of course, they never fall for). As I continue my speed reading, I throw in a monotone voice hoping that if the confusion doesn’t get them more tired, the sheer boredom will certainly cause them to doze off to sleep. “With some luck, maybe I’ll be out of here before 9:30”, I internally scheme.
The clock is still ticking, and I’m reading like a man possessed. “As I flip to page 12”, I think to myself. “Only 24 pages more to go. Haven’t we read Go Dogs Go about 786 times anyway?” The boys interest begins to wane and their eager eyes turn to blank stares. My strategy is working. “Maybe if I skip a few pages, the boys won’t notice.”
With each page I become more and more emotionally detached from their little souls and am seemingly unaware of the fact that I am missing a golden opportunity to be their dad tonight.
As, I reach the final stretch, the boys too have become uninterested in the story, and truth be told, uninterested in their dad as well. Needless to say, I’m secretly glad when they doze off before our prayer time because it leaves more time for me to unwind tonight. I turn off the lights and quickly scurry out of their room without a hug or a kiss (after all, why risk waking them, right?) Mission accomplished. And all of this before 9:30. Well, I got want I wanted tonight. I beat the clock… and lost something sacred in the process.
I’ve found in my own life that saturated-living often robs me of sacred-living.
Saturated-living is a life driven by the stuff of life, overcrowded schedules, random events and the thousand miscellaneous things to get done. These days I must often remind myself, that my kids are not just another “thing” to get done…they are little, unformed beings created in the very image of God. My highest calling is to love them, nurture them in Christ, and to simply be present with them in and through the ordinary events of everyday life. This is sacred-living.
The clock is ticking. And, soon the day will be gone when I have this wonderful opportunity to lie alongside my boys in bed (do you realize this is a sacred privilege?), read to them about the Lord and pray for them as they cuddle with their dad. Today my oldest son Jackson, if he reaches with his tip-toes, can almost touch the foot-board of his bed from where he lies at night. It seems as though just yesterday he could barely climb into that big bed. God has entrusted parents with an appointed amount of time to pour into their little lives. The grow up too fast.
Very soon our kids will be lying in their children’s beds reading stories to their own boys and girls. And, they will have become a certain kind of person because of us.
Their life will either resemble a saturated-lifestyle marked by its tendency of being filled and flooded with stuff, or a sacred-lifestyle characterized by intentional investments in deep relationship with God and others.
Time is fleeting. So, I am attempting to become more and more the kind of person who embraces the sacred life by intentionally nurturing my kids hearts in the way of Jesus. For me, this begins in the bedroom at night where I have the opportunity to look into bright eyes and open hearts and to tell ancient and modern stories about good and evil… to kid around and to laugh… to share my day with them… and to whisper strength into their open, attentive hearts.
This is the stuff of parenthood and of embracing sacred-living. So, my encouragement as a fellow parent and a pastor is to be committed to becoming this kind of person to your kids. It’s a big responsibility, but is fleshed out in small ways like simply reading and praying with your children. And, the time to begin is tonight.