Starting, Quitting, and Pitching In

Kevin Leman, in his book Home Court Advantage, has an excellent chapter on work.  He writes, “Your quitting time at work is your starting time at home.”  Have you ever made this connection?  Your quitting time at work is literally your starting time for what is arguably your more important job; leading and serving your family.  Therefore, when it comes to work, we need to be just as punctual about our quitting time as we are about our starting time.  Think with me about what this looks like in practice.

How many of us would show up an hour late to work and say to our boss, “You know, my wife and I just had SO MUCH to talk about this morning.  We needed to hammer down some plans for today and the time must have just gotten away from us.  There is a lot to talk about with five kids and their schedules and a car in the shop so to get all that covered I just needed to get down here a little late.”

Or how about, “I am going fishing this weekend and saw that Carter’s Country is having a 24 hour sale.  So I stopped by on the way into work and, of course, it took a little while to look over all the deals and make my purchases.  I guess it just added up to an hour late to work.”

Or who would say to their supervisor, upon arriving at the office mid-morning, “I ran into some old college friends yesterday and we decided to get together at the Black Walnut Café for a happy hour breakfast this morning.  It was great to catch up.”

We would not say or do any of these things if we wanted to keep our jobs.  But we say these things, or something similar, to our wives all the time.  Are you with me?  We often treat our quitting time at work with either a casual attitude or a “too-much-to-do-at-work” attitude that gets us home later than necessary.  And the message it sends to our wife and children is that the job at home is really not that high of a priority to Dad.  Your quitting time at work is just as important as your starting time.

A corollary to this is to pitch in when you are tired.  Sometimes we arrive home in the evening weary and feeling spent.  One of the best ways we can serve our family is to set those feelings aside and look for where we can contribute.  When I ask Rhonda, “What do you need from me right now?” I am telling her that I am ready to pitch in now.  Not later.  Not after I have had a chance to wind down.  Not in some unknown future.  But right now.  Pitch in when you are tired.

Doing these things regarding our starting and quitting time and pitching in shows our wives that we are in this family thing together.  So many wives, based on our actions as husbands and dads, feel like they are working alone investing in their children.  By my actions, I often implied to Rhonda that she was alone in the family effort.  And alone is not a good thing.  Show your wife, by your actions, that you are in this together.

You Are Indispensable at Home

I began this set of posts on balancing family, work, and ministry with a diagram to summarize our time commitments.  children-drawing

We covered the various time categories that get “squeezed” when children join the mix.  We also talked about the time we invest in our families.  We emphasized that family time is not babysitting or childcare; it is investing in our children’s future and our legacy.

Let’s wrap up our discussion with a few thoughts about work.  It is easy to find our significance in our work.  I think this is especially true if we feel unqualified or uncomfortable on the home front.  But rest assured, God has qualified and gifted you to be a success as a husband and father.  Everything you were given at your new birth – a new heart, a new identity, a new power, a new disposition, a new Spirit, a new nature – are available to you to invest in your family.

I think sometimes those of us in ministry to fathers sound like we are negative toward work when we address the topic of overwork or finding our significance only in our work.  Work is a good thing.  In fact, we have posted previously four biblical reasons to go to work.  Our goal is to learn the balance between doing our work with excellence while at the same time not becoming totally wrapped up in our work.

One principle that has been helpful to me is the idea that “You may feel indispensable at work; you are indispensable at home.”  Don’t give everything you have at the office.  Save some time and energy for your family.  Not to denigrate the importance of the work you do, but there is probably someone who could step in and do your job in a pinch if you were not there.  There is no one to “step in” at home.  You are it.  And your presence and influence are indispensable to your family.  You are the one.  Remember, you may feel indispensable at work; you are indispensable at home.

Love Trumps Knowledge (again)

Finally, we invest in our children when we teach and model the concept that love trumps knowledge.  Paul writes in I Corinthians 8:1, “Knowledge puffs up, love builds up.”  Or in another translation, “Knowledge makes arrogant, but love edifies.”  Paul could not be more direct.  When the apostle expounds on the topic again in I Corinthians chapter 13, he explains that knowledge without love is useless.  According to Scripture, knowledge without love is of no value whatsoever!

This prominent message of the New Testament has tremendous implications in your family and in your community of believers.  In our legitimate quest to get things right, we can forget the love.  In our effort to get our kids to fly right, we can damage the relationship with a lack of love.  In our search for Bible knowledge, we can become hearers and studiers of love instead of doers of the Word.  The knowledge we advertise in our gossip often harms the ones we claim to love.  Our desire to be in the knowledgeable inner circle can leave us stepping over our less-connected brothers and sisters.  And in our effort to be biblically correct on current trends, such as homosexuality, we can lose our love for the individual caught in its grip.

I have seen our children take this message to heart.  I have seen the idea that love trumps knowledge played out in their lives over and over.  It would be self-serving to share their stories, but it warms the hearts of their parents.  Did we value knowledge in our household?  Very much so.  Bible knowledge is important.  Academic progress was encouraged and rewarded.  But it must always be subservient to love.

Soon after Rhonda and I were engaged to be married, I flew up to Alaska for a job assignment while Rhonda finished her last semester in school.  She gave me a book as I boarded the plane and wrote this verse on the flyleaf, “Let all that you do be done in love” (I Cor 16:14).  Little did we know then, over 35 years ago, that this verse would become a theme for our family.  Rhonda has always been a doer of the word when it comes to love, but I guess on that day she was a prophet as well.