BY REV. KURT TRUCKSESS
CROSSWINDS CHURCH -- SPIRIT LAKE
How do I balance work, church and family?
It wasn't long ago some were predicting the main challenge for our generation would be too much spare time. For example, in 1967, testimony before a Senate subcommittee claimed that by 1985 the average work week would be just 22 hours. Instead, we went the opposite direction. Today Americans lead the industrialized world in annual work hours. In 1967, the average employee worked 1,716 hours a year. By the year 2,000 that rose to 1,878 hours a year.
With so much time needed for work how can we balance our work, church and family life? Unfortunately there is no one-size-fits-all answer. We will all struggle to keep our lives in balance. Here are a few tips to help.
1. Check my pride at the door.
One of the reasons we are busy is our pride. We like busyness. It makes us feel important. We don't say "no" because deep inside we don't want to say "no." We like the feeling of significance busyness gives us. Some of us have never learned to say "no" because we have inverted pride; low self-esteem. We prop up our feelings of inferiority through the narcotic of busyness.
Occasionally through sickness or job transfer we step out of our roles only to discover the world managed well without us. God raised up other leaders with different ideas and an alternate vision. They did a good job. We discover our work is not as indispensable as we realized.
Sometimes we are too busy simply because we want to be. If we are honest, the source of most of our busyness is ourselves.
2. Set priorities. Jesus couldn't do it all, neither can I.
In Mark 1 we read of Jesus having incredible success. He was teaching and casting out demons in Capernaum. By sundown Jesus and the disciples were surrounded with the sick and the demon-oppressed needing their help. Jesus and the disciples worked into the night. The next morning looked like it would be another busy day at the demon casting and healing office. Mark records a strange twist of events. Early the next morning Jesus rose for his quiet time with his father in the woods. When his disciples eventually found him they told him he needed to get back to work. The sick were coming! Jesus did the unexpected. He told them to pack their bags. They were closing up shop and heading to the next town.
This seems foolish. Jesus had a thriving business. Why pack up and leave town? The answer is Jesus that had priorities. His priority was to move from town to town preaching the gospel and not stay in one place. To stick with his priorities, he needed to leave things undone. Jesus had human limitations just like we do. Just like Jesus, we need to realize God doesn't want us meeting every need. We need to let our heavenly father set our priorities then ruthlessly trim our schedule to stick to them. Like Jesus, when everyone else is demanding that we do more we may need to stick to our priorities and leave things undone.
3. Caring about something doesn't mean I need to do something about it.
Like you, every day I get letters in the mail from worthy causes. They contain opportunities to cloth the homeless and feed the hungry. The opportunities to do spiritual and practical good abound. At church I can adopt an orphan in India. I can give to a building fund. I can support our new campus plant. We are fortunate to live in a time when we many opportunities for spiritual and practical good. The problem is we have more opportunities to do good than we have time or strength to do them. We are still limited. Sometimes I hear that if we don't do something about a cause, that means we don't care about the cause.
That simply is not true. We can care about something but that doesn't mean we need to do something about everything we care about. We simply can't. You can care about orphans without needing to support one. Should we do as much spiritual and practical good as we can? Of course! We just need to remember that we always do something for everything that touches our heart.
4. Kill something before I add something.
Before you add something to your life, determine what you are going to take away from your life to make room. Every one of us is limited to 24 hours in a day. We can try to use those hours more efficiently but we can't make more. For your own sanity refuse to add something until you kill something.
5. Just stop.
One of the problems of modernity is the inability to get away from work. The iPhone chimes with a message. We pause to look at our phone and miss seeing our daughter score her first goal in soccer. As we eat dinner, the phone rings breaking the serenity of time with our family. When we are lying in bed next to our spouse, instead of giving out attention to intimacy we are checking Facebook. Our connection to technology and work needs to stop. When we can not get away from work and the technology that goes with it, we can not rest. Without rest, our productivity dwindles as our mind is numbed when it can't be refreshed.
The Bible talks about Sabbath. Sabbath literally means to stop. It means to take a break to be refreshed. God gave us the Sabbath as a gift. It is not an inconvenience. In the Bible, Sabbath is more than one day a week for worship. The rhythm of work followed by rest is woven into fabric of God's design for life. Each day has a night where we take a break for sleep. Each week has a Sabbath on the weekend. The Old Testament describes numerous mandatory holidays and special sabbath for rest.
Our 24 hour-a-day work world shreds the principle of Sabbath. When we take away times of rest to be refreshed by God our life withers away.
Turn off the cell phone during the dinner hour. Shut off the television and take a walk. Make sure you take your vacation. Make sure you unplug on Sunday to be refreshed by God's Word, worship and rest. The secret to hard work is making sure we stop to rest.
6. Manage my time by developing a rhythm.
One of the secrets to accomplishing more is taking the time to lay out your week on your calendar. One of the secrets of developing more time is developing a rhythm to your schedule. When you develop a rhythm you know what you need to do and when you need to do it without needing to look at your schedule. It is part of your rhythm.
My weekly rhythm involves meetings on Mondays. Projects and articles on Tuesday (I am writing this on a Tuesday). Sermon research and outlining on Wednesday. Thursday is completely blocked off for sermon writing. That is my rhythm. When someone asks for a appointment on Thursday, I don't need to look at my schedule because I know it is booked.
7. One thing I must do.
Luke 10 tells the story of Mary and Martha. Their home was one of Jesus' favorites. When Jesus was in town, Martha, a woman who loved to cook, insisted on Jesus and the disciples staying at her home for a meal. As large meals often do, things were not coming together. The bread was refusing to rise. The meat was burning on the outside while it refused to cook on the inside. The whole meal was starting to look more like a burned offering for Jesus rather than his dinner. We can picture Martha opening the kitchen door and smoke rolling out of the kitchen. The Bible tells us Martha stood in front of Jesus and said, "Lord, do you not care that my sister has left me to serve alone? Tell her then to help me."
That seems like a justifiable request. Somebody needs to make the dinner. Somebody needs to set the table and pour the drinks. It would be unthinkable to have other women not help the master chef in the kitchen.
Jesus says something unexpected to her. "Martha, Martha, you are anxious and troubled about many things, but one thing is necessary. Mary has chosen the good portion, which will not be taken away from her." Why did Jesus not care about the burning soufflé?
He was simply pointing out that in all the busyness of life there is one thing we must do. It is the one thing Mary had done. Spend time with Jesus.
The one thing we must do is sit at the feet of Jesus. How do we sit at the feet of Jesus? We read His word and pray each day. We also sit at the feet of Jesus as we listen to God's Word preached on Sundays.
This week, as you try to keep your frantic life in balance, remember to make time for the one thing we must do. Take time each day to sit at the feet of Jesus.