“If the Devil can’t make you bad, he’ll make you busy!” That’s what a friend of mine wrote me on the day of my grad school graduation. I’m not sure he gave it much thought, but for me, it was prophetic. No, I’m not the one who is going to fall into the arms of another woman or embezzle money. But, my struggle and many of the families I know, is that we get just too busy with life. In fact, I would suggest that one of the biggest problems in the world of families is this breathless pace in which we live. Wasn’t it the great “theologian” Vince Lombardi, once the coach of the Green Bay Packers who said, “Fatigue makes cowards of us all.” I know this from experience, that I quickly become a lousy husband and father when I’m fatigued.
Have you ever seen the road sign that simply says, “Speed Kills.” Of course, it’s referring to driving too fast, but I’m convinced that there are also very poor consequences of living an overcrowded and constantly exhausting life. Here are just a few of the results of an overcrowded life:
Loss of rhythm – I’m not talking about dance moves or I’d be in big trouble! I’m talking about the daily and healthy rhythms of life. Do your kids go to bed at a regular hour? Are there healthy routines of eating together? Do you as a family connect on a deeper level?
Loss of spiritual focus – With the constantly busy life and fast pace, one of the first things to go is any kind of deeper spiritual connection. We are too busy to set aside any personal time with God and even the idea of our family’s spiritual focus time together.
Loss of health – Sometimes with younger kids what we think may be a medical issue is really just that they are too tired, and they can’t explain it to you. However, no doubt at other times, the pace of life does cause more susceptibility to sickness for all of us.
Stress and at-risk behaviors – With an overcrowded life there is too much stress that builds up in a family. When we are stressed, we don’t handle our primary relationships well and being dangerously tired changes the ability to say no to at-risk behaviors. If I’m too tired, that’s when I’m most susceptible to eating that pint of gelato. Frankly, fatigue makes anyone more vulnerable to sin. (Not that eating gelato is the most sinful thing I’ve ever done).
Overcommitted and under connected – When I look at the pace of too many families, the result can be summarized in becoming overcommitted, even doing good things, and under connected on a deeper level with our primary relationships: God, spouse (if you are married), kids, and even with yourself.
So, what’s the answer?
One word: REST
The word rest in the Hebrew language is sabbath. Here is what the Old Testament says, “it is a sign between Me and the children of Israel forever; for in six days the LORD made the heavens and the earth, and on the seventh day, He rested and was refreshed.” (Exodus 31:17) The word refreshed can also mean to exhale. He took a breath. Families today are in deep need of sabbath on a regular basis. Unfortunately, when people think of the word sabbath they make it to be legalistic, but it really is just a simple way of saying our bodies need rest, our spirits need rest and frankly our family dynamics need rest. Here are four ingredients to a healthy weekly sabbath lifestyle:
Rest – Does your family have a time where they just stop the busy pace of life and take a break? I know one family who rests from their social media and phones one day a week. They tell me it’s their best connection as a family day of the week.
Refresh – What does your family do to recharge and rejuvenate your connection each week? It doesn’t have to be a big deal, but it does need to be intentional. One family I know takes one evening a week to go out for ice cream and then play a game together. Sounds refreshing to me.
Restore – Relationships can bend and even break under the busyness of life. What do you do proactively to make sure that on a regular basis you are practicing the art of restoration in a relationship? For Cathy and me, it’s our date night. When my kids were younger it was a connection date with each of them a week. Some families have a weekly family devotional time that is very fun and meaningful.
Recreation – Does your family play together on a weekly basis? When I was writing my PhD dissertation, I studied traits of a healthy family. One of the top traits was play together as a family. With younger children it comes easier, as your kids grow up you still want to still create ways of playing together, building memories and traditions that are fun. Intentional fun times with your family on at least a weekly basis will do a lot to create a close-knit family.
After a very busy week, with some travel in it, Cathy and I are taking our sabbath today. (After I finish this blog) I’m calling it a “Cathy day.” I told her we can do whatever she wants for the entire day. She just announced we were going shopping for new pants for her and maybe looking at a new desk for her home office. Those chores may sound enjoyable to her but it’s not sounding very restful or fun on my part. I’ll try and sneak in a fun meal, maybe a walk on the beach and hopefully a movie later.