Achieving Work-Family Balance, prt. 1

 

balancing act

Image courtesy of Colin Harris, licensed under Creative Commons

It is hard to achieve work/family balance

Around 1996 I was flying out the door, in a hurry to get to work, as usual. Work was my great passion, perhaps my greatest passion. I had been a record store clerk for years before I became a pastor, and a groundskeeper before that. It felt so good to be in the ministry, to have a “real job,” at least what felt like a real job to me. So I was hurrying out the door. I remember thinking I was very late for something, although of course now I don’t remember what it was. Suddenly it hit me — the awareness that I had to pee. I was already out the door with my briefcase — but I really had to pee. Wherever I had to be was going to have to wait because peeing could not.

In I rushed, through the door, down the hall, into the bathroom. I did my business and ran back out the door to my car, started it up, and flew off down the road. As always, I loved the quiet of the car — a break from my beautiful but very busy three year-old, one-year old, and infant daughters. This moment, however, did not bring the peace I had come to expect. Instead a crushing, horrifying, awful truth dawned on me. My wife was right.  

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Letting Go

letting go

Image courtesy of admitchell08, licensed under Creative Commons

Nothing is as difficult, or as necessary, as letting go. At this moment you are burdened by things from your past — damaging words, destructive arguments, hurtful parents and other role models, painful situations. These things build and build in your life, starting in childhood. You put them on the back burner so you can pay attention to other things, but that back burner is getting pretty crowded lately. How much can you ignore? The back burner only holds so much, and soon it is falling all over the floor, spilling out of your life like a wound that won’t stop bleeding.

You’ve tried everything.

  • Not thinking about.
  • Complaining about it.
  • Not worrying about it.
  • Hating God for it.
  • Not talking about it.
  • Keeping busy.
  • Telling yourself to grow up, that there’s nothing you can do about it.

But that’s not true. There is something you can do. You can let go. Nothing is as difficult, or as necessary, as letting go. Letting go is not the same thing as not thinking about it, not worrying about it, not talking about it, keeping busy, or telling yourself to grow up. All of those are attempts to minimize or deny the hurt you have been feeling. Letting go acknowledges the hurt and feels it. It sits there in the hurt for a little while, lets it be exactly what it is. If you do not allow your hurt to be what it is, it will come out in ways that are harmful to you and to others. In fact, it is probably already doing that. You must let it be.

Then go beyond that. You acknowledge the hurt and you feel it. Then you forgive it. You forgive the person who hurt you. You forgive the world for not being fair. You forgive whoever or whatever for the hurt you are feeling and this includes forgiving yourself. You determine to be done with it, and you let it go. You can only really do this when you have been through the other steps. As long as you are running from your pain, it will be impossible to let it go. The hurt you are suffering now is at least as much from running as it is from whatever hurt you to begin with.

There is no healthier way to deal with pain than this. You can return to this process again and again with everything that has caused you grief. Letting go never gets old. Letting go never gets easy. Letting go never stops setting you free.

Question: How do you work through the process of letting go?

Why Divorce Must Be An Option, Christian or Not

divorce

Image courtesy of JCOterhal, used under Creative Commons

The power of choice

Years ago I came to what felt like a dead-end in a job I had previously loved. As the months passed I grew more and more frustrated and would occasionally call a friend and complain to him about how miserable I was and how trapped I felt. I would go on about how I could be making more money in certain other jobs. One evening he replied, “Then you are there because you choose to be. If you know you could get another job making more money, then you have simply chosen not to do that.” This reinvigorated me. I realized he was right. I was choosing. I was not trapped, and I was not a victim.

I still hated my job, but I felt emboldened when I realized that, for specific reasons, it was better for me to stay in that job than to leave at that time in my life. Instead of seeing the job as a trap someone had laid for me, I was able to start seeing it as a choice I had made for specific reasons, and that although I didn’t like the job, it was in my best interests to stay a while longer.

Marriage is a terrible place to be trapped

I used to tell couples that divorce must never be an option. I felt couples would run to divorce too soon if they saw divorce as even a remote possibility. I don’t give this counsel anymore. Though it’s still a good idea not to use the D word flippantly, I now believe that in order for a marriage to be healthy, divorce actually must be an option.

After all, the likelihood that you will face times of major frustration and discouragement in your marriage is extremely high. If you don’t consider divorce an option and choose to stay in the marriage, what will your attitude be? I assure you that you will feel as trapped in your marriage as I felt in my job. Maybe more. It stinks to feel trapped in a job, but you get to leave a job and go home. However, marriage is 24/7. Marriage is not something you want to feel trapped in.

On your wedding day, you made a promise to your spouse. Of course promises should be kept, but that does not mean you are trapped. You could leave if you really wanted to. Of course it would be inconvenient in many ways, but you could do it if you wanted to. Remember that you are married because you choose to be. Probably no one made you get married, and no one is making you stay married. You are where you are either because a) is it what you have chosen and what you really want for reasons only you can know; b) you are afraid of change, and divorce always means change. Of course, so does becoming the person you need to be to fix your marriage, which is why people will sometimes stay in bad marriages for decades. They are trapped not by their marriage vow, and almost certainly not by their honor (as such people will often believe), but by their fear.

Embrace that it’s your choice to divorce OR to stay married

Embracing your option to divorce helps you see that marriage is always a choice, and that choice is yours. Only when you fully realize this will you have an opportunity to feel like you are married not because you have to be but because you want to be. When you realize you are married because you want to be, you might get around to finding out why you want to be. When you discover that, you’re really onto something.

Reflections on the Near-Suicide of my Daughter

 

My daughter Anna, left, who we nearly lost to suicide

My daughter Anna, left, with our family

Sunday (June 24) was a special day for us. One year ago Sunday, our lives were torn apart when we discovered that our youngest daughter, Anna, had taken a bunch of pills the previous evening with a serious intent to commit suicide. One year ago Sunday I was sitting next to her in the ER (and then for days in PICU) wondering what I had done wrong, how my beautiful, intelligent, friendly, and — I always thought — happy girl had gotten to this place. In the coming days we discovered more painful things. She had been cutting for three years. It had started out fairly casual but quickly gotten serious, and quite regular. She had gotten messed up in a bad relationship. She had abandoned most of the people at school who loved her. This didn’t happen overnight, but was a long, slow slide for Anna into the oblivion of depression and eventually attempted suicide.

We lived through these horrible days in stunned silence — or wracked by sobs. We had told a small group of people who love us, and they were amazing, but words just fail in those times. Nothing took away the sting. To this day I’m not sure what was the worst part. There probably wasn’t a worst part because everything was so awful.

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Thoughts on humility, inspired by Green Day

Green Day
Image courtesy of Globovision on Flickr. Licensed under Creative Commons.

Green Day

Thanks to Green Day for inspiring me to think about humility today. While working on Twitter I was listening to Green Day’s album 21st Century Breakdown. I’m not a huge fan of the band, but I did enjoy their previous album American Idiot, so I figured I’d give it a listen. I liked it quite a bit.

In typical punk style, Green Day rail against a lot of things — society, corporations, (the existence from which they are now, ironically, hugely benefitting), religion, society, religion, society, and religion. And corporations.

[SNIP — I was going to include a small piece of one lyric here, but apparently that may or may not fall under fair use. As I wish to remain 100% unsued, I have chosen not to post.]

Of course this is not unusual for a punk band. I rather identify with it, as society and religion are often targets in my own writings and sermons. 

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