A high school graduation. A marriage. Or perhaps more likely the death of a friend or family member. All are occasions to reflect on how wisely we have invested our time in the people most precious to us. As I graduated my first child, Abigail, from high school this year I was slapped across the face once again with the reality that her days left under my roof are likely very few.
Over the last few months, I have waxed misty-eyed nostalgic about my “little girl” as cherished moments fly through my mind to the sappy chorus of Memories sung by Barbara Streisand. Wow. Did I do enough? Did I accomplish everything I should have accomplished? Perhaps I missed too many moments?
Most moments are just that, moments. Often unscripted. Pure. Vapor. In a day of endless distraction with Lilliputian matters that add little positive value to our lives we would do well to more carpe diem, or to “seize more of the day”. Following are four ways to do that:
- Ask God to give you a heart for your children. The prophet Malachi wrote that the coming of the Lord would be heralded by the hearts of fathers being turned to their children. Fathers tend to be more easily disposed to work, not relationships. Asking God to give us hearts for our children is a prayer he loves to answer.
- Have a weekly planning time where you review what is happening in your family. As part of this time, start a journal where you write a sentence or two about what you notice going on in the life of each child. This forces you to think about each person at least once per week in a way that will alert you if you are in fact needing to make more relational opportunities.
- Be intentional about making time with your children. Since we actually do 90% of what we write down in our calendars, schedule a time in your week to spend time with a child.
- Ask your spouse to alert you when they observe you “zone out”, miss a que, or make wrong choices. Speaking personally, I can be sitting right next to one of my children and never hear a word they say. Why? I’m thinking about something else. A problem at work. Or begrudging why the Washington Redskins are such a poorly run football franchise. Since we are often blind to some of our interpersonal failures, asking to be informed while sometimes difficult to hear, is really necessary if we are serious about doing better.
When we are on our death bed we will not wish that we had spent more time at the office. There is a lot of wisdom in this statement but it is still moralism. In fact, my four suggestions by themselves are moralism. They still don’t provide a motivation to want to set aside the facebook timeline or a game of golf and seize the moments with our kids. We are often motivated to do right things for the wrong reasons. This is convicting as a parent. It is much easier to do what we want to do.
I am reminded that the backdrop for Deuteronomy 6:4-9 is Deuteronomy 5:6, “I am the Lord your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of slavery.” Before we were parents, we were slaves. But God has redeemed us from that slavery by the blood of his own dear Son. Jesus has bought for us redemption which includes a new identity that is not dependent upon our performance as parents. It also means that our parenting has an eternal and God-glorifying mission to it. Remembering these things and more motivates us differently. It is the only power great enough to compel us to be more intentional when it is hard—and it is often harder than it is easier. Imagine actually wanting to seize moments?!