Sadly, those who are closest to us suffer the most when we fail to take care of ourselves. Our children become the ones we inadvertently snap at when stretched past our limits. Our spouses are the last ones to get our time when we are overwhelmed. When your time management priorities get askew, you can become a stranger in your own home because even when you are there, you don't have anything left to give.
I know this because I did this to my family. If you in danger of neglecting your family, I urge you to read this entire post even though it's long. I want you to see both the damage and the beauty that can occur depending on how well you manage your priorities.
Let's roll back the clock...
Almost 20 years ago, my daughter Ruth was a beautiful blond three year old. I was a young associate pastor working in a mid to large sized church in a small Indiana town. I had a hand in everything - Kiwani's, youth ministry, preaching, Sunday school, Habitat for Humanity, summer camp, community activities, etc. When you are twenty something and a people pleaser you think you can do it all. So you do.
I found myself burning my candle at both ends and in the middle too. I knew I was too busy, but frankly, I wore my busyness as a badge of honor. Trust me, there is no glory in that badge. I remember vividly the moment I discovered this harsh truth.
Late one evening I stopped by the church to get something. Ruth was with me. As we stood at the back door in the dark I fumbled with my keys in one hand and Ruth's hand in my other. Ruth innocently asked me, "Daddy, do you live here?"
Shock, pain, and guilt descended on me as I heard that question. What was I thinking? Where were my priorities? How had I gotten so far off track? I didn't have answers, but I immediately took a life course correction. All I could think was, "I am so sorry Ruth. I will change."
Fortunately, I learned and adjusted. Now I am blessed to have amazing relationships with my kids. My daughter doesn't really remember anything other than a fun loving father.
That was then, this is now...
One month ago, I visited my mother. She lives in the St. Louis area nine hours from me. She is 85 years old and losing her independence. She still lives at home with my older brother but is for the most part wheelchair bound. Her opportunities to go out are limited.
When I am home, we eat out as much possible. She really enjoys eating out. One afternoon as we headed home from enjoying lunch at one of her favorite restaurants, I mentioned I would love to take my kids to the St. Louis Zoo. She commented, "It would be good to go before the weather gets bad."
I got the impression from her comment she might enjoy going to zoo. Then, I thought, heck, why not just do it? Go right now. So, I asked her if she would like to go. She did and we went.
We spent two and a half hours ambling around the St. Louis Zoo. We watched tigers together. Went through the monkey and reptile house. And, saw a ton of exotic animals from around the world.
I really wanted pictures together but my phone died just before we got to the zoo. So as we explored I poked my head in gift shop after gift shop praying one would still sell disposable cameras. I finally found a camera in the fourth shop.
Repeatedly, I coerced people walking by to take our picture together. As we ambled along my mom shared great memories that I had never heard before. For example, she and my dad were dirt poor and lived in an apartment in downtown St. Louis when they first got married. I knew that, but I didn't know they often visited the zoo for dates because it was free.