There is a tension that exists in the life of every man responsible for providing for his family. It is a tension grounded in two seemingly competing ideas, both of which constantly fight for his time and energy. It is a tension that weaves its way into every moment of every day and never subsides. It is a tension I have struggled with since the day I said “I do”.
As a young man, fresh out of college, my vision was to chase my dreams and change the world in the process. I was an aspiring golfer with the vision of making it on tour and leading a bible study that would transform the lives of players, caddies and their respective families. It was a grand vision, but sadly, it never matriculated. My golf game wouldn’t allow it.
Without successfully being able to chase my dreams or change the world, I set out to simply find my place in this world. That journey led me to teaching and ministry, and I found great pleasure impacting students and families in those settings. It wasn’t long that I married an amazing women and, shortly thereafter, we started having babies – two of them, to be exact.
And wouldn’t you know it, both of them wanted to eat at least three times a day and they kept growing out of their clothes. With my wife retiring from her teaching position to invest in our kids, I found myself working like a dog to simply get by. I had two jobs and spent countless hours completing my master’s degree to move over on the salary schedule and make an extra $2000/year. Although I was making a difference in people’s lives, I was barely able to provide for my family in a meaningful way. Forget college; forget weddings; forget retirement. I just wanted all my bills paid each month.
When we realized our way of life wasn’t sustainable, we made a change in search of finding one job that would provide an opportunity for me to make more money, and fortunately we were able to do that. I went from the classroom to the cubicle, and I learned how to sell. As the competitive juices started flowing and my goals grew, so did our expenses, as we started saving for emergencies, investing in our aforementioned future needs and enjoying a few extras we had neglected the previous years.
As time went on and I learned how to make money, I started thinking about how much money I could make. What was my ceiling and how do I raise that ceiling? And, of course, with these thoughts come an underlying presumption of work and time, squeezing out all other activities. In essence, the pendulum had swung from focusing on helping others to the detriment of my family to focusing on my career to the detriment of helping others.
What brought it to a head was when I spent 13 out of 23 days away from my family, pursuing business opportunities. After this stretch of working so hard and missing a lot of activities, I walked into my church for the first time in five weeks feeling like a visitor. I listened to the sermon that reminded me how awesome it is to let God write my story, and I felt the tension as strong as ever pulling me in two directions.
How do I focus my time and energy making as much money as I can and focus on helping as many people as I can? What is the balance between being a provider for my family and having a positive impact on others, specifically in regards to what Jesus has done for us? If you’ve figured this out, let me know.
Fortunately and unfortunately, this isn’t the first time I’ve asked these questions, and it probably won’t be the last. With different seasons of life come different demands on our time & energy, and it requires us to constantly re-evaluate how we’re utilizing our time to ensure we’re as close as possible to achieving a healthy balance.