Shutting Down

Dan Davidson I've spent nearly a decade now "preaching" to pastors about the value of a healthy family relationship to one's ministry. I've emphasized that pastors need to continue dating their spouses to keep the romance alive. I've urged pastors to prioritize their involvement in the lives of their kids, recognizing them as our greatest legacies. And I've tried to follow my own advice.

But something happened this morning. A family friend visited our offices. The time together went very well, ... better, in fact, than it usually does with this person. I was perky, professional, sharp and witty — if I do say so myself. I was sure both she and her visiting sister were properly impressed. I doubted that she had ever seen me so dazzling, especially since most of our contacts over the years have been in my home, where I'm typically more subdued, relaxed and laid back.

As I was reflecting on my morning success, that's when it struck me. I realized that, when I go home at the end of long day, I go to my refuge. I go to my closest relationships — my wife and my children. I take my tired, worn-down body and soul to my safe place, my "sanctuary," to be refreshed and renewed. And, once there, I shut down. I go into recovery mode. I become something like a refueling vegetable — if you'll pardon the mixed metaphor.

Today I asked myself the following questions: Do my kids or my wife ever see me at my best? Are they as impressed as the rest of the world with how witty and sensitive I am? Or do I save those moments for professional encounters, for the secondary people in my life? Does my family get my best, or do they get the rest?

I'm probably not as negligent at home as I think I am at this moment. Neither are you, probably. But I'm probably not as attentive as I should be either. I do play every night with my young sons and I talk a lot with my wife — she might even say too much. But am I really present all the time with them? Or is my mind running through tomorrow's tasks in preparation for another grueling day? Am I simply resting in power-saver mode? Do I reserve enough of my daily energy to insure that my family knows that they are the most important people in the entire world to me?

I have to do some more thinking about that one. Do you?

Article copyright © 2000, Focus on the Family.
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Rev. Dan Davidson directs the Pastoral Resources and Technology departments in the Pastoral Ministries division at Focus on the Family, which includes serving as editorial director of the Pastor to Pastor audio series, The Pastor's Weekly Briefing e-mail and Web newsletter, The Shepherd's Covenant Encourager e-mail and Web newsletter, and the Parsonage Web site itself. He lives in Colorado Springs, Colo., with his wife, Luz, and their three sons.