Wednesday, July 18, 2012
Reconnecting with Family
When I wrote my proposal for the grant, I indicated four purposes: Rest, Reflection, Reconnection and Re-envisioning.
Reconnecting involved several aspects: reconnecting with significant people who helped shape my ministry and some old friends who I don't have time to see anymore.
But a major reconnection for me was to reconnect with my family. The Lilly Foundation grant allowed us to get away, just the five of us, and create an environment where we could have focused conversation without the distractions of normal life.
That's what I've been doing for a little more than 2 weeks now, and it's part of why I've been so silent on this blog. I've been intensly focused on giving my family some time and attention that they desperately needed. I simply cannot emphasize how critical this time has been for my family. It has been many, many years since we were in as good a place relationally as we are right now.
Most people don't realize the toll ministry takes on families. I have a good friend who trades barbs with me on our work. He says, "I'm going to seminary so I can have the easy life." I say, "I'm going into real estate so I can sleep in every day." But we both know that the other works hard, even if we don't know exactly what that looks like.
The truth is, the life of any minister (Senior Pastor and other pastors and church staff) is incredibly demanding. And the one's who usually pay the biggest price are the families of those pastors.
Here's my confession: I have neglected my family. For most of the twelve years I've been a pastor, I chose the church over my kids. They paid a price. This gift - of time from PCC and of funding from the Lilly Foundation - has allowed for some healing conversations that would have not otherwise happened.
One exercise I asked my kids to do was a series of questions:
1) Name a few of your best family memories. Why was this a good memory for you.
2) Ten or twenty years from now, your kid is doing a project for school. To complete it, they ask you the following question: "Mom/Dad, What was the best part of growing up for you?" What will you say?
3) A good friend calls one day and asks you to lunch, saying they have something imortant to ask you. At lunch, after some small talk, they say, "I'm strongly considering entering ministry. I feel like God is calilng me to pastor a church. I'm sure it will be great, but I also want to consider the changes this role will bring to my spouse and kids. I know your Dad is a pastor, and thought you could give me some insight. So, I wonder if you would honestly answer the following questions:
What are some of the blessings or benefits of being a pastor's family?
What are some fo the costs or curses of being a pastor's family?
We laughed...and we cried as we remembered some of our great moments together. We had long conversations over the course of many days about the blessings and costs of being a pastor's family. There have been many blessings, and we celebrated them and thanked God for them. But there have also been many costs. Our conversations weren't just gripe sessions, but rather productive ways to talk about how we can make healthy changes that will allow us to be a stronger family, honoring God in the church and in our home.
The benefit of being a long way from home when talking about this stuff is that you can take a 'time out' and come back to difficult converstions a few hours later or the next morning. You can pick it up again over dinner, breakfast the next day, lunch, swimming and sightseeing, in the car, on the plane. It's intense family togetherness, through shared experiences, and something happens that would not otherwise take place. Normally, we'd come to an impass or a place where we needed to take a time-out to process and think, but never get back to the conversation, because of work and schedules. This Sabbatical experience allows for that conversation to go the whole distance, and great things happened because of that.
Our Big Trip has one week left. Then it's onto another phase of my Sabbatical. There is a lot more to say, but this post is long enough for today. Here are a few more pictures.