Last night was not unlike many nights before. I was up with a crying 1 month old baby. Last night was unique in that a thought occurred to me. One could summarize parenting into one word: Sacrifice. That lead me to think of marriage and other relationships and how they could also be summarized by the word sacrifice. And, of course, in light of this blog, life in The Kingdom is largely categorized by sacrifice.
Do you recognizes the screen shot above? This is an image from the movie Mr. Holland’s Opus. This is one movie I love and hate to watch. Its the story that follows a music teacher (Mr. Holland) and his family through the ups and downs of his teaching career. I love the movie because it’s fun and a very moving story. But the audience’s heart goes out to the main character. He has this dream to compose this Opus, this masterpiece. Year by year, life keeps getting in the way and you see him slowly realize his personal dream will probably not be realized because so many other things demand his attention – things he didn’t necessarily plan on or ask for. You see this man who has to continually make sacrifices.
Jesus once stopped and turned to a large crowd who was following them and talked to them about the cost of being His disciple.
“Suppose one of you wants to build a tower. Will he not first sit down and estimate the cost to see if he has enough money to complete it? For if he lays the foundation and is not able to finish it, everyone who sees it will ridicule him, saying, ‘This fellow began to build and was not able to finish.’
“Or suppose a king is about to go to war against another king. Will he not first sit down and consider whether he is able with ten thousand men to oppose the one coming against him with twenty thousand? If he is not able, he will send a delegation while the other is still a long way off and will ask for terms of peace. In the same way, any of you who does not give up everything he has cannot be my disciple.”
I have to wonder if I have really counted the cost of being a parent. Or even a husband. Or even a disciple of Jesus. Being a parent costs a man a lot. In fact, I would venture to say it costs what it costs a man to be a disciple. A man must give up his life for his family. A man must sacrifice for his family.
For me, sacrifice largely means time and attention. My kids need me to put the computer away and be engaged with them lest I teach them that Dad doesn’t care what they have to say. I need to look when they say “look, Dad!” lest I teach them that their accomplishments don’t matter to Dad. I need to have them on my mind through the day lest they learn that Dad only cares about us when he’s not busy with work. I need to be there when I say lest they learn Dad doesn’t really do what he says.
How is my time, my work, my [whatever] more important than my kids? Andy Stanley nails this topic in his book, Choosing to Cheat: Who Wins When Family and Work Collide?, a must read for any parent struggling to prioritize family over career. He asks the pointed question: Why choose to do something that hundreds of other people could do over something that only you can do?
That is an important principle I’m sooo glad I’ve learned as a dad. There is NO ONE ELSE IN THE WORLD that can give my kids what I can give them. Look around – everywhere kids are growing up without dads in their lives. There are kids without dads in the home and kids with dads who aren’t engaged in intentional relationships with their kids. If you got right beneath the surface one would find so many people with wounds left by Mom or Dad many years before.
Parenting = Sacrifice. I know what it will cost me. I hope I am willing to give it all. And I’m going to keep fighting. Because so many things will vie for my attention and if I’m not on my guard trivial things will distract me from one of the most important tasks in my life right now. Trivial things will pass and when I look up, there my kids will be all grown up and my influence will be gone. My kids are counting on me.
And for Mr. Holland? Well, I won’t spoil the surprise completely. He got his reward in the end. I’m sure he realized his sacrifice was worth it. As will I, I trust. In a few years I will have no memory of these sleepless nights and no regrets about the things I missed out on because of the time and attention my children required.
I’m positive I will only regret not spending more time with them.