Sunday, June 17, 2007

The Most Productive Thing

About 12 years ago, a good friend of mine had his first child. Like
me, he is college-educated, ambitious, and Kingdom-minded. I also
look up to him and count him among my role models. So I listened
carefully when I asked him one morning 12 years ago how he was doing,
and he responded, "My day consisted of changing 12 diapers and giving
6 feedings."

In other words, having a baby meant a huge drop in what he was used to
in terms of productivity. Indeed, a lot of people I know, myself
included, have gained a necessary measure of perspective upon becoming
parents, in terms of dealing with getting off the treadmill of life's
accomplishments and drivenness. It is certainly something I needed to
turn from myself, and something being a dad has helped to improve in.

But at the same time, I've often found that with areas in my life
where God is not totally God yet, and where He needs to change me, it
is not often that He needs a 180 out of me, but rather a slight
redirection. I'm not saying that it is a bad thing to realize that
productivity does not define us as people, as God's children, or as
our children's parents. I am saying that God simultaneously wants to
redefine our understanding of productivity.

In other words, too often I see the time and energy I put into raising
my kids as taking away from time and energy I could put elsewhere,
like in my job or my career or my usefulness in the Kingdom of God.
And in fact there are trade-offs every day that we all have to choose
to make, in one direction or the other.

But perhaps I need to be reminded that that time and energy I put into
raising my kids might just very well be the most productive investment
I can make. Sure, it might keep me from other avenues of service and
contribution. But what could I give myself to that would be more
important than teaching my kids to have a relationship with Jesus
Christ? To teach my son to respect women, and my daughter to respect
herself? To teach them both to have a heart for the city, for the
oppressed, for the voiceless?

To be sure, Jesus calls us to follow Him first, and to put raising our
kids as our top priority outside of Christian discipleship is to
disqualify ourselves from the path to life. To paraphrase the wife of
my friend, who I also respect and look up to, and who is in full-time
ministry: "My child is not my God, and my job is not my God; God is my
God."

Amen to that. Amen to a life that puts God first. Amen also to a
life that is able to honor that God in one's job. And amen, finally,
to a life that seeks to see child-rearing not as a diversion from
righteous productivity, but as one of the most productive uses of
one's days.

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