“Our followers don’t need perfect examples, just living ones.”
I could have easily titled today’s thoughts “How Not To Lead Your Family Well”. The words coming to you today from me are based on my experiences, my failures, and my weaknesses probably more than my strengths. I don’t do all these things well, and so I write as much as a student as a I do a teacher here.
But I believe in what I’m writing you today, not because I have mastered the art of leading my family, but because I am learning along the way. I believe in what I’m writing because I believe that what is here could bring some hope that you aren’t really screwing up your kids, your life, or your future. I hope that you will understand that I realize I am not perfect in my example of leadership of my own family, but I’m leading, whether I realize it or not. What matters is what follows. So enjoy.
Some Thoughts Along the Path
If we are on a journey together through this life, then it helps to stop along the path and reflect on a few things that we’ve learned along the way. These principles can be transferred in any context, in any home, for anyone. I hope they help you learn how to lead your family well.
- Begin with grace. I’m not sure if you’ve noticed it by now, but I’m leaning heavily on God’s grace as a parent and a partner to my wife. I know I’ve got sin, brokenness, and pride that I must continually keep at bay in my own life. But the good news is that God doesn’t hold my sin against me. Because of the truth that my sin is atoned for, my life is redeemed, and I am a child of the king, I can truly begin with grace every single day. Look to Jesus to imitate a life of grace.
- Have a plan. This one could be one of the most difficult things to do, especially if you aren’t a “planner”. We have calendars hanging in our home, lists of chores, menu lists for food for the week, day planners, and the like. And we really don’t use any of them nearly as much as we should. But I will tell you that the times that we do plan out our week ahead of time, or our month, or our next 6 months… helps us tremendously in knowing what’s coming, budgeting our money and our time, and being able to give time to our family. Michael Hyatt is a great place to begin learning how to plan.
- Remain Calm When Fights Break Out. Again, I’m probably writing this more for myself than anyone else. Life happens. Sometimes it’s good, and sometimes the crap hits the fan. How you react to everything matters. The kids are screaming at each other? It doesn’t help to start screaming at them. I did this just last night when my boys were having an argument over something petty. It doesn’t work. In fact, it hurts everything. It hurts our relationship. It hurts the harmony in our home. And, it prolongs the argument…because now I have to cool down. Remain calm. Breathe. Arguments are just a part of your kids growing process. They are trying to find themselves, to know themselves, or even to defend themselves. Remain calm. Give them breathing room and when everyone is calm…talk it out.
- Budget Your Money. A lot of us don’t like to talk about money because it is a bit of an Achilles Heel. You can’t live without it, and it becomes a difficult thing to hold on to at times. Get that budget out and plan your money. A pastor friend of mine suggested give 10%, save 10%, and live off of the 80%. This is a good start, but work within your means. You may have to work towards this as a goal. Plan it, give it, save it, invest it, and spend it. Use it as a tool, but don’t let it end up using you. Get ahead of it as best as you can. Dave Ramsey is a good place to start.
- Pray a lot. Your family isn’t your family. They were given to you because God trusted them to you. He trusts you to lead them. He trusts you to love them. You may have chosen to marry that girl, but God brought her into your life. You didn’t orchestrate those circumstances! God did. Communicate back to God. Be grateful. Worship Him alone. Confess your sins and weaknesses to Him… there is nothing that He doesn’t know already! Just get close to Him. Prayer isn’t some religious ritual…it is deepening your friendship with God. Yes, He is holy and so submission to Him and Who He is is essential…but He has called you His friend. This is a different level of relationship than religion offers.
- Dance more. A few years ago I went away to a conference that taught me how to lay down my burdens more and play and sing and laugh and dance more. I know that this may sound corny to some of you…but it’s really not. We don’t let loose enough because we just let the heaviness of life settle on us. But that is not the purpose of life…just trudging through. Smile more. Dance more. One thing we did, which we haven’t done in a long time is Family Dance night. I think we just may have to do that this week. After the week is up, just get your radio out and crank up the dance music… and dance with your wife, laugh with your kids, and let loose. It’s a great release of stress and it will show your family that you really aren’t a stuck in the mud.
- Play more. Busyness will kill your family. A mind preoccupied will destroy your marriage. Anger will assassinate relationships. Being Distracted will convince your family you don’t care for them. Drop your responsibilities one day a week and get out of the house and go play with your family. OR.. if you can’t get out of the house, just grab a board game and play with your kids.
- Exercise. If you feel like crap, nobody wants to be around you. Join the gym. Buy some running shoes. Run. Swim. Dance. Whatever, but get active again. Don’t cheat your family out of a healthy Dad or Mom. You’re not dead yet. Stop worrying about your health and start doing something to get healthy. Change your diet. Today. Don’t dwell on how you didn’t do it right yesterday…just do it today.
- Listen better. I can’t tell you how many times I have gotten myself in trouble with my wife or my kids for simply being bull-headed and not listening to them. Listening communicates compassion and love. If I don’t listen to them, then essentially I am telling them I don’t love them.
- Read Stories Together. My boys and I have read through the Hobbit, some of the Chronicles of Narnia, and other great fictional classics. My girls and I are beginning to read more together as they get older. Run out to the bookstore and go to the kids/teens section, and just buy a book. It doesn’t have to be some great big story..it could be Grimm’s fairy tales. But read to them. Read because it helps them, it builds story into them, and it gives you time together.
I hope this has been helpful today. Mostly I want to inspire you to create something better with your life. Remember that you aren’t always going to be able to do it all correctly. That’s why you need the gospel to remind you that you aren’t as good as you think you are and you aren’t so far gone that you can’t be brought back. By knowing this yourself, you teach this to your own kids.
Ride along with me and keep learning how to lead your family well. I promise you won’t regret it.