One of the greatest sounds I get to hear happens when I pull in the drive and walk through the door. Three high-pitched voices squealing…
“Dad’s Home!Dad’s Home”
I don’t arrive home to this procession every time. But, I know one day those squealing voices will silence and the house will be much emptier. I look forward to getting home as much as my girls do. However, there’s more to being home than just walking through the door.
Samuel was one of the greatest prophets in the Bible. His messages always directed and guided God’s people allowing him to find favor with God and Israel. As the last prophet of Israel, Samuel was responsible for anointing and counseling its first two kings, Saul and David. But he could have been responsible for the people rebelling against God more than he realized. He was leading and directing a nation but maybe he failed at home.
“Samuel continued as Israel’s judge for the rest of his life. Each year he traveled around, setting up his court first at Bethel, then at Gilgal, and then at Mizpah. He judged the people of Israel at each of these places then he would return to his home at Ramah, and would hear cases there too. And Samuel built an altar to the Lord at Ramah. As Samuel grew old he appointed his sons to be judges over Israel. Joel and Abijah, his oldest sons, held court in Beersheba. But they were not like their father, for they were greedy for money. They excepted bribes and perverted justice. Finally all the elders of Israel met at Ramah to discuss the matter with Samuel. ‘Look’, they told him, ‘you are now old, and your sons are not like you. Give us a king to judge us like all the other nations have.”
~1 Samuel 7:15-8:4
Samuel probably loved his son’s dearly and I’m not sure we can make any assumptions about his parenting skills other than work responsibilities required him to spend long stints away from home. As a result, he may have missed some firsts and last milestones of his boys. First steps, last diapers, potty training, first crush, questions about God and growing up. He did, apparently, try to teach them how to continue in the family ministry. But, did his time away from home have a negative effect on his sons? We also know that even when he was home he was still working. Is it possible that his commitment to the responsibilities as Prophet overshadowed and took precedence over his commitment and responsibilities as a dad, even when he was home? Did Samuel feel the same tension that we feel today trying to balance work and play, family and duty, responsibilities and relationships? I know I struggle at times with feeling guilty for not being home but then pressured to get work done, even when I’m home. When I’m home I’m at work and when I’m at work I’m at home.
How can we keep from repeating Samuel’s mistake and have a better chance of leaving a legacy within our children that will continue after we are gone? It’s simple but not easy.
I’m blessed with a job that has fairly flexible hours. Not everyone has that opportunity. There are seasons when I have to be away from home more than usual. That is the exception to the rule…not the rule. While growing up, my dad worked swing shift sometimes 60+ hours a week. Some of those hours were mandatory, some of them weren’t. Some of you may work many hours a week. But let me ask you this…How many of those are by choice? Could you go home instead? Is it an opportunity to make a few extra dollars so you can make extra payments or purchases? I promise, that in the end, your family would rather have you than things. Is to impress the bosses or coworkers or to advance your career? Those are important and worthy endeavors but at what expense.
Over time my dad had finally worked his way into a position where he could take off a lot more. The problem is my sister and I were now both grown and out of the house with families of our own. I honor and am grateful for him and believe he was doing what he thought was best, but I’d rather have had him home more than more stuff.
Trust me when I say that your kids feel the same way. They are waiting for you to get home. They get excited when you get there (even if your teenager only grunts when theysee you.) Understand that there will always be more work to do, but you won’t always have kids at home.
So don’t work over today…go home. Hug your wife, play with your kids.
This may seem like a strange request. But as stated above. There have been times when my body is at work and my heart is at home. The flip happens, when my body is at home and my mind is at work. I’m a divided individual. My kids are laughing in front of me and I’m thinking about a call I forgot to return, a project I need to get finished, or event details that still need to be covered. It’s sometimes hard to do, but BE where you are. Especially when you’re home. Those moments go by so fast. You are directly impacting a life. Take a minute, get alone (the bathroom usually works)…write down everything that you’re worried about, or needs to get done. Take a deep breath. Fold the list and put it on top of your wallet (to pick up the next morning on the way out the door)and go be with your family!
On the other hand, don’t collapse in front of the TV and veg out. Put your phone down and get out of your social and news feed (this is a hard habit for me.) Get up, go outside with your kids, play in the floor, dance or wrestle with them. Swing them around if you’re able. Do something to get your blood flowing and your kids giggling. You don’t have to spend hours…just a few minutes. You’re making memories for them and you. Things you’ll laugh about later in life.
Guys, we are the thermostat for our homes. Failing to set it right will cost us much more than any utility bill ever could. How we lead our kids today is building their future for tomorrow. It’s not that we choose to fail. We’re just tired. We were never lead ourselves and don’t know where to start, so we feel incompetent. We think “tomorrow” will be a better day to start.
I’m not saying you have to be a general and whip everyone into shape with a list of rules, expectations, rewards, and punishments. It’s simpler than that, yet harder than that. It’s conversations, life lessons, and reinforcement. It takes humility, transparency, grace, and probably most of all patience. It’s more about what you do than what you say. At the same time, your words are powerful and have the potential to build up and tear down.
Here are some questions to ponder. Do you discuss family values and then live them out yourself, setting the example? Do you hold yourself to the same expectations that you set for your kids? How do you treat or talk about other people? Do you let your emotions control you when they shouldn’t? Do you serve with your family? Do you model your love for your wife? Do you pray with your kids? (NOT JUST FOR YOUR KIDS. It can be awkward if you’ve never done it. Check out how in this post.) None of these things really depend on giving orders and directives. Leadership is more than being a boss, it’s simply about influence.
Being home may sound like a little more work than your actual job. And honestly, most days, IT IS. But the compensation far outweighs and the legacy will far outlast any paycheck.
Maybe you’re in a position where you want to be a better dad at home, but you don’t know where to start. I recently had the opportunity to share a message series at my church called Family Matters. Check out PART 2 on Parenting. I’m not perfect by any means, but I’d love to offer any encouragement or support I can. Contact me with any questions or thoughts. I’d love to hear from you!