I was in junior high when I first joined the school soccer team. The practices were full of running, dribbling, passing and kicking the ball past the goalie (at least that was the plan).

We had a lot of fun on that team, but when the game actually mattered, we never won a game that season. Looking back on those times in junior high, part of the person I grew into was shaped by these team sports experiences. But it didn’t stop me from finding my identity in what I did as an athlete, as opposed to what I brought to the team as a player.

Slowing down

One of the biggest pressures faced by men with families is provision. It’s why most guys respond with what they do for work when asked about themselves. Working hard and doing your best are certainly righteous and Biblical standards to uphold, but they do not define us. It is easy to become accustomed to keeping up with the Joneses and adopting the world’s definition of success – money, power and pleasure – rather than allowing God’s reflection of who we are to be the true standard of our success and identity.

When I graduated from seminary, my first position, a short-term contract counselling in a high school, left me waiting for the next opportunity to use my skills and training. I waited for one long month for the next position to fall into my lap before I began to question whether I had interpreted correctly what the Lord had told me as I made each career decision. During that year-and-a-half, I realized that I needed to slow down and stop being so task-focused. Finding my identity in my job was preventing me from considering the well-being of my wife, my daughter, and the people around me. It took conscious and disciplined effort to set aside my on-the-job to-do lists and start enjoying the people I work so hard to support!

Taking the time to stop

Making time for relationships – with God, with others and with myself – is a difficult concept for a "doer," like me, to habitually execute. The "stop" is not about not doing things. That would be crazy! Stopping is more about making the time we have matter in terms of relationships, more than tasks. This is the hardest part, because it goes against our nature. We live in a world that defines success by what is accomplished (doing). But Jesus defines success in terms of relationships (being). As Christian men today, we have been called to be more than just Christ "admirers." According to Matthew 10:38, we have been called to be Christ followers: " . . . and anyone who does not take his cross and follow me is not worthy of me." Our true identity can never be found in what we do for a living. Our true identity is found only in Christ. It isn’t about giving God parts of our day, parts of our relationships, or parts of who we are. It’s about a total exchange: my life for His will.

The value of being with family and loved ones

"Being with" is more about the connection in the relationship than the doing of an activity together. As a Christ follower, we must know what it means to follow Jesus by actually being with Him, by making time for Him in our lives. When I was a kid, my dad and I would do things together like play ball hockey, go on fishing trips, and go camping. We had fun together because we were together. Although we were doing things, we were spending time together. It wasn’t the fishing or the camping that made the time special, although they are memories I will never forget. It was the actual presence of, and connection with, my dad that made these times memorable. Likewise, the relationships around us need more than the mere leftovers we offer when we come home from a long day at work; they need our time in order to create lasting memories.

Men, slow down and take a deep breath. Stop and enjoy the time God has given us, and be with people, rather than just doing things for them. This is what our world needs, this is what our families need, and this is what we need. Be strong. Be courageous. Be a man of God. Be the man God wants you to be. Be deeply and fully involved in your marriage, in your family, and in all the relationships you pursue.

© 2009 Focus on the Family (Canada) Association. All rights reserved.

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