Good things can be bad things. Yes, they can. Food…. good for you. Too much food… bad for you! That’s an easy one. How about this one – recreational sports…. good for you. Consuming recreational sports… bad for you. Ouch.. did I hit you where it hurts yet? Memorizing scripture… Good for you! Memorizing scripture to be recognized as holy, righteous and noticed, approved my men…. bad for you. Yes, even “spiritual things” can be “bad.” We could be feeding idols. “When you think of idols of the heart, don’t think of scandalous sins. Think of harmless hobbies in which children will invest vast amounts of time. Think of daydreams that provide excitement to a heart this is not finding true and lasting pleasures in knowing God.” (Tripp p. 97)
How do we feed our children’s idols? By delighting in our children’s delight in possessions. By delighting in their achievements and abilities. By so overcommitting to activities that there is little time for family meal time, family devotions or simple conversation and family enjoyment. Are these things “bad?” Not in and of themselves. It’s not wrong to be proud of your child for doing well in some academic pursuit or musical performance IF and this is where the turning point comes between good and bad.. IF your child doesn’t conclude from your actions and words that life is all about doing things apart from God. As Tripp says, ” ..don’t present a worldview in which life consists in things, and God is just the icing on the cake. God is the cake!” (p. 106)
Our motives matter. Important questions need to be consistently part of regularly evaluating our lives. In other words, every activity that we add to our calendar that involves any member of the family needs to be held up to this check system: Why are we doing this? What is our motive? What will we have to say “no” to in order to add this to our family? And most importantly, does God want us to do this, does this glorify Him?
Have you prayed about it? Really prayed about it? Do you pray about what sports or other activities your family will be involved in? It matters to God. Do you pray about whether your son/daughter should do any sports or activities? It matters to God. Do you pray specifically about hockey registration, swimming lessons, music lessons, dance, skating, etc.? It matters to God. Everything you involve your family in sends a message to your kids about what you value. Tedd Tripp says, “While choosing from the dizzying array of choices, think carefully or you will inadvertently lead your children away from God rather that to Him.” (p. 106)
Life consists of seasons and stages. Everything does not have to happen all at once and some things don’t have to happen at all. If you are caught up in the fast-paced, over commitment of relentless running from one activity to the next with your family consider taking a fast. Not a food fast but an activity fast. You read that right.. a fast from activity. Honestly evaluate what is happening to your family because of the decisions that you’ve made regarding your schedule and then get radical about change! Decide (Mom and Dad) what’s really important to you (your values) and eliminate for a season those things that don’t line up with those values. Make it worthwhile.. 1 week is not a season. One month or more so you can really see a difference. I won’t lie to you.. it won’t be easy. You’ll feel pressured from your relatives, your neighbours, your friends, and your kids. Hopefully, you won’t feel pressured from your spouse. Get on the same page about what really matters, make some decisions and be ruthless! Don’t give in to the pressure and support each other when the temptation is great. You won’t regret it!
Let me give you an example of how our family made some life-defining decisions. We decided early in our parenting years that we would not register our kids in sports or other programs if they interfered with our family dinner (a very important time to connect for our family) and spiritual commitments such as Sunday mornings and other service opportunities that we felt the Lord had directed us to be involved in. But we would say “yes” to anything where we as a family, or most of the family, could serve together, after we had determined that the Lord was saying “yes” to that. Because we decided on our boundaries before we were hit with the pressure of filling up our schedule with activities it became much easier to say “no” to those things that didn’t fit with our family’s values. Consequently, we have been able to protect our family time and grow together as a family.
These decisions haven’t always been easy. We have been pressured and questioned by other family members about our lack of involvement (my family were BIG Little League baseball fans and members when I – Ann – was growing up) and judged as “weird” by peers because we didn’t sign our kids up for all the latest fun events and activities. We had a babysitter tell us that she felt sorry for our kids because of all they were missing out on. I’m not making this up… she was 17.
Every Summer we take everything off the calendar and evaluate it for the new year. Should we put this back in? Why? Are we sure it’s what God wants us to do? What are our “big rocks” (those things that are non-negotiable) this year? Why? Are these the “rocks” God has chosen for us?
How will we have time to teach our children about God, to show them how much He matters to us, to talk about our spiritual joys, answers to prayer, the gospel and the glory of God if we are running here and there and never together as a family? How will we have time to teach our children about the destructiveness of sin, the worthlessness of possessions, the godly ways to respond to the things “life” will throw at them if we are busy here and there and don’t make the time to sit together long enough to have a conversation as a family? It won’t happen unless you make it happen. And you won’t make it happen unless you want it. We always make time for what we really want. Our values and motives speak loudly and clearly in our actions.
Chapter 9 in Instructing a Child’s Heart is full of rich, valuable words of wisdom about training our kids to enjoy Him and make Him their true delight. But more than that it is a challenge to us to be truly delighting in Him as well. If you haven’t read it.. do it. It’s long.. but well worth it!