Tuesday, February 5, 2008

On Why Pastors Often Make Lousy Fathers

My oldest son's birthday is coming up this Thursday. He's going to be 11. That's no longer "10." Somehow, in the mystery of things, 11 is just way older than 10. Yes, I know, it's also double digits. But it just seems older, like he's entered the next set of 10 years. "10" is the completion of the first set of 10 years. "11" is the beginning of the next set of 10 years. It's also a little freaky that he's 11, when I so recently remember him as a lot smaller. Nevertheless, Joshua's having a significant birthday this Thursday, and I'm excited for him.

The sobering frustration to me is the fact that I've not spent five minutes planning for it. I've absolutely thrown myself into planning and preparation for all of those activities for which I receive recognition. Sermon prep, church planning, personal meetings and phone calls all top the priority list. Academic performance cannot be neglected either, for a decent GPA from a prestigious seminary is what I live for. Sick! The roles that I fulfill, from which ego stroking feedback is more probable, all have seemed to get their appropriate attention. My vanity knows no bounds ("I wanna be a rockstar" - Nickelback), and my familial priorities suffer because of it.

Sure my daughter and I have a pretty good connection, and we practice our secret handshake daily. But when I look at my boys, I know that I'm dropping the ball. I've not developed the same unique rituals with them that I should by now. I've set New Year's resolutions to have some personal events with them, but haven't followed through. I know that the old concern over whether quality or quantity of time is more vital totally misses the point. It's quality and quantity of time that makes the difference in a relationship. I've known that for a very long time, but haven't followed that principle consistently. Like any other success obsessed American male, I naturally gravitate to the tasks that can brand me a "peak performer," and have to be reminded of those areas of life than truly affect substance of life.

I've heard this scenario play out in many a pastor's story; but most tragically, in the sad stories of PK's who, as adults, now resent the church for having been "the other woman" that took dad away from home so much. I don't want that. The temptation to focus on work is so strong though. It's especially difficult in a job that, by it's very nature, is a sacred enterprise. How many pastors, who, upon thinking that perhaps they will devote more time at home and less overtime doing church work, heard a well meaning church member call his job "the highest calling." Oh God, save me from becoming so driven for success in work that I lose effectiveness at home. Protect my children from the negative PK paradigm of losing their father to the "mistress called ministry." Please, Lord, grant Joshua and me a great time hiking off in the woods for his birthday, with the habit of spending good time together more in the future.

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