Sunday, November 2, 2008

Win at Home First

Last week I may have been a bit pre-occupied. My son was married Saturday at College Wesleyan Church. At some point during last week, I may have walked right by you as you may have said, “Hello” or maybe you tried to get my attention in some way and I missed it. I am certain that I was pre-occupied. But I was not just distracted…I was intentionally distracted. Though my body may have been on the IWU campus; all week long I was mentally (and prayerfully) at College Wesleyan Church as the needs of Joshua my son and Laura, my new daughter, was keenly on my mind. NOT YOU.

I make no apologies for that; for I made last week’s decision 24 years ago, when my son was born; for my number 3 value is “win at home first” (see below for all 8 values). The last several Monday Memos have been devoted to making “Good decisions” based upon “Godly values.” This may seem like a straight-forward one; I value my son’s wedding over student questions. But how about when the issues are not so black-and-white, when there are competing issues which seem equally valid and God honoring. How do you make these decisions?
Here is my example. Angie and I were married. I was in the beginning stages of writing my dissertation. She was working a 9-5 job financially supporting the family. I was “Mr. Mom”, caring for two pre-teens by day, writing my dissertation by night. One evening we had the wonderful opportunity to entertain a world renowned New Testament scholar for dinner at our home; his name is Martin Hengel. He had taught at the University of Tubingen (Germany) for many years and at the time was at the top of the academic world for New Testament research. As we were passing pleasantries before dinner, he inquired about the topic of my dissertation. I told him I was researching on the “presentation of the Gospel of Mark in a first century oral culture.” His interest was immediate and he asked question after question on my approach. During dinner, he boldly asked (in front of Angie), “Why do you not come to Germany and spend six months researching the subject under my tutelage? [FYI, in my mind, that would be like a youth pastor being asked by Pastor Rick Warren to come to Saddleback Church to learn about ministry.]

As you can imagine, this was all I could think about for the next several weeks. I was mentally trying to figure out how our children could be cared for in my absence. I was also thinking how impressed people would be seeing Martin Hengel as a mentor and as an academic reference. One night [lovingly I might add], Angie asked how and when my priorities changed? She asked, “Since when does your resume take precedence over our children? She simply wanted to know when my values had changed. As you can imagine, I tried to “persuasively” convince her that this is a once in a life-time opportunity. Moreover, I argued, just find one of my academic peers who would disagree with this “self-made study abroad” program. Her words were simple, “I agree. It’s a wonderful opportunity. But is it more important than the value you place on caring for your children while we are in school together? While I work, you promised to put them first.” (I hate it when she uses spirit guided logic!)

After wrestling with God for several hours, I knew that she was right. My value, my Home priority was that I will win at home first. This allowed me to see that this wonderful offer was merely an opportunity to be self-promoting (so people might say, “Nice resume, Dave”) and not an occasion to show my children they are the most important people in my life.
Remember the passage of scripture in the Sermon on the Mount, “For where your treasure is there your heart will be.” This is Matthew’s way of substantiating his argument that worldly accolades and material possessions will surely disappear but what remains are the kingdom values upon which shape your life decisions. As for me and my house, “I will succeed at home first.” Friends, can you word your values in a way that will assist you in making some of the most difficult decisions…and maybe make them 24 years in advance?

Joshua and Laura; Congratulations and I pray that you will fashion your lives together around Kingdom values.

Now, “Go with God.”

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