Whether we realize it or not, we make value judgments on the various aspects and activities of our life by the time we dedicate to them. There is an old aphorism that says, “Put your money where your mouth is” which basically argues that if you are willing to put resources into something that demonstrates its importance to you.
The most significant resource we all possess is time and where we spend that resource demonstrates the importance we place on that item, whether it be a person, activity, object, or something else. Recently, while driving in my truck, I heard a portion of a sermon that talked about the intersection of family and job. The central thesis the minister was presenting was that we, especially men, are willing to spend our precious time on our job, which often holds no personal allegiance to us, while being willing to shortchange our families which hold us in the highest regard. There was a cost/value disconnect from his perspective that needed to be addressed.
This preacher, whose name I do not remember, was primarily talking to men, to fathers and husbands, who willingly sacrifice their family on the altar of work. While his point was valid, even important and necessary, I believe he failed to consider the ramifications of how men find their sense of self-worth and include that in his equation. All of the men I have known, myself included, after giving it some thought, realize that we find our self-worth in what we accomplish and the chief means of accomplishment is our work. We see ourselves as what we do and what we have done. We are carpenters, policemen, teachers, programmers, writers, or whatever it is we do. If we are out of work for any length of time we start to lose our sense of who we are; we start to become nothing at all, at least to ourselves.
Considering the significance of this personal barometer, which all men I have known go by, the situation begs an important question. Do we as men sacrifice our families because we have somehow internalized an incorrect value system of self-worth or does that self-worth defined as accomplishment just need a new path, a new understanding, one that includes God and family, as well as work, as its defining elements? The preacher did not address this issue, yet it has been something I have been thinking about for a long time.
Most men I have known, who are successful in what they do, and that includes men who have a vibrant spiritual life, seem to have a firm grasp of who they are, of what they are doing and why they are doing it. As a result, I have been leaning toward defining a new path for our self-worth, but having said that, succesfully defining that new path is a whole other matter.
As a Christian I have problem. We believe that throughout all of the history of humanity we have been fallen and as result, broken (this is the Judeo-Christian idea of inherited sin from Adam that plagues us from our conception). As a result, a fair question is what can we as men use as a model for this new path, since all of our examples are essentially corrupted by their sinfulness. My primary possibility out of this dilemma was Jesus Christ himself, but he was never a husband and father. The scriptural sources are not an easy solution since they pull me in different directions and I haven’t yet been able to reconcile them into a coherent whole. Three representative examples that I can find that seem to shed light on the subject are Ephesians 5: 25-31, Luke 14:26, and Matthew 19:29:
Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her to make her holy, cleansing her by the washing with water through the word, and to present her to himself as a radiant church, without stain or wrinkle or any other blemish, but holy and blameless. In this same way, husbands ought to love their wives as their own bodies. He who loves his wife loves himself. After all, no one ever hated his own body, but he feeds and cares for it, just as Christ does the church– for we are members of his body. “For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and the two will become one flesh.” Ephesians 5: 25-31
“If anyone comes to me and does not hate his father and mother, his wife and children, his brothers and sisters–yes, even his own life–he cannot be my disciple.” Luke 14:26
“And everyone who has left houses or brothers or sisters or father or mother or wife or children or fields for my sake will receive a hundred times as much and will inherit eternal life.” Matthew 19:29
That is my current stumbling block to finding this new path; I have no examples to emulate and I have not been able to yet to integrate my thinking on the scriptures that seem to touch the issue. I know there is an answer in there somewhere. So, I am interested in any resources that any of you might know about that deal with this specific issue or the result of your struggles to reach a coherent solution. Thanks in advance for your help.