In our efforts to balance faith, family, and career, faith almost always takes a backseat. A typical day goes something like this:
Every morning I get up early, lace up my running shoes, and head out the door for my daily run. About forty-five minutes later it’s time for a quick shower, and then I make sure the kids are up, fed, and off to school, with me not far behind on my morning commute.
At work, I hit the ground running — meetings, phone calls, review reports, more meetings, problem solving, and at least one more impromptu meeting. I look at the clock and can hardly believe it’s five thirty, so off I go to get dinner on the table and then preside over the randomness of having a house full of teenagers — my own kids and their friends — before Chris and I get a little time to ourselves.
I look at my Bible on the nightstand next to my bed and tell myself now would be a good time to get caught up on my Bible Study Fellowship assignment. But I’m tired. I really should look over my presentation notes for tomorrow’s budget meeting. I’ve had this article I’ve been wanting to read for a week. Annie is home from college and wants to hang out. I’m tired. I’m behind on my email. When was the last time Chris and I watched a movie together?
Finally, the weekend rolls around and I’m ready for it. I love my job, but it’s been one of those weeks and I think you know what I mean. I’m looking forward to doing absolutely nothing except for joining a few other couples Saturday evening for dinner and fun. We get in pretty late, but it was worth it. Besides, I’m so looking forward to just chilling on Sunday. Going to church shouldn’t be my only place for a quiet time with God, right? Maybe I’ll use some of the time during the service to get caught up on my Bible Study Fellowship assignment.
I’ve never met anyone who deliberately falls away from a dynamic and vibrant faith in God. Rather, it’s a little like gaining weight. Those extra fifteen pounds don’t just suddenly appear overnight but are the result of daily decisions over time that gradually rob you of your waistline. Likewise, our busy lives gradually crowd out those things that are essential to maintaining a personal relationship with God. According to the Barna Research Group, 34 percent of the Christian parents surveyed said that having enough time to devote to their faith was a major challenge. I haven’t done a formal survey, but among my friends who are professional Christian women, it’s more like 99 percent.
You can’t let your job slide, and you try hard not to neglect your kids and spouse. The one area where we’re most likely to take shortcuts, or that we may ignore outright, is our faith.
One of the reasons I run every day is that running for me has become what physician and author William Glasser calls a “positive addition.” Despite the effort and discipline it sometimes takes to get out the front door and start moving, running produces benefits — physical as well as emotional — that I have come to depend on. If for some reason I have to skip a few workouts, I miss those benefits: higher energy levels, moreweight control, better ability to handle stress, stronger emotional health, and so on. I work out every day because overall it makes me feel better.
Our spiritual health ought to be more important than our physical health, and it requires the same kind of investment of our time. When you take the time to pray, read the Bible, and otherwise invest in the things of God, you feel closer to him, you have a confidence that he is with you, and you are able to view your life from a higher, wider perspective. Neglect it, and you begin to lose those benefits.
In her book Listening for God, Marilyn Hontz refers to those times when we do not actively pursue our relationship with Jesus as dry times. What an accurate image of what it’s like to neglect our spiritual health.
When I am closest to God — when I spend time regularly in his Word and set aside time each day to pray and listen for his voice — it’s like dipping my hand into a crystal-clear mountain stream and drinking from it. But when I let the busyness of my life crowd into those times set aside for God, all that’s left is the stagnant streambed.
Ironically, it’s when we are at our busiest that we need God’s comforting presence the most.
When Trammell Crow Company was sold to CB Richard Ellis, the leadership asked me to run the business that served our corporate clients who outsourced its real-estate services. I was put in charge of pulling together 4,500 employees and over 300 clients into a cohesive leadership team with the goal of serving clients well with coordinated processes and a platform that took the best from both companies. The stress was incredible, but one of the things that got me through it was my personal morning prayer time that I combined with my morning run. It gave me incredible strength and kept me focused on the important things during this stressful period in my life.
And during one of the lowest times in my life, I don’t think I could have survived without my faith. Sensing that our marriage was in serious trouble and heading for divorce, I would wait for my husband to come home — which was usually very late — so that the kids had someone in the house while they were asleep, then I would drive down to a pretty area with trees close to my house and read my Bible, pray, and meditate. Despite what was going on in my personal life, I felt so close to God. He gave me strength and showed me how to deal with this heartbreaking situation.
I’m far from perfect and have experienced my share of the dry times, but when my faith is strong and I am closest to God, the benefits spill over into my family and my work. I am a better parent, better spouse, and better worker when I put God first.
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