Today we are going to finish up our series by looking at the need we have for breathing room in our most personal and important relationships. All month we have seen that life is better when we have breathing room and we defined breathing room as the space between our pace of life and our limits. God did not create us to live at the very limit of our lives. God created so that we can push ourselves to the limit at times to handle a crisis or to get through a busy season in life but then we need to pull back in order to rest and recover. A great example of this is physical training – if we push our bodies and muscles to the limit every day at some point we will physically break down. Our bodies need time and space to rest. Our bodies need breathing room, our schedules need breathing room which means we need to limit the time we do some things in order to focus on the things that matter most. We need breathing room in our finances which most of the time means we need to cut back on our spending so that we have financial space and reserves to use when needed. Today we are going to talk about the need we have for breathing room in our relationships and here’s why this is so important.
Maybe this has happened to you. You’re eating dinner with your family and someone asks you to pass the ketchup and you just lose it? Maybe you have a complete break down at the table and start to complain about how you are always the one who has to pass everything and no one can ever take care of themselves, help themselves, clean up after themselves or help anyone else. The work always falls to you!! Or maybe you don’t lose your temper but just walk away, literally get up from the table and walk away and then distance yourself from everyone in the house allowing the silence to grow. If that has ever happened at your dinner table, you know the issue isn’t the ketchup that was just the last straw. If that sounds familiar then you need some breathing room.
Now one of the reasons we get this stressed out in our relationships is because we simply do not have enough time to do all that we want to do. We know that to be the best parent we can be it would require us to give it more time, but we have to work and we know that to be the best we can be at work we would need to give that more time. We also enjoy and find satisfaction in what we are able to do in the church and community and want to give that more time. This scenario is true for all of us – we simply do not have enough time to all that we want to do in all areas of our live..
Let’s face it, there is not enough time to do it all and be the best in ONE area of life and so what we often end up doing is cheating. We steal time from one area to spend on another and usually we cheat from our family in order to spend time at work. Now sometimes we have to do this. There are times when our work might require us to go on the road so we aren’t going to be home a night or two, or there might be a project or deadline that calls us to work late and maybe a weekend here and there and so we take time from our families to spend at work. We tell our spouse that we will be late a few nights this week until the project is complete. We tell our kinds we might miss a game or the next recital because we have to be away on business and because we are family and we love and care for each other we accept this. We willingly carry the load.
Think about it that way for a moment. When we take on the responsibility of someone else for a period of time we are carrying the load for them. When they can’t follow through on their family responsibility we help out because that’s what it means to be a family. We show compassion and understanding and we willingly do this because that’s what loving relationships are all about. While this is good, the problem comes when they never take back the load they have asked us to carry. If we carry the load too long we live at the limits of our relationships and we don’t have the breathing room we need Now most people don’t do this intentionally; they have just allowed themselves to fall into bad habits or haven’t been able to reset right priorities.
If we are the ones carrying the load, we know it. We feel the stress, we sense we are at our limit and running out of space. If we have put the load on someone else, however, we may not know it. We may not know that someone we love is at their limits until we ask them to pass the ketchup and by then it is too late. Here are some ways we can tell if we have handed off some of our responsibility t someone else and not taken the load or burden back.
1. We are always making promises but never following through. We promise not to work late, but then work late. We promise to help out but then come home and turn on the TV or computers to check the news, weather, sports or social media.
2. We are chronically absent from important events. While there are times when we might have to miss our child’s game, if we haven’t made any games this seasons or any school concert this year, then we letting someone else carry the load. We might not be able to go out for a scheduled date night with our spouse one week, but if we have postponed them all for 6 months then we are not taking seriously our responsibility. Absence doesn’t always make the heart grow founder, sometimes it just because a burden that someone else has to carry.
3. We keep pointing to the future to make up for the past. “I will make the next game.” “I will help out around the house next weekend.” “I will make it up to you on our next vacation.” If we keep pointing to the future to make up for the failures of the past, then we are allowing someone else to carry our load and that decreases the breathing room in our relationships and without breathing room in our relationships, relationships die.
If any of these situations sounds familiar than please take some time to evaluate what’s going on in your life because if we ask people to carry our load for too long, it can cause real damage to relationships. Resentment, anger and bitterness are what causes relationships to reach their limit and if breathing room is not created, those emotions can destroy marriages and families. Every event we miss with our family is an event that we can never get back and some events will never be repeated. There is only one first music recital and only one final game and if we miss these events then we miss a lot and our absence creates stress in relationships and pushes them to the limit.
What happens in these situations is that we have chosen to cheat but we have cheated what is most important for what is secondary. When we place the burden on our family and ask them to carry the load for us by taking on responsibilities that only we can meet and when we take time from them we are choosing to cheat them so we can give more of our time, interest and energy to other things and there is nothing more important than our family.
While our jobs are important in order to care for and provide for the ones we love, we have to strike a healthy balance in our priorities because no job is as important as our family. Think about it, if we were to disappear from our job – the organization would continue. I worked as an aide in a nursing home one summer and one day another aide didn’t show up. We worked the same shift and since he had all the men on the unit, they gave me all his patients. The next day the same thing happened and then it happened again. That man never showed up again to work but all his patients got the care they needed. Many times we think we are indispensible at work, but the reality is that we are not.
At some point in time someone else will come along to be the pastor here at Faith Church and Faith Church will continue on, but no one can be the only son to my parents. At some point someone will replace all of us in our jobs but no one can replace us at home. Each of us has a unique role to play in our families that no one else can fill. No one else can be the son to my parents. No one else can be the mother or father to your children. Someone might come along to be a step-mother or father and those roles can be vital and important, but no one can replace you in your family so why would we choose to cheat the most important, vital God-given roles we have for a job that someone else can and someday will do?
We do not have enough time to do all the things that need to be done in every area of life, so we have to choose to cheat, the key is to cheat in the areas that are secondary so we can invest in relationships that are the most important. If we need breathing room in our most critical and important relationships than we need to cheat from areas that are not as important. It doesn’t mean we neglect those areas, or abandon them, but can make home and family and loved ones a priority. In Paul’s letter to the Ephesians, God calls us to make our primary relationships a top priority.
Ephesians 5:22 Wives submit to your husbands as to the Lord.
Ephesians 5:25, Husbands love your wives as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her. This call to love and sacrifice is really submission PLUS. It’s a call to deeper submission and responsibility. The idea Paul is lifting up here one of mutual submission which Paul said first: Ephesians 5:21, submit to one another.
So God calls us to submit to one another in our marriages and in our families, but He doesn’t call us to submit to our boss at work. We should be humble, respectful and willing to serve, but submission is reserved for our relationships at home which shows us that these relationships need to be the priority, but many times they are not and when they aren’t we are pushing our relationships to the limit and that’s when breathing room diminishes and relationships suffer.
So why do we do this? Many times we do this out of fear. We cheat and take time from home to spend at work because we are afraid of looking lazy. We are afraid we won’t look as good as those around us and that we won’t measure up. Sometimes we are just afraid we might lose our job. These are real fears and if it is fear that is causing us to cheat from our family and push those relationships to the limit, then we need to face those fears and trust God. Now, for those who were around a few years ago, in order to fear less we need to do what? (Trust More.)
Can we learn to trust God more in order to create more breathing room in our relationships? When Andy Stanley talked about creating more breathing room in his marriage and with his family he shared how his prayer life changed. Early on in his life he prayed: God, take care of things at home while I care for things at work. But when he realized he was cheating his family of time and wanted to give them breathing room so the relationships would remained strong and healthy he changed his prayer to: God, take care of things at work while I care for things at home.
God is more than able to care of things at work – not matter what job we have – and if we will trust Him to do this, then we might be able to step back enough to give our families and those we love the most the time and energy that they need. When we have breathing room in our relationships we can focus on what is really going on and work to improve our marriages and families..
The truth we all face today is that we can’t do it all. We can’t give every relationship and every situation all the time and attention we want and so at times we are going to have to choose to cheat and take time from one relationship and one situation to give to another, but we need to learn how to cheat well. Can we take from all that is secondary in life to invest ourselves in what is primary and what is important and what is ultimately our God ordained and God given relationships? Our spouses, our children, our family, our loved ones are more than worth.
Breathing Room – Choosing to Cheat
Evaluate your relationships with the following questions:
• In the past six months, have you lost your cool with your spouse or children? How often does this happened?
• In the past six months, have you missed an important family event? Birthday? Recital? Game? Anniversary?
• Do you find yourself promising to give your family more time and attention the “next time”? Do you say things like: “I’ll be at your next game. I won’t take work with me on our next vacation. I won’t forget our next anniversary.”
If any of these describe your current life and relationships, then you need some breathing room.
1. Talk honestly with your spouse about how much time together and time with children is needed for a healthy marriage and family. What times of the day and/or week are most important for you to be around to help or be together?
2. Where might you have to cheat in order to give this time and attention to your spouse, children and family?
3. What fear comes to mind when you think of taking that time from work and other activities?
4. The Bible says we are to submit to one another in our most important and vital relationships. What does this submission look like in your marriage? With your children?
5. Use this prayer to keep the right perspective and to deepen faith and trust in God:
God, take care of things at work ~ while I care for things at home. AMEN