Life & Faith-Choosing to Cheat

“If something doesn’t change soon, our marriage is over!”

Have you ever heard these words from your spouse? I have, and it jolted me quickly to reality. In 2007, I was living my dream and my wife was living a nightmare. We had moved to Summerville, SC to start a brand new church. My life was crazy, but it didn’t bother me because I was doing what I felt I was created to do. Sixty-hour work week? No problem. Giving away every weeknight to meet with potential church partners? No big deal. Living on a shoestring budget? Just part of the deal.
While I was living out my dream, my adventurous wife, Tarah, felt trapped at home and bamboozled by her husband. I, however, hadn’t noticed what I was doing. I was asking her to carry a very heavy weight, a weight I was intended to hold—full responsibility for our family’s wellbeing. I had shirked my responsibility in hopes of achieving my dream.

Then, dejected and exhausted, she had held the extra weight long enough. With those infamous words in 2007, she made it clear—things must change! After weeks of conversation, I came to realize I had chosen to cheat my family.1 The people I loved the most, I had neglected the most. The people who loved me the most rarely saw me reciprocate love towards them. My attention, my time, and my passions I was choosing to invest elsewhere.

Here is what I learned from the difficult days that followed: I have only a finite amount of time and energy, thus I must spend it purposefully. If I give extra time to work, I must cheat time from somewhere else. If I am giving all my energy to a hobby, I must cheat giving energy to something else. In 2007, I learned that I had chosen to cheat my family by giving away the best of me to everyone else while leaving those that love me the most merely the scraps of my time and energy.

Here are the changes I needed to make:

1. Frequently ask those I love what they need from me and be willing to give them what they ask for.

2. Decide that, if I am going to give extra time or energy to something, I can borrow from work, hobbies, and friends, but I will not steal the time or energy from my family.

3. At the end of my life, there are four people who will stand beside me: Tarah, Piper, Ethan, & Jedidiah. They deserve more than the scraps of my life; they deserve the best of me.

In 1 Timothy 5:8, the Apostle Paul tells Timothy that a man who does not make his family a priority is a failure in life. I do not want to get to the end of my life and notice that I wasted my focus on lesser things while neglecting the people I love. To ensure that is not my future, I must make my family the priority of my time and my energy.

1 Idea borrowed from Andy Stanley in When Work and Family Collide. Multnomah Books, 2011.

By Will Browning