Last week, I started sharing my top three life priorities that keep me focused on living a Christ-centered life, filled with meaning. Remember, so often we tend to make things more complicated than they really are. When it comes to priorities, many of us have a check list of some kind that includes everything from going to the grocery store for milk to make sure our children get a great education. We confuse mundane tasks with what is truly important in life. If everything is important, then nothing is important. When it comes to living a fuller, richer life filled with meaning, what are your priorities?
What is it? What does Christ want you to do?
The more I try to discern the Lord’s plan, the more apparent it is becoming that I have just three simple priorities:
- I will serve Christ and love him with all my heart.
- My family is my primary vocation.
- My workplace is also my ministry.
Last week we looked at what it means to serve Christ. This week, let’s look at family.
« My family is my primary vocation”
I have often written of my workaholic tendencies in the early part of my career that still plague on occasion. When my first son was two years old, I began working for Bell Oaks Executive Search in the pursuit of a more balanced life. But, it was not until my wife and I entered the Catholic Church that we truly understood our family is our number one vocation.
Sounds great, but what does that mean? Isn’t our career our vocation? How do we accomplish this lofty goal? Here are a few practical steps we are focusing on making this a reality:
- Teach our children about the Faith and to love God – Our children will love God and have strong faith only if we do. They will only pray…if we do. They will only be joyful about attending church…if we are. My wife and I try hard to be devout Catholics and for us, the greatest vocation is our family and raising our children to love and serve Christ and follow our Faith. Studies have shown that religious practice in the family (especially by the father) is a definitive factor to young adults’ religious practice in the future. The white paper Religious Involvement and Children’s Well-Being by Lisa Bridges and Kristin Moore reports that young people who frequently attend religious services and say their faith is important to them exhibit higher levels of altruism and much lower levels of drug and alcohol use and sexual activity than those of little or no faith. The extensive studies done by Christian Smith and Lisa Pearce through The National Study of Youth and Religion have shown the same results.
- Hour - Our children need our time. Put down the iPhone, turn off the television, cancel the golf outing, and let’s spend more time with our kids! The key. It might be tempting to put them in front of Sponge Bob while you read the book you’ve been wanting to read. But kids need – and crave-engagement, active conversation, and activity with you. In addition, dinner time should be sacred. There is tremendous value in coming together for a family meal at least once a day.
- Teach them responsibility and Stewardship – Our children learn responsibility at a young age and teach them to have a good work ethic is a great foundation for them to build upon as adults. Help them be better human beings. This isn’t classroom stuff. They will only learn from our example. Here is a helpful tip I will pass on from The Hain household: For the last five years, we have asked our boys to each donate 10 of their undamaged toys a few days before their birthdays and Christmas. We take them to North Fulton Community Charities and have them bring the toys inside for donation. They have learned that they must give… before they receive. It also keeps the house a little cleaner!
- Love, love, love! - Showing our children we love them-and more importantly, counting they love them-is incredibly important. We love our kids and tell them every chance we get. Love is also caring enough to be tough and candid, and providing limits. And, don’t forget – it is also about loving each other as spouses. Want to give the kids a good example to follow? Show your spouse affection in words and deeds as often as possible. Mother Teresa of Calcutta once said: “Smile at each other, smile at your wife, smile at your husband, smile at your children, smile at each other-it doesn’t matter who it is — and that will help you grow up in greater love for each other.”
My intention in sharing these priorities is to show how simply we can alter our lives in a way that assimilates faith, family and work and puts us on the path to a Christ-centered life, filled with meaning. I try every day to do the actions I have shared, and I assure you that I struggle like anyone else. The challenge is to practice them not as a bunch of new to-dos but as part of a broader, unifying approach to a balanced and meaningful life that places Christ first in all areas of our lives.
Next week, we’ll look at that last priority: carrying your faith with you to work.