Is Daddy On That Avión?

BY NICK AND SANDRA GARZA

“Avion mami, avion!” “Is Daddy on that plane?” “Are we going to get him at the airport today?”

This repetition of my son’s words, as told by my wife, reminded me about a son’s need to spend time with his daddy. This was especially sobering in light of the amount of time that ministry seems to swallow up.

All pastors have faced the difficulty of balancing marriage and ministry. We have all seen the diagrams and read the rules: first God, then family, then ministry, as if each were a ball that people in ministry must learn to juggle. How could such a simple model be so difficult to live out? Is it possible that this model has failed us? Is it time to come up with new models?

Consider the P.K. No, not a Promise Keeper. I am talking about the original usage of that abbreviation: “Pastor’s Kid.” Many of us who grew up in church remember that the P.K.’s were not always model Christian examples. When most of us received our calling, we probably didn’t think about the fact that one day our children would be born “into the order of the P.K.”

Scared yet? I am. Many of us have been chosen to raise the next generation of P.K.s. My wife and I recently had one of those new year evaluation times. What we shared was our need to come up with a new model for prioritizing life. Many of us have elaborate mission statements for our ministries or secular careers, but our personal lives are left to chance-lacking clear direction and order. It became our conviction that we didn’t want to be successful in ministry at the expense of our marriage and family. If the only place we have direction or a “mission” is in our ministry, then we have already put ministry before everything else in our lives. Our time at home and the office will revolve around the mission statement established for our ministry.

Here are some areas that we have been developing in order to balance our lives:

INTIMACY
Intimacy: God has created us with the capacity and the need for intimacy.
Intimacy with God: His intention all along was for us to fulfill this need first by communing with Him. Pascal said it best when he said, “We were made for God alone, and our hearts are restless until they put their trust in Him.”
Intimacy with Spouse: It is interesting that God’s portrait for marriage was likened to the relationship between Christ and the church (Eph. 5). We are reminded that intimacy with the Father is the source of our ability to be truly intimate with one another.
Intimacy with Children: Just as we must pursue a relationship with God and one another we must also pursue a relationship with our children. For some of us, this is a real challenge because we didn’t exactly have an intimate relationship with our parents. However, all of us can choose to be honest, transparent, affirming and approachable.
Notice that ministry does not fit into this model. No matter how hard we try to fool ourselves, we cannot have intimacy with our ministry. Anyone who attempts to do so will be left unfulfilled, unhappy, and unbalanced.

I believe it is possible to avoid having an affair with a career if biblical intimacy becomes a priority.

IDENTITY
The quest for one’s identity can become a complicated journey, so we must learn some basic ways to simplify. First of all our identity must be rooted in Christ. We were made in God’s image, we were disfigured by sin, redeemed by grace, and are being sanctified with the aid of His Holy Spirit. Our relationship with Him should give us the core of our identity. Though our identity is rooted in Christ, it is developed within the context of our family. We do not have to be psychologists to know that our family is key in the development of personal identity. Now notice once again that ministry does not fit in this area. Anyone who bases their identity upon ministry success will soon have nothing of substance to offer others. Ministry must flow out of who we are in Christ, not who we are or what we do in ministry.

INTEGRITY
We cannot truly make progressive change without honestly evaluating our present state. Integrity is more than public testimony, it is personal. Personal integrity involves self-evaluation, accountability to others, and a plan for change. Self-evaluation is not to be confused with self-bashing. It is just being honest with who we really are on the inside. In the area of intimacy and identity, self evaluation can determine real growth. Beyond self evaluation, accountable relationships are key for maximum personal growth. By being accountable to friends who will ask us the tough questions, we can gain insights and achieve our personal goals. Finally our integrity should help us to generate an action plan for change. My wife often tells our kids, “sorry means that you will do your very best to never do it again.” After finding areas of shortcomings, we must make plans so as to “never do it again.”

I am not going to pretend to have it all together. It would be a lot easier to write about all the good times and show how ministry and family can be perfectly balanced. The truth is that it is easier said than done. However, if we can identify the core issues, then we can create models and begin to live a more balanced lifestyle.

Sample Family Mission Statement: Our Mission is to develop intimacy with God, each other, and our children; to establish and maintain our identity in Christ, and to have the integrity to make character adjustments resulting in effective ministry for God, to one another, and to this world for His Glory.

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