It’s been a hard week here at the Butler’s. We’ve been on a “family vacation” which really only means everything has been harder–all the hidden issues rise to the surface in those settings. We were all short on sleep, away from all things comfortable and familiar, and we were all being pushed to our breaking points. Add into that equation all of our expectations, those visions of happy family sing-a-longs on the road, the ideas of smiling and grateful children in every picture… But, all that quickly unraveled into grumpy children and parents. Why do people go on vacation anyway?
We made the not-so-brilliant decision to drive through the night to our destination — a family discipleship conference. (Um, can we say IRONIC?) only to arrive at a prepaid hotel and find that NOTHING was as advertised. (Yes, I’ll be writing a review). I was going on 45 minutes of sleep for the previous 36 hours, and my husband had acquired a total of seven hours of sleep over the previous 80 hours. We were undernourished, exhausted and car-cranky. All of us.
Undeterred (or maybe just terrified of keeping seven bored kids in a hotel room), we headed out to a park to let the kids burn off steam that afternoon, and the following morning, full of hopes and expectations for our vacation, we jumped right into our scheduled activities, including 8+ hours of walking through a museum, followed by dinner and getting kids settled down, while I still had a couple hours of grocery shopping to do.
It wasn’t long before my husband and I were fighting, the kids were misbehaving, and I was ready to pack it up and head back home, where we could at least be dysfunctional in privacy.
I looked around the conference at the beautiful families, dressed immaculately, kids walking calmly next to their parents, and then I looked at my family with smudgy breakfast faces and one who was already missing… and I was envious.
Comparison is another one of my faults. However, this time, while I first saw the perfect families, I also saw something else. These families moved slower, even if they were running late. When they stopped to correct a child, they stopped, knelt, whispered. And most of all, they all exhibited love above all else. They valued their people over all the other things.If we aren't actively living out love to our children, showing these little ones Jesus' own love, we aren't loving the Lord. Click To Tweet
Flash back to my days at a regular 9-to-5 job and one of my weaknesses was too often valuing process or product over people. I just wanted to get the work done, on time, correctly, high quality… and when people are involved those goals aren’t always achieved without a fight. I would get frustrated because I mistakenly valued process, product, punctuality, and perceptions over the people.
What it all boils down to is what are our family values.
Now as a mom of seven, not much has changed… at least not in me. I am still the executive type at home. I want things a certain way, I want my house in order, I want to arrive places on time, I want my kids to behave well in public (and let’s be real, in private would be great too)… In other words, I value perfect products (end results) and sometimes, because my values are misplaced, I lose sight of the people… my little people.
What I saw at the conference was families who exhibited love. Their words and actions toward their kids were loving. Rather than focusing on perfection, process, punctuality or products, they focused on people. Loving people—first at home and then everywhere else.I stopped hoping for perfectly behaved children, and focused instead on making sure they knew they were loved. Click To Tweet
I had forgotten that they are the ones I’m charged with loving and caring for first. While cleanliness and punctuality can be important ways to show respect for others, we can’t do so at the expense of showing love to our own children.
When I could finally accept that truth once again in my life, I was able to adjust my expectations for this trip. I stopped hoping for perfectly behaved children, and focused instead on making sure they knew they were loved. And making the change was simple, actually. I love my children already, so showing them love was as simple as remembering to make every interaction count for love. When they did something wrong, I had to slow down, to focus on them and loving while applying correction.
When we lose sight of the point — the ministry of Jesus, to LOVE PEOPLE, we lose. We fail at the Great Commission. If we aren’t actively living out love to our children, showing these little ones Jesus’ own love, we aren’t loving the Lord.
The truth is, this vacation started off pretty terrible, but it ended up just what we had hoped for: a shift in family values. Rather than merely a family vacation, it was a family discipleship retreat. We hoped the kids would get a lot out of it, and they did. But really we got so much more out of it.
We learned to get our P’s prioritized. People first! People over process. People over punctuality. People over making my point. People over practical. People over product. People over perceptions.
People over perfect.