Tuesday, October 25, 2005

An Eyeore Day More Should Share

Yesterday was a typical blue Monday. Pastor's are of two minds - generally speaking - when it comes to taking a day off. Some take off Friday while others choose Monday (others don't have a regular day off and ought to go back and look at the 4th commandment not in Sundayness but rather how it correlates with the 6th commandment and preserving our own lives). I choose Friday as I'd rather get a jump on the week. However, after 3 days (Friday-Sunday) where my boys get to see more of me than Monday-Thursday, Mondays are generally blue. My wife takes back over managing things during the day herself and I'm back to my usual ministry responsibilities.

All that is background for yesterday which was an Eyeore day. My family hates Mondays. I especially hate Mondays. It's not returning to another week of ministry I deplore. I love what I do and of all the days of the week I typically feel productive with lots of tasks accomplished on Mondays. It's the curly heads I leave at the top of the stairs peeking through the baby gate as I close the door. For those readers who don't know my family personally I have curly hair which is quickly moving from dark brown to grey. My 3 boys (Jacob - 5, Jesse - 3, Joseph - 1) all have curly hair but none my color. In fact for ease of use I simply call them red curly, blond curly, and brown curly. Beginning all of their names with J is cute and all but makes it terribly hard to get the right name out especially when one boy is about to pounce on another and bring about life ending injury.

Okay back to the point ... yesterday was an Eyeore day because it was a Monday. I mentioned Eyeore to some people yesterday and they stared blankly back at me. If you don't know who Eyeore is here are your marching order: go to the library and check out a collection of Winnie the Pooh stories, find a random curly headed child who likes stories and read to them for a while. If you can't find one, come to my house, you'll find a ready audience, curls provided gratis.

For the unitiated, Eyeore is known for always being gloomy. If we were to characterize Eyeore in the way my Old Testament professor (Iain Duguid, soon to be professor at Grove City College, coming Fall '06) taught us, he looked at the world through Ecclesiastes eyes. All is gloomy with no hope. Now that isn't exactly what I felt yesterday morning as I left 3 curly heads sadly at the top of the stairs. There was hope for us though, dinnertime (with appetizers beforehand, explantion some other time) would come soon!

Why do I share this story? I have found that men and sadly Christian men don't particularly enjoy their children. Very few men feel like Eyeore on Monday morning. Thus my title. I don't think many men struggle to leave for work on Monday morning because they'll miss their children all day. I'm all for work, love what I do, get charged by it and through it, and think it's a great thing. I'm not anti-work! But I am pro-children and enthusiastic about it. It pains me that more men are not.

Let me share a quote and then a few words of exhortation to the fathers or prospective fathers who might be reading this. "Too many children are growing up feeling that their mothers and fathers did not regard them as sources of pleasure." (Herbert Hendin) How would your children respond to that quote? Can you honestly say that your children are a source of pleasure? Do your children sense they are a welcome reward from God (i.e. Psalm 127:3)?

I suspect that many of my male readers are now feeling guilty and probably rightly so. Why men do we have such a hard time enjoying our kids? Why don't we feel like Eyeore at least on some Mondays? Surely the manly taking of dominion is more difficult to measure in child raising. It's easier to see that you made a sale, wrote a sermon, finished a project, fixed something or built it from raw materials. That I agree; fathering is an ambiguous profession. But let me gently suggest as well that there is something spiritual going on.

In that list of fruit of the Spirit the hardest it seems for men is patience. The curse produces an unrest in us that will be only finally resolved in the New Creation. But now we must be patient not impatient. This includes our interest and interaction with our children. With pain I hear stories through my wife of husbands who spend as little time as possible with their children. Sounds like that quote from a few paragraphs up. Children take patience which means discomfort and even repentance at times for unrighteous impatience with our chldren. At least that's the pattern in my house. Let me open my heart a bit more and see if you're in a similar spot.

When I'm impatient with my children and take the time to actually think about it after the fact I almost always find that I was impatient because I thought in my heart of hearts "I ought to be doing something more important than having you waste my time being silly or playing". And then I repent because I recognize that my heart is against the heart of God at that point. Even as a pastor (!) the 4 most important folks who need my time and talents reside in my house not anywhere else. Is that what you feel? You'll know if you have some Eyeore times because you have to leave your kids. You'll know that it isn't your heart if your consistent feeling is that you don't want to go home to see your kids.

What's the remedy if you are like a typical guy and struggle with patience with your kids and struggle to enjoy them? Without being trite, the cross is your first stop where mercy can be found for sin and grace for temptations ahead. Next stop is to spend your devotions (are you having any?) reading, praying, and meditating over what God has to say about children in His Word seeking that you would be transformed in your mind (Rom. 12:2). As you seek the Spirit's work in your heart making it beat along with God's, start acting like you are changed. Choose to stop doing something when you could be spending time with your kids. If your patience is tested, consider it the medicine you need. If you blow it, ask your kids to forgive you. They need models of repentance as well as models or righteousness.

May you share an Eyeore day with me in the near future.