Persistence of Memory 1
April 29, 2001
This morning I thought I would do something I have never done before. I thought I would bring a mirror on stage and, if you don’t mind, I think I am going to just set it down right here, so I can watch myself speak while this whole thing is going on. I am doing this to remind myself that I need this message, this talk, as much as anyone here. Just bear with me as I kind of look in a mirror now and then during the message. Don’t think I have lost my mind.
I want you to meet several families. These families could be here at Fellowship this morning. First, I want to introduce you to the Busyleys. The Busyleys are tough to meet because they are always on the go. They are always traveling, carpooling, moving to this event and to that program. The Busyleys are sleep deprived, usually exhausted and just tired. They are tired because they keep a NASCAR type pace. The Busyleys are driven usually by one strong personality who is, for the most part, clueless about what he or she is doing to the family. Meet the Busyleys. I doubt we have anyone here who can identify with the Busyleys, being busy, but I just thought I would let you guys meet them.
The next family is the family you can hear before you actually see them, the Loudsons. The Loudsons talk real loud. Their jaws are always flapping, the ghetto blasters blaring, TV just really going nuts. They are always tethered to all sorts of technology, especially if the technology makes a bunch of racket and noise. The greatest gift you could give this family would be a power outage. The Loudsons, you might have heard someone like the Loudsons before.
There is another family here. I call them the Oneuptons. The Oneuptons are always improving, always upgrading, building, always trying to take it to the next planet, the Oneuptons. They are the ones who always have to be the first in the neighborhood to get anything. The first what, you say? Well, it doesn’t matter. It has to be the first. They just want to be the first out of the shoot, the main ones. They are always striving. Contentment for the Oneuptons is just one purchase away.
There is one more family, the Martyrleys. The Martyrleys just go around like this twenty-four/seven. The Mom and Dad sacrifice everything just for their kids. “We do it for the kids.” They sacrifice their social life, their relational life, and intimacy life on the alter of activities. They revolve their entire existence around their kids. You know, they do it for the kids, just martyrs.
Something interesting has happened on the family front over the last several decades. The parent trap has morphed into the parent zap. Millions of moms and dads feel exhausted, tired, overwhelmed, over-committed, overscheduled and the whole thing, they say, is over the top. A lot of them express that they feel incarcerated in their minivans or Suburbans as they take their kids from school to music lessons, from music lessons to soccer practice, from soccer practice to hours and hours of homework.
Why do so many families these days have this NASCAR type pace? Why are so many people moving at such a high rate of speed? Let me stop here for a second. I know right now some of the singles are saying, “This message is not for me. I can count ceiling tiles and lights. I can just kind of chill and put it on autopilot during this message, because obviously this message is about the family and I am not married. I don’t have a family.” As I always say, singles, most of you will get married, and you will have a family. You better get this stuff down cold before you walk the wedding runner. Also, the decisions you are making today as far as your busyness, as far as your over-scheduling and being overly committed will segue into your marriage and family dynamic once it happens. So this is as much for you as it is for those of us who are married with the families.
Let me go back to my question. Why are we so zapped? Why are we so tired? Newsweek Magazine says that raising children these days is like competing in a triathlon with no finish line in sight. That is a pretty good quote. Stephanie Coontz, who is a professor of history and family studies at Evergreen University feels that a lot of people are parent zapped because of this whole technological and digital revolution, she says. Coontz writes that just as blacksmiths and farmers during the 1820’s kind of wigged out over the industrial revolution, they wigged out concerning whether their kids could make it through that time, high tech parents are making those same decisions and are making those same thought patterns in today’s world.
Because of this, we parents think that we must have every little blank space scheduled in our calendars. We must have our children doing a bunch of stuff. And it starts off, doesn’t it, in a very benign fashion, with just a couple of dates penciled in on the calendar. Suddenly though, if we don’t check it, if we don’t monitor it, we can get eaten up, swallowed up by the big hairy calendar monster, who just eats up our time and energy and we are going to so many activities and so many programs and moving through life at this NASCAR type pace, that we forget the most important stuff.
It’s so easy to do that, isn’t it? It’s so easy to get that skewed and messed up. Yet the Bible tells us that time is a gift from God. The Bible says that time is something we must steward. We must manage effectively. The only way we can truly manage our time effectively is if we allow the grace of God to infiltrate and to play out in the recesses of our existence.
I am in the third session of a series called Masterpieces. Today’s painting is called Persistence of Memory. It’s by Salvador Dali. It’s a self-portrait, a unique one at that, isn’t it? But basically it communicates the fact that man over the years has squandered God’s gift of time. We have squandered it. As you look around our culture, frenzied families are squandering a lot of time. Activities multiply like rabbits, don’t they? Once we get so many activities going on, a lot of parents make two major mistakes. Number one, we forget that activities are supposed to be fun for our kids and number two, we begin to micromanage their lives. We forget their fun and then we begin to micromanage their lives.
From there, a lot of parents segue into a sickness that many of them don’t realize they have: Steinbergitis. It’s a bad disease. Lee Steinberg, one of the greatest agents, sports agents on the planet, has managed the lives of a lot of great athletes. A lot of parents have Steinbergitis and they don’t realize it. Parents manage their children’s lives. They become their kid’s agents. “Oh, my kid will make it on the stage, on the silver screen, on the athletic field, in the boardroom and I will see to it that he or she makes it. It’s my deal and I’m going to do it.”
The media feeds this disease with stories about parents of Tiger Woods and Venus and Serena Williams, and the Backstreet Boys and others. It tells us stardom is made. It’s made and parents, if you start early enough, and you are intentional enough, you can make a superstar.
How do you know if you have Steinbergitis? A couple of quick symptoms. The first symptom is the projection symptom. We have seven video cameras up here and they are projecting right now my image and the image of Salvador Dali’s painting and the image of the clock ticking on all these different screens. Oftentimes, parents who have Steinbergitis project their junk, their dreams, their visions, what they did not accomplish as kids onto the shoulders and lives of their children. They don’t realize they are doing it, but so often, we do. The projection symptom.
There is a pro symptom out there too. You talk to moms and dads, down deep in their hearts, they think their kid will make it to the pros. They really do. “He can do it. She can do it. I’ve seen “Behind the Music” with Celine Dion, and I remember when she was small and everything and I saw what she did. So I am going to do the same thing for my daughter and she can become like Celine.” Or, Michael Jordan? “Well, you know, my son is pretty good and if I just do what Michael Jordan’s dad did, I think I could do it.”
When I was an eighth grader, I was a really good basketball player. In fact, I was so good I played on the junior varsity team in the eighth grade, started at the biggest high school in South Carolina. When I was in the tenth grade, I started varsity as a point guard. Schools were talking to me from around the country. I thought I was a good player. I could score around twenty points a game in high school and I thought, “Ed, you’re good. You might make it to the NBA.” I thought to myself.
During my high school years, I was invited to this invitation only basketball camp. They invited the top 180 players east of the Mississippi River. I thought I was going to go in there and burn the camp up, you know? In the registration line, I am looking around at the size of these high school kids, and I said to myself, “Ed, you have picked the wrong sport, brother. You are out of your league, Jack.” I mean, I knew my dreams were dashed in the registration line.
And then at the camp, I remember it. At the camp, we had an NBA coach lecture the camp. All these high school All American players were there, and Hubie Brown stood up and he said, “You know what? There might be one, maybe two, who will make it in the NBA.”
Parents, I think it is great for your children to have dreams. Dreams of stardom, sports dreams, whatever, but let’s just get real. I don’t care how talented he is or she is, they probably will not make the big time. If they do, wonderful. It’s in God’s hands, though. Isn’t that good? So don’t try to wrestle it out of God’s hands and put it into your hands. I think it’s good to expose them to a wide range of activities and if they are good at something, cheer them on. Who knows, you might have the next Celine Dion or the next Kevin of the Backstreet Boys, or Michael Jordan. That’s good. But I doubt it, so we have to get a realistic view of that.
Okay, enough about that symptom. Here is another symptom, the pride symptom. That’s where, parents, we have to take a long look in the mirror and we have got to say this. “Why my insane schedule with my kids? Why am I just freaking out over programs and stuff, is it really for my children or is it for me? I mean, who is the kid here?”
We’ve got to take a long look in the mirror because so often in our lives, parents, we are doing all this stuff not for our children but for us. Because we want to say, “My kid is involved in this and that and my kid is the fastest, my kid is the smartest, my kid is…” You see how it goes? Those symptoms can lead to Steinbergitis.
I have read section after section of the Bible concerning time management, concerning priorities, concerning being focused and intentional. I’ve read hundreds of books written by the best family experts around. My library is packed with them. I have also counseled with hundreds of families concerning today’s topic. So I want to spend the next few moments talking about several things. I want to simply give you some sound scriptural advice regarding how to morph the frenzied family into the focused family, how to bring back sanity into your schedule, how to capture this gift called time in the most strategic fashion possible. Are you ready? I can tell you are.
Here’s the first one. Don’t OD on options. There are so many options out there these days. Walk into Starbucks: tall, vente, grande. Don’t you love when people who are not from Texas say, “I’d like a grandie.” I just die laughing. Triple shot, quadruple shot, light foam, no foam, the list is limitless. The options are cool. I think they are great. A lot of us think, “If I’m not getting involved in every kind of option, if I don’t have my kid in every single option, I might miss something.”
Well, you are going to miss something. You really are. We have got to get serious about options and choose certain ones. That’s where all the calendar confusion reigns. We don’t know what option to take. Have you heard people say this before, “Well, if you don’t settle your priorities, if you don’t state your priorities, someone else will.” We’ve all heard that before. Let me add something to that. Someone else has already set up our priorities. His name is God.
Let’s read God’s priorities. My first priority the Bible says is my relationship, my connection with the Lord. Matthew 22, and this is one of the scripture verses that Fellowship Church is founded upon, “Love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your mind. This is the first and greatest commandment.”
The second one is our relationship with our spouse. It’s not our kids. Number one is God. Number two, our spouse. It’s not our kids. Ephesians 5:25, “Husbands, love your wives just as Christ loved the church.” We talked about loving her in a self-sacrificing way, in a purifying love. Husbands and wives need to hear this and those thinking about marriage. “Husband love your wives as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her.”
The third priority is my relationship with my children. Proverbs 22:6, “Train a child in the way he should go,” not the way we want him or her to go, “the way they should go and when they are old, they will not turn from it.” That’s our job, parents, to give our children parameters and guidelines and guardrails so they can become within their skill set the kind of Christ-follower that the Lord wants them to become. We are coaches. We are helping them. It’s not a popularity contest, parents. We have a great role. I think many of us are doing an unbelievable job at this parenting thing. Those are our priorities.
So, when you make a decision, when you are faced with all these options and choices, vente, grande, tall, triple shot, what do you do? You run it through this grid. You say, “Okay, before we engage in this activity, how will it affect my relationship with Christ, my involvement with his bride, the local church? How will it affect my intimacy with my spouse, my connection with my bride? How will it affect my relationship with the kids and what they can handle and their stress level?” We have got to make decisions that way. We will never understand what priorities are about or what time is all about until we do that. We are tested with it all the time.
Yesterday, I was invited by a close friend of mine to the Maverick’s game. Ouch! You know how much I love basketball. The game started at 2:00 pm. This guy invited my son and I to see this play-off game. I could have made it back here to speak on Saturday. Here is my first response. “Ed, I got two tickets, great seats, for you and EJ. You want to go?” I said, “Yes!” I just jumped on that option, you know. Then I thought about it. I ran it through the grid. Okay, God, spouse, children. I thought about this weekend, how intense weekends are. I thought about how I needed to work at least six hours before the service on Saturday, which I do every Saturday. I thought about today, I am going to speak two times. Then we have children’s basketball which I coach for two hours. Then after that, we have to go to home team, which will be three more hours tonight.
I thought, you know, it’s a good thing. But, against the backdrop of all that, I have got to say no because there is a bigger yes behind it. So I called him back and said, “Thanks, but I will do it another time.” That is how God has helped me. That is a real thing. I have to look in the mirror daily and say, “God, how does this square with your priorities for my life?” There is no use in discussing priorities. “I wonder what my priorities should be?” They are already here. They are a no-brainer. There is no reason to pray about your priorities. They are there. “Dear Lord, what should my priorities be?” That should not be our prayer. It should be, “God, help me to apply what your priorities already are for my life.”
Okay, don’t OD on options. Run it through this grid. Here is something else. Use a kid lid, families, use a kid lid. As you know, Lisa and I have four kids. Often, we will invade a restaurant, and it’s kind of funny when we invade a restaurant with all of our kids. People sitting around our table, usually a long table, if they are trying to have a romantic dinner, when they see us coming, they bolt. They are asking the server, “Could you move me to another table please?” Over the years, we have learned that when we order something to drink for our children, we don’t allow them to have the regular glasses, especially the little ones. You are talking about spillage city. They could drown the restaurant, just dumping stuff. So we order them drinks with the kid lid on them. That way you can turn them over and they don’t spill. I love those kid lids.
A lot of moms and dads don’t have any kid lids on the activities and the schedules of their lives. Their kids are spilling stuff and their whole agenda is spilling all over them, and it’s literally drowning the family. They are going under because of this wheels-off, out of control stuff going on. We cannot allow that to happen. We have got to use a kid lid. What Lisa and I have done is we have adopted the one to one ratio. In other words, we have one child, and we allow the child one major activity. Sometimes, the child doesn’t do any activity for a season. But you don’t have to have your children in an activity 365 days a year. But I would limit them as far as their activities. If you get more than that, you are going to be in some serious over-committed, over-stimulated and over-the-top-type trouble. You will do a lot of good things and you will miss the best thing. You will end up hydroplaning over life and doing family on the fly as opposed to being focused and intentional about it. Use a kid lid.
Here is another suggestion. This one is kind of cool but it seems paradoxical, but it’s not. Down time is good time. We schedule just blank stuff on our calendar. It’s scheduled, just a night or two where nothing is on the agenda, no activity, no program, no game, no concert, no church event, just the Young’s’ chilling, at least once a week. “Well, what do you do?” We don’t watch television. “What do you do?” We unplug from technology. “What do you do?” We just chill. You will not believe the creativity and the innovation that will occur in your kid’s lives and your teenager’s lives when they just have that chill ability going on, just relaxing. You will not believe how they will relate to you, what they will say to you, parents, what you will say to each other when you just have down time. We have down time at least once a week where we do nothing. We are at home and that is it.
The Bible backs us up. For example, Psalm 46, “Be still and know that I am God.” There is a direct correlation between stillness and Godliness. If we have any educators in the house, anybody in the school systems, public and private, I am going to say something to you, as nice as I can, but as direct as I can. You guys and gals are giving our kids way too much homework. Way to much homework. How in the world can we have our priorities with God, with our spouse and our children in order, when they go to school six hours, then, “Okay, here’s some more homework.” Then you do two or three hours of homework at night. What is up with that? Why have homework? Goodnight, nursery school. That’s crazy. Now if you want my email, principals and teachers, you can check our website and I will be happy to answer it. Anyway, let me get off my soapbox.
Don’t OD on options. Use a kid lid. Down time is good time. This is the last one. Don’t read me wrong here. Don’t hear me wrong, parents, but I’ll just say it. Don’t quit your job. I’m not talking about what you do professionally. I am talking about your number one job. Here’s what parents do. Parents, when they crank out a couple of kids, step down from their main job. The husband quits husbanding, his number one job. The wife quits wifing, her number one job. The husband and wife move out of the corner office and they move their kids into the corner office. They settle down in the leather chair with the speakerphone. They rule the parents instead of the parents leading them.
The husband steps down from being the husband. He immerses himself in his work, making the mean green, the paycheck. The wife steps down from her responsibility and she just becomes the mother orbiting her world around her children. You have marital drift going on and you have a couple of people who are totaling living for their children. They have no intimacy, no date night, no special time because the kids run the show. They run the show. You can see them at church. When they come to church, they cannot even drop off their little ones at the nursery. They bring their babies and little ones in here. They can’t hear the message or experience God because they are distracting themselves and also the entire section. They are.
So let’s just wake up parents and smell the Starbucks here. It is not about your kids. I love children but it’s not about them. It’s about God. It’s about the second most important relationship behind God, your relationship with your spouse. Then after that, your kids. But you cannot let them run the show and sit in the corner office. A lot of you are going to have to go in there and clean out their offices and say, “You know what? You kind of work for me. We are going to take over, Mommy and Daddy, we’re going to take over the corner office now.” There is going to be a fight because the little ones, they like the corner office. They like the parties and the perks. They are into it. It’s not going to be easy. But I am telling you, it’s God’s masterful design. Throughout the Bible, whenever it compares Christ’s love to the church, it is about marriage. It’s not about children. If we have a great marriage, that is one of the best things we can do as far as parenting.
Well, okay, you can go down the list. Hopefully, you were keeping score. Don’t OD on options. Use a kid lid. Down time is a good time. Don’t quit your job. “What do I do about it, Ed?” Here’s what we can do. Again, I am talking to myself too. Don’t just think I am talking to you now. That’s why the mirror is here. That’s what I see when I am speaking. Is that cool, or what? You ever wonder what is it like to be on stage speaking? That’s it. Balcony. There’s one asleep right there. That’s okay.
Here’s what we can do. Romans 12:2, “Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world.” In the Phillips translation, or in the original language here, it means, “Do not let the world squeeze you into it’s mold.” Because the world has a mold, doesn’t it? Over-stimulate your family, over-commit your family, OD your family on options, it will be over the top. That is what the world says. It does not work. “Do not conform any longer,” you have to fight for it, “to the pattern of the world, but be transformed…” This word “transformed” in the original language, I don’t have time to study the whole word, is where we get the word “metamorphosis” from. Is that cool? Be transformed, go through metamorphosis. How? Can you do it by yourself? No. Can you muster up enough courage? No. “By the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is,” his agenda for your life and mine, “His good and pleasing and perfect will.” It’s all about the Holy Spirit of God.
Since I became a Christ-follower and the Holy Spirit indwelled my life, everyday I have got to look in the mirror, every single day, and say, “God, God, God. Against the backdrop of time, convict me, God, challenge me, God, show me, God, how I should live. Show me, God, what I have to do to live out your priorities, to live out your agenda. God, I want to know what your perfect will and plan is for my life.” Once we do that, we will discover how to really schedule with sanity. But I pray that a lot of frenzied families make some serious steps so you can morph being frenzied into being focused. Focus on what life is all about. You can do it, because He has already done it.