Minister Chuck spoke recently about three major questions a person needs to ask him or herself. A similar version of his first question came up three different ways on the same day and, when that happens, I feel God is telling me to pay attention.
Who do you follow?
It’s one of those deceptively deep questions. Do you follow the news on a daily basis? Your political party? Conventional wisdom? Your gut? Christ?
Another way to restate the question is ‘to what or who are you paying attention?’ Minister Chuck made the following analogy to the importance of attention.
One birthday, Chuck’s wife and daughter, hoping to surprise him, showed up home not with the shoes he had asked for but rather with a new puppy. A nice surprise and one that required a bit of work. Upon taking the young dog to obedience school, his trainer gave him this initial advice: If your dog does not pay attention to you, he’ll never follow you.
Whatever you are paying attention to, that’s what you are following. That is what you are letting lead you through your days.
Most of us go through a day/week or longer without thinking about what or who is really leading us. To get a good idea, here are two simple exercises that may help.
Its About Time
Write down how you spend your time. Be honest and write it all out. Don’t just say ‘work’ because you don’t always spend time working on work at work. Most likely there is time spent talking with co-workers, surfing the net, or responding to personal emails. I'm talking about everything: reading, spending time with your teenager, house chores, listening to podcasts, sleeping, eating, etc. Whatever you are donig, track everything for a week.
This exercise really hit home when reading a short piece on the Farnam Street, Seneca the Younger on the Shortness of Time:
Third, let's look at relationships. We're often too “busy” to spend time with the ones we care about. The very parent at the park playing on his iPhone while his children run around playing and laughing is the same one, who, when you fast-forward the axis of time, wants those precious moments back. Likewise, the “busy” 30-something who can't make time to see their parents wishes to have them back after they're gone. They wish for more time with them.
Its About the Money
Take a look at your credit card statement and bank account to figure out exactly where each dollar goes. Track this information for a month and you'll have an idea. Do it for three or four months and you’ll get a good idea of how things average out. The outflows will show you what you find important.
This one hit me as I was doing a short devotional the other morning and ran into Matthew 6:19-21:
Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moths and vermin destroy, and where thieves break in and steal. But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where moths and vermin do not destroy, and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.
Who Are Our Young Men Following?
As parents, we spend more time than we’d like managing our teenage son’s Instagram and Snapchat usage. While I really like the fact that he can stay connected with his camp friends from all over the country this way, I do worry about how deeply he goes down these rabbit holes.
This can be said of lots of things that are capturing the attention of our young men, leading them into the future – video games, sports, porn, and more.
As parents, we have to remember a few things:
First off, we are still in charge. Until our young men start to pay for their food, lodging, clothing, phones and more, the parents get to make the rules. While it may cause some consternation, you can take phones, games, computers away or limit there usage. And, you should. Because...
Secondly, teenagers are not mini-adults. They are still kids whose brains are not fully developed and with very little life experience relative to our own. They need you to set boundaries for them in order to develop good habits.
Finally, we should listen to them and engage with them in the activities that interest them. It’s not all about us and what we want to do. (Remember point 2.) Shed your adult poses for a bit and get in there with your kiddos. At least you’ll have a better idea of what they are doing and will give you a better idea on how to ask questions relating their current interests to the life you want for them.
So… Who Leads You?
There is an old saying that reminds us if you don’t know where you want to go, any road will get you there. There is an older one though that we keep over our kitchen sink from Joshua: As for me and my family, we will serve the Lord.
We don’t do it right all the time. But, if that is our end goal and we fight and remember and lean into it, we are a lot more likely to get there. Let’s all be thoughtful on who or what we let lead us and help our young men do the same.
Have a great week!