"Hurry and intimacy are two entirely different things. What our children will remember most about their childhood when they grow older are two thingshow much love was in the home, and how much time you spent with them." — Richard Swenson
I want to live my life with no regrets, especially with no relational regrets. Investing in the hearts of my bride and children should be my number one priority as I plan my to-do list. The dichotomy of responsibilities verses relationships is part of the reality of living intentionally and intimately.
There are so many things that can distract us from building emotionally/spiritually intimate relationships. Richard Swenson observes, "It's the pace of life that destroys and derails living from the heart." Then we get so tired that we think we deserve giving our time to entertainment, just to unwind. We also give our children over to mindless entertainment by default, because we are too exhausted to invest in their hearts.
Investing time to build intimacy requires that we unplug from distractions. We can cultivate intimacy through something as simple as eye contact. Looking our children directly in their eyes when they speak to us communicates volumes to them about their worth. Our children know when we are truly listening. I have heard it said that focused attention is more powerful than words of praise. Jesus was a master at "beholding people." To behold someone speaks of direct gaze, straight into their souls. I don't ever get a picture of Christ grunting "uh-uh" as He answered people's questions, while being distracted.
Intimacy requires entering into our children's worlds. One way to do this is to ask our children questions that take us to the deepest places of their hearts and then listen for what God is saying and revealing about their hearts. Consider questions like the following:
- What is your greatest fear right now?
- What do you worry about?
- What do you need more of from Mom and Dad?
- What do you get really angry about?
- What do you get really sad about?
- What are your greatest dreams?
- What are your greatest joys?
Another doorway to intimacy is planning. Plan time into your schedule to express how much you value each of your children. When we rearrange work schedules, tee times, softball or ministry opportunities to flow best with the needs of our family, our children will feel valued. Lisa and I have spent many years saying "no" to opportunities that would have scattered our children instead of bring us closer together as a family. There are many wonderful things we have said "no" to in order to build memories; a life-style of togetherness. As our older children look back, they now thank us for the family time we chose over other opportunities our children thought were important at the time.
Intimate relationships don't just happen. It's important to be intentional about truly connecting with our children on a consistent basis. I'm motivated by Chuck Colson's words:
"As I think back on my own life, my biggest regret is not spending more time with my children. Making family your top priority means standing against a culture where materialism and workaholism are rampant. It means realizing that you may not advance as fast in your career as some of your colleagues — at least for a few years. It means being willing to accept a lower standard of living…knowing you're doing the right thing for your children, giving them the emotional security they'll draw on for the rest of their lives."
There is a peace in life that comes from having no regrets. Let's count the cost and invest in our families first. The world will wait.