Searching For More

Posted on March 8, 2012 
Filed Under Fathering, Parenting, Personal, Photo, Spiritual Life

My friend Zeke Pipher has a new book out, and I found it to be candid, engaging, challenging, and also rather convicting. Its called, Man On The Run: Helping Hyper-Hobbied Men Recognize The Best Things In Life. Here’s a quick excerpt:

I’ve lived the first thirty-nine years of my life by Irishman Laurence Sterne’s creed: “A large volume of adventures may be grasped within this little span of life, by him who interests his heart in everything.”

“Everything” might be a slight overstatement. There are a few pursuits that I haven’t thrown myself into. But then, they involve knitting needles, scrapbooks, and shopping malls, so they don’t really count anyway, right?

I’m a simple case, really. Like many men, I don’t handle inactivity well. My lowest lows—the times when I feel blue or despondent—come to me when I’m sitting on my hands wondering what to do. I keep busy in order to keep sane. On my days off, I fish, exercise, or clean the garage. In the evenings, I write, wrestle with my kids, or play basketball at the fitness center. I even started cooking because it gives me something to do during that restless hour between when I get home from work and when it’s time to sit down for dinner.

Some people enjoy large blocks of time with nothing planned. I don’t understand those people.

I need more than busyness, though. I need to be challenged. An after-dinner stroll around the neighborhood holds little appeal. But I’ll walk for hours if there’s the chance a pheasant might flush or the next swing might be the golf shot of my life. Likewise, I can’t sit for fifteen minutes and do nothing. But I can plant my rear in a tree stand from sunup till sundown, listening for the snap of a twig, the faintest indication that a deer might be walking in my direction. In order to enjoy time, I need something to do, and that something must hold the power to thrill me.

Does that description of a busy, activity-filled life resonate with you?I think most of us have far too many hobbies – many good things – distracting us from the best things.

In my own book, First Time Dad, I wrote about the need for new fathers to put away the golf clubs and instead put their free time and energy into being a good dad. It’s a radical mind-shift for some men. It was for me, as I wrote in the following admission:

About the time of our first child, I took up an extra-curricular activity. I suddenly had a hankering to attend graduate school. It occupied a lot of my time during those first couple of years after Dakota was born. In my defense, this was something my wife and I had discussed for some time, and it was in many ways a labor of love that was intended to position me for a different job. But the timing of this effort was, in hindsight, awful. With a new baby, my wife needed me home more, not less. But there I was for about two years, commuting 250 miles twice a week to work on a graduate degree. Finally, circumstances changed and I had to abandon that pursuit.

Was I actively seeking an escape from the demands of being a new dad? Really, I was not trying to get away from those new responsibilities. However, I wish someone had told me about the importance of being more involved in my child’s life, especially during those early years. Old family photos and videos reveal that I was there for Dena and Dakota  – just not as much I now wish I had been.

And, lest you think setting the right priorities is an easy thing to master, despite the strains on our family from that earlier educational effort, I found myself back in grad school a few years later, pursuing that degree one more time. This time, though, we had four children. While the stress of that commitment damaged our marriage, it also took a bit of a toll on our children. I was an absent dad, in many ways. And I worked for a global family ministry!

Ouch. It is somewhat painful to revisit the wounds I caused with my pursuit of an advanced degree.But I hope it catches your attention and causes you to consider once again what is most important in your life. Does your calendar reflect your priorities?

Here’s a suggestion: As a man, you are driven. That’s not a bad thing. God wired men to seek adventure, challenges, victories. Driven men have accomplished much in this world. But as Zeke points out so well in his book, and I addressed this in mine, we have to channel that energy, passion and drive into the right things. Things that matter most. Ultimately, that means pursuing God and others more than a trophy catch, or a season championship, or a personal record. Instead, go after, with your whole heart, your family. Your wife and kids. You’re irreplaceable in their lives, and your investment in time, energy and heart to make them number one won’t be wasted.

By the way, download a sample chapter of First Time Dad here, or Man on the Run here.