So there I was, lying in a bathtub filled with (thankfully) hot water while doing some light theological reading. I’ve been reviewing postmodern gnostic interpretations of Arminian pre-millenial dispensationalism (work with me here…assume this to be true), and I needed some private time. My wife has been out of town for 11 days working at a leadership training thing, and I’ve been desperate for conversation that does not center on what we are eating or when I’m going to utilize the Fist of Death in response to Emily’s (alleged) deliberately chewing gum with a strong scent just to annoy Zachary.
Author’s note: I was actually reading a collection of Dave Barry’s greatest columns from 1985. For the 17th time.
At any rate, there I am reading in solitude when someone knocks on the door. Now, my kids know that if they need me while I am bathing, they can’t simply knock. Daddy doesn’t hear much under the best of circumstances, and a gentle rapping on the door is not going to cut it. However, in response they have developed and consistently utilize what can only be small output atomic devices. BAM! Amazingly the door is still standing.
So I yell, and Zachary, age 10, enters.
Zach: Ummm, it’s raining outside.
Zach: And I thought you might like to know.
Me: Why? What do you want me to do about it?
Zach: Umm, nothing.
Zach: (sensing there is a problem) Well, actually, Preston wanted me to tell you.
Me: So what does Preston want me to do about it?
Zach: (looking into the hallway) Nothing, I think.
Me: Is Preston in the hall?
Zach: (looking into the hallway) Umm…no.
At this point, the half of Zachary’s body that is still hidden by the door begins to jerk like the end of the rope they throw into the TV in that movie “Poltergeist.” Preston, age 13, bodily shoves Zach into the bathroom and enters. Zach trips over the rug, nearly slamming into the toilet before saving himself by sweeping everything off the counter top and onto the floor. Amazingly, he misses my mug of coffee sitting on the edge of the tub.
Me: Why do you want me to know that it is raining?
Preston: I just thought you might want to know.
Me: What do you want me to do about it?
Preston: Nothing. It’s just…I was outside and I looked up and saw that it was raining….
Me: Wait. You were outside, outside the house.
Me: And you looked up.
Me: And it was not until you looked up that you realized it was raining.
Me: And the water falling on your head wasn’t a red flag as to the presence of precipitation?
Preston: (pausing to think for a moment) Well, I was actually inside the house looking outside. I wasn’t outside. I wasn’t.
Me: You just said you were outside.
Preston: Well, not all the way out…
…and the conversation went downhill from there.
In the training that pre-dated our departure from the US in order to work as missionaries, numerous experienced (read: old) missionaries spent time talking about the sacrifices we could expect. We would miss Christmas with the in-laws (yeah, whoo boy…that’s a big one). We would miss peanut butter and Dr. Pepper (wait a minute…). We would miss college football and NASCAR and Rush Limbaugh (no great loss on those latter two). No one ever said we’d have to sacrifice our sanity and our families.
Part of our lives is balancing work and family. Specifically, we balance travel for work with staying home with family. As I said, Stacy has been gone 11 days and won’t be home until the tally hits 12. She’ll arrive just after noon, and 11 hours later a volunteer team will land. I’ll leave town the following morning with this team, 7 days of traveling and working. Over in March I’ll be gone for 14 days, and in April Stacy will be out of pocket for another 12.
As much as Stacy and I joke about the impact this has on the traveling parent versus the stationary parent, in reality the relationships between the individual family members is what takes the biggest hit. Stacy and I don’t get to have our daily chat time. Emily misses her decompresion talks with Mommy. Preston can’t unwind playing HORSE without Daddy. Zach needs someone to appreciate his art (Mommy) or his love of Star Wars/Harry Potter/animals (Daddy). And so on.
It is easy for husbands and wives to forget the impact traveling has on kids. And it is easy for parents to overlooked the impact being gone a lot has on husbands and wives. As always, balance is what’s important. We have to balance family and work, our call to be husbands, fathers, wives, and mothers with the call to share the Bible with the world. I was husband before I was a dad, and I was a dad before I became a missionary. God knew my status when He called me, and yet still He called.
To me, that means God not only wants me to balance it all, He expects it. As well, He will provide a way to do so. All I want to know is how to balance it all.
I’d also like to know what time Stacy’s flight lands.