Hi, my name is Dan, and I am a productivity addict.
About a month ago, I entered into a vocational world notorious for its open ended opportunities, challenges that engage the heart, and really long hours—vocational ministry. My addiction is in overload. Despite God’s clear and repeated instruction to relentlessly focus on loving Jesus first, I am head over heels in love with my “job.” And so, I find it incredibly difficult to live with open hands. In fact, it often feels like my efforts are somehow more real than the God I seek to serve. Lost in my desire to do, understand and control are the divinity and sacraments of everyday life. Do you ever feel that way as a parent, like what you do is somehow more important than what you receive when you sit still and listen?
Let’s assume, just for the next five or ten minutes that God is real. How should that affect ur parenting priorities in a world so full of important activities, formative experiences, healthy opportunities, and the need for rest and relaxation?
Saint John Chrysostom speaks to us about the importance of prioritizing God and Sabbath from the middle of the fourth century:
For let no one tell me that our children ought not to be occupied with these things (of God); they ought not only to be occupied with them, but to be zealous about them only…just as I do not draw you either from your civil business; yet of these seven days I claim that you dedicate one to the common Lord of us all . . . and how shall you not anger God, if you find leisure and assign a season for everything else, and yet think it a troublesome and unseasonable thing for your children to take in hand what relates to Him?
Happily, SJC does not end with that scathing chunk of conviction. He draws out our parenting desires as well:
[W]hat children hear is impressed as a seal on the wax of their minds. Besides, it is then that their life begins to incline to vice or virtue; and if from the very gates and portals one lead them away from iniquity, and guide them by the hand to the best road, he will fix them for the time to come in a sort of habit and nature, and they will not, even if they be willing, easily change for the worse, since this force of custom draws them to the performance of good actions.
Please do not hear this as another guilt inducing piece of “expert” advice driving you to shoehorn more into the lives of you family. Hopefully, it ends up being just the opposite. In fact, please consider what parenting might be like if you did less.
We all work incredibly hard, including our children. That harried pace and unquenchable desire for productivity impacts even our leisure time. “Work hard. Play hard.” We fill our weekends with the stuff we did not get done during the week, stewarding the home and possessions God has given us, reaping the rewards of our hard work, buying things, upgrading our minds and bodies with healthy activities, or relaxing as intensely as we can in an effort to recharge before the grind starts again…all too soon. Imagine the lesson we might live for our children by prioritizing our wonderfully full lives differently.
What if we gifted our children with a sustainable model of dependence on God by making sure that the one thing we absolutely had to accomplish each weekend involved worshiping, learning, and serving in community? Consider the implications of insisting that your family spend time accomplishing nothing more than simply being in each other’s presence and allowing God to fill that space with the Spirit’s grace.
Would we teach dependence on deep rest in the peace that only God offers (Philippians 4:7)? Might we direct our families back to the bottomless well of living water that God wants to refresh us and burst forth from the center of our being to slack the spiritual thirst of those around us? “On the last day of the festival, the great day, while Jesus was standing there, he cried out, “Let anyone who is thirsty come to me, and let the one who believes in me drink. As the scripture has said, ‘Out of the believer’s heart shall flow rivers of living water’” (John 7:37–38 NRSV). If God is real, that living water and the Sabbath we take with our families matter immensely—even more than work formal ministry, and conventional leisure.
Grace, peace, joy, faith, hope, love and good works,
 Chrysostom, John (2011-10-24). The Complete Works of Saint John Chrysostom (33 Books With Active Table of Contents) (Kindle Locations 1770-1789). . Kindle Edition.