This year marks five years of marriage for my wife Kari and I; and three years in seminary, as students together. We have enjoyed every season of it, yet at times the various schedules of work and seminary life have collided to create a holy anticipation of rest.
Last summer we moved closer to school and family (in with Kari’s parents for a season), while I commuted 90 minutes each way to work. The plan was to leave my career in construction management in mid-August, allowing for a week or two of rest before Fall semester. But after giving five months notice at my job, we entered August without a replacement and no plan for a transition. Wanting to serve my boss and friend well to the very end, I stayed on part-time after Fall classes commenced. Sixteen graduate credits, added to 20-30 hours a week of work, added to being an intern with our church, and oh yeah, being a husband (of a seminary student too) and father. Something had to give. Praise God my part-time duties at my former job only stretched into the semester two months, and we were able to breath a little bit. While I was exhausted, it was probably hardest on Kari and our young son Dutch.
I had been using up every one of the 5,400 seconds during my commute home each night returning calls, processing the stress and strain of the day’s projects, and often listening to part of an audio sermon and worship music. Each night I arrived home emotional spent, and was ready to simply check out for the evening. But Kari and Dutch deserved so much more! He was growing up while I was away each day; Kari was clamoring to hear any news from the outside world (as we lived then and now with her parents). I simply gave her my mental left-overs.
In the middle of this season I read a quote from a book by pastor C.J. Mahaney. In Sex, Romance, and the Glory of God (pp. 49-50), he writes about transitioning one’s soul during the commute home from work. It struck me as powerful, practical, and very effective for being essentially a small thing. Seeking to do this has had great impact on our home life, and it is easy to tell when I haven’t paused and calmed my soul to be “all there” at home after a long day in class or at work. Let’s strive to be better husbands and fathers. Here is Mahaney’s story (emphasis added):
“When our first two children were still quite young, I realized that my commute home in the evening was functioning as little more than a review of my day. As far as I was concerned, by the time I got in that car, my responsibilities were pretty much over until the next morning. I saw my home as a refuge, a place where the emphasis, for me, was on being served rather than on leading and serving with Christlike love.”In God’s mercy, he showed me the selfish motivation I was bringing home each evening. I saw that my commute could be best utilized as a time of transition, so that I might be prepared to finish the day by loving and serving my family well.
“So I made a practice of pulling the car over a few blocks from home so I could take a couple of minutes to make an effective transition in my soul. There on the side of the road, I meditated on Ephesians 5 as well as on some other passages. I confessed to God my sinful tendency to be selfish and sought to prepare my heart to serve my wife and children when I arrived home. In this way I learned to see my home as the context where I have my greatest privilege and opportunity to serve. This practice had a transforming effect, allowing me to walk through the front door with the mind and heart of a loving servant-leader. By God’s grace, I found it an excellent help in building a loving marriage, enjoying my family, and minimizing regret.”
There I find a practical, everyday example of being a selfless husband, rooted in the theology of Christ. Even now when my commute can vary from 10-60 minutes, the last part is best served to calm and transition my soul. That way I am better able to walk in the Spirit home and give Kari and Dutch much more than the left-overs of the day. Praise the Triune God for His patience with us.