Jesus replied: “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’ This is the first and greatest commandment and the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ Matthew 22:37-39
The words on the picture above hung on the wall of my children’s nursery, a baby gift from my college room-mate. Little did I know how much this simple verse expressed a life time struggle for me. When my children grew older, this picture was soon replaced by another one.
Excuse This House
Some houses try to hide the fact That children shelter there
Ours boasts it quite openly, The signs are everywhere.
For smears are on the windows, Little smudges are on the doors
I should apologize, I guess For toys strew on the floor.
But I sat down with my child And we played and laughed and read
And if the doorbell doesn’t shine, His eyes will shine instead.
For when at times I’m forced to choose The one job or the other,
I’d like to cook and clean and scrub, But first I’ll be a mother.
These simple verses had two effects on me. Sometimes the words were a comfort to me as a young mom. They gave me permission to forego the expectations of the world. Instead of worrying about a clean and tidy house I could spend time making memories with my children.
However, other times the same verse made me feel guilty. There were many days when my schedule became full of responsibilities that took me away from my family and I didn’t feel like I balanced my time efficiently. During those days, I often felt frustrated when I was separated from my kids. To add to my guilt, I only saw the clutter, the dust, and the mess when I returned home, which increased my stress and decreased my patience.
Even as my children grew older, I continued to struggle with balancing tasks and relationships. Whatever the stage of my family, my life has always been filled with organizing, volunteering, working reading, cleaning, exercising, socializing, praying, worshipping, spending time with family and … you fill in the blank.
I am vulnerable to the trap of measuring my self-worth by my personal productivity, which is easy to measure when you are checking off a list of completed tasks. For example, when something is dusty, you wipe it down and make it clean. That is measurable! But time spent connecting with people, children, teens, spouses, friends, or serving others in need is not nearly as quantifiable.
Jesus told us that the two most important commandments were to love God and to love others which includes our families.
Yes, there are times when we demonstrate love through the tasks we do for others, even our families. For example, washing clothes, fixing meals, cleaning the house are tasks that express love because they are necessary for keeping our families healthy. But relationship building, connecting on a heart level with babies, children, teens, friends and others takes time. While these connections aren’t necessarily measurable or quantifiable, they are essential and can be life-saving.
So now when I reflect on the two samplers that once hung on the wall of my baby’s nursery, it is a reminder that time spent building relationships is more important than the completion of certain tasks. Dusting and cooking can be prioritized or rescheduled so it does not interfere with meeting the needs of a child, a baby or even renewing the spirit of a friend. This is what God calls us to do, Love God with all your heart mind, soul and strength and love others as yourself.
As this new year begins, I am renewing my focus on relationship building. How about you?
Dear Lord, I praise You for the gifts you give me each day, Guide me as I prioritize and balance those gifts of tasks and relationships. Allow me the ability to see others as You see them, especially my own family. Grant me the discernment to balance my commitments allowing me to focus on loving You and the people you have placed in my life (including you Lord Jesus) and focus on expressing your love in my actions. Amen