Two weeks ago, I had the amazing opportunity to go on an all expenses paid trip to a Texas ranch with a group of youth workers from around the country. The two days were spent planning a brand new youth ministry conference and I was one of around twenty who got asked to help dream the conference up. On top of that, the folks organizing everything put together an awesome four wheeler trip around the ranch's property and had top notch accommodations.
The only bad thing about this fantastic opportunity? I didn't get to do any of it. The day I was supposed to leave Melissa got really sick. And so did Voldemort. So I had to cancel my trip.
Now, let me be blunt. This blog post is not about asking for a badge of honor for putting my family first; nor is it me holding myself up as an example for the rest of you to follow. As the case with many of our blogs, it's about the exact opposite.
Confession: this selfish jerk argued with my sick wife about going. I tried to think through every alternative that could have meant me going and yet nothing would stick. My wife simply just needed her husband and so I finally gave in and canceled.
Later on in the day, a quote that one of my college professors shared with me came to mind. The quote was "you worry about your integrity, let God worry about your reputation." Honestly, it had actually come to mind because I was judging someone else's situation and trying to argue how I would do something different for integrities sake and God totally flipped it around on me.
Many people say that putting their family first is a moral and ethical principal they live by; that it is the right thing to do (i.e. integrity). It is something that I have said...and probably written about. Yet, when push came to shove, in this situation I was more concerned about worrying about my reputation.
What will these people think about me if I cancel?
Are they going to make me pay for my flight?
Will they still let me be part of the conference?
What if I never get asked to do something like this again?
The conclusion I finally got to on all of those questions later in that day was, "so what?" Does it matter what these people think about me? Is it so bad if they think I am a horrible person for staying home with my sick family rather than being with them? Is it worth $600 to take care of my family instead of just taking care of myself? Maybe if they really think badly of me or if they are going to go back on their "all expenses paid" offer it's not the kind of thing I want to be a part of anyways.
And you know what? That's ok.
When we really put our integrity first and do the selfless thing by putting our family first, God will honor and bless that. Granted, that doesn't mean that God will dump big paychecks or awesome jobs in our lap for doing the right thing. He might, but not always. Sometimes when we put our family first our wallets or careers will take a hit. The blessing isn't material, it's relational. Our selfless action of putting others first actually fills our deepest need for love and belonging. It's funny that by being selfless and giving we actually get at the same time.
When I finally got over myself that day, the best part of my day was a 15 minute stretch in my evening. I gave Voldemort a bath and he was just being insanely cute. He is 9-months now and can actually play in the tub. Watching him crawl all over, and bite his plastic shark, and splash in the water was just awesome. Then right after, I put him to bed and then checked on Melissa. After getting her some water and kissing her on the cheek, she hugged me and just said, "Thanks...thanks for being here and not going." Right then it made me realize that where I was right then was better than being on a four wheeler. That those are the moments and the memories I want to carry with me the rest of my life and think about when I am old remembering the important parts of my life.