Like many of you, my wife and I are the parents of young children. We wouldn't trade these days for anything in the world, but it's not an exaggeration to say that it's 24/7. We’re also self employed, and as our business and responsibilities grow, we're feeling the pressures that come with filling every role from receptionist to CEO - while also raising a family, maintaining our marriage and serving our community. I imagine many of you feel a similar pressure, so I thought I'd share this story.
The other night, after a string of tough days, we fell into bed, both of us almost asleep before our heads hit the pillows. But in the stillness, as I tried to quiet my mind, all I could think about was how hard Jennifer's day must have been with all she had on her plate. I realized I'd spent my whole day taking great care of my to do list, but not taking great care of her.
(READ or LISTEN - your choice)
I reached over, took her hand, and gave her a little squeeze. "How are you holding up?"
Tears welled in her eyes, and she said, "I'm okay... It's just a lot, you know?" I gently squeezed her hand again. Then the tears came. "Sometimes I just wish we could move to the middle of nowhere and get a cow." This is absolutely hilarious if you know Jennifer.
"We can, babe. We can do that. We can move to Montana and get a cow!”
She laughed out loud and asked me if I was gonna milk it. The thought of me trying to milk our cow dried her tears and had her laughing just a little too hard, if you ask me.
"We don't have to stay on this road, Jen. Maybe it's too much."
She thought about it for a while, and said, "No... this is our road. I know it’s where we belong... I just hope it's all worth it someday." I knew what she meant.
We laid there in the stillness, partners - no blame or hurt passing between us - but feeling the weight of what this short season of life is requiring us to carry.
And then the question came...
I looked her in the eyes and said, "How would you know it was worth it?"
"What do you mean?"
"I mean, what would life need to look like someday for you to be able to look back on this season and say it was worth it? What would life be like? How would you know it was worth it?"
You guys, it's a simple question, but I'll be honest and say I'm not sure I'd ever asked it about my personal life - at least not like this. I cling to benchmarks in my work. And when I reach my goals, I'm not surprised because I've pictured the end product from the very beginning. So why am I not projecting my personal life with that same kind of attention and detail?
If we're honest, most of us would admit our personal goals are more like wishes than a forecast of what's actually to come. A hope, more than a plan. So we keep running and running, doing and doing - trusting and hoping we're on the right road. We stay busy - life makes sure of that. But are we effective? Would we notice if we got off course, or are we so busy that we're unaware?
Jen and I sat up, and for the next half hour, we talked about what life would need to look like someday for us to know that this present sacrifice and investment was worth it. We talked about things like financial freedom, but that obvious stuff paled in comparison to the intangible things we stumbled on. Who would we be? What would we know? How would we help? What would we leave behind?
Since then, I see everything through a new lens. Does this get me where I’m going or does it steer me away? If it’s hard, but it gets me there, I’m in. If it doesn’t, in this season when I have so little “extra” time and energy to spare, I might need to let it go.
If you could look into your present life from somewhere further up ahead on your road, would you sign off on how you’re spending your time and using your life - or would you recommend some changes?
How would you know it was worth it?
Thirty minutes answering a simple question brought us clarity and peace we really needed - and quite possibly saved me from a future milking a cow in Montana.