This evening I watched The Captains, a documentary by William Shatner on the lives of the six actors who portrayed the main captains on various Star Trek series (Shatner for Star Trek, Patrick Stewart from Star Trek: The Next Generation, Avery Brooks of Star Trek: Deep Space Nine, Kate Mulgrew of Star Trek: Voyager, Scott Bakula of Star Trek: Enterprise, and Chris Pine from the latest Star Trek movie). I DVRed the documentary because I am a Star Trek fan and thought it would be an interesting show to watch. And I was right, but not in the way in which I expected.
I was impressed with the amount and depth of (what appeared to be) some very real and honest conversation between Shatner and the other actors reflecting on their roles and the impact those roles had on their personal lives. The part that struck me the hardest was when they all spent time talking about their families and the impact on them the show (and their profession) had: at least three (Shatner, Stewart, and Bakula) talked openly of failed marriages as a result of their commitment to their profession, and two of the remaining three (Brooks and Mulgrew) expressed significant regret and disappointment over the loss of time with their family. In fact, Mulgrew expressed that her children resented her job so much during the years she worked on Voyager that they to this day have never watched a single episode and still despise the show because of what it did to their family. That, to me, is depressing.
And while it’s easy to look at these very famous actors and say, “That would never happen to me!” the reality is I’ve known (and know) too many people who allow their work to consume their life to the exclusion of family. And let’s be honest, it doesn’t even need to be work – it can be ministry, hobbies, exercise, or any number of idols we erect. When I was in college I wanted to be a high school choir director – until I realized that I knew more high school music teachers who were divorced than happily married. I went through a stage (no pun intended) where I thought, “Maybe being a professional theatre person would be fun” – until I realized I knew more divorced and/or single people there as well. And what about leaders: I can not even count the number of principals, superintendents, and other people in leadership positions whom I know personally that have sacrificed their families and relationships on the altar of career success.
Now before I go on I need to be fair and say I also know plenty of HS music teachers, professional actors, principals, and other leaders who are happily married and who do have wonderful family relationships. So it’s not impossible. But what I know is that it is not easy. This past month I have been gone on three trips, for a total of 12 days out of the last 28, and it’s been difficult (to say the least). The girls missed me, Melissa missed me – shoot, even my dog missed me! And I missed them. Thankfully, the travel I’m doing now is for a short season and is not an indication of what the next several years will be like. But even without travel it is so easy to become consumed with work, especially for men. And the only way to combat that is to be intentional about investing time with family (which is, sadly, easier said than done for me).
Yesterday I was exhausted from a very busy week at work, but decided we needed some time away together so we took a day-trip down to the beach. Just the four of us. And we had a blast – the girls loved it, Melissa enjoyed herself, and I even was willing to let Chloe bury my legs in the sand (though not very deep). This morning I took the girls to Lowes for the Build-and-Grow clinic (we made binoculars!) and then it was off to the pool so Celeste could show me how she goes down the water slide, “all by myself, Daddy!” Now, understand, I don’t enjoy the beach (I hate sand) and I am not a fan of pools with lots of chlorine in them – but I knew it was important to Melissa and the girls so I went.
And it’s not just me, either. One of the reasons men find it so easy to get consumed in work is because that’s where we receive a huge sense of respect and self-worth, particularly when people at work are praising us for a job well done. It’s not that we consciously put family on the back burner – in fact, we often consciously put so much into work because we want to succeed and provide for our family – it’s just that at times we feel more appreciated and supported at work than at home. This is one area Melissa has really helped me in, telling me she’s proud of me, or posting on Facebook or telling others about how she’s thankful for what I do (even if I don’t do everything I’m supposed to, to my shame). I remember in pre-marital class talking about how we should never talk poorly about our spouse to other people because it tears them down, and I’ve tried very hard over the years to never complain about something Melissa does or says to other people (not that I’m perfect in this area, mind you, but I can say honestly I can (by the grace of God) count on one hand, with fingers to spare, the number of times I’ve violated that rule).
Over the past several months I’ve noticed, as well, how other wives lift their husbands up to people. Check out this blog post by a friend from Florida where she lifts up her husband (who, for the record, was my roommate for 4 years). I’ve also seen a growing number of wives posting wonderful things on Facebook about their husbands (which I can’t link to because, unless you’re their friend on FB, you won’t be able to see). And let me tell you, ladies, how much this ministers to your husband’s heart. My wife does it and it makes me feel proud, and when I see my friends do it I am reminded that there are those who still treasure, cherish, and invest in their marriages and families. And that brings me hope.
So here’s the point: don’t allow what’s happened to these “Captains” happen to you, and pray for Melissa and I as we journey through life together. Marriage and family are under attack by the evil one. It takes intentionality to keep it strong and growing. Pray for us as we pray for you. And may we never look back and realize we traded the most important thing for something fleeting and temporal.