Faithful Living: Refocus your mission on Christ

As I entered my teen years my dad began to put into words his deepest views on life. We owned a gold recliner and while dinner was being prepared Dad was known to tent the evening newspaper over his face to cut out the light and provide a small amount of warming insulation. He cat napped in this fashion for years and I frequently hopped up onto the arm of the chair to awaken him when dinner was ready or to talk with him about my day.

While I could easily identify any number of Dad’s beliefs because he raised my brother and me with consistency and dedication that clearly spoke of his values, those moments perched up on the arm of that recliner took on new and deeper meanings as we began to share some of our private philosophies with each other.

I thought back to those conversations this week as I read a fascinating interview with Robert Reich, former Secretary of Labor for the Clinton administration. Well known for his diminutive stature and well-fashioned words, Reich talked of the energy and passion of those days. He then reminded the viewers of something I had forgotten: At the top of his game, when the entire nation was beginning to experience what we have come to appreciate as the economic boom of the 1990s, Reich quit. He stepped away from the rat race and the notoriety, scandal free.

Reich resigned his post because of a conversation he had with one of his young sons late one night over the phone. Reich was wrapping up a typical 18-hour day and thought it would be a good idea to tell his young boy good night. When his son begged Reich to come into his room and wake him when he arrived home — in spite of the midnight hour—so he would be assured that his dad was physically near him, Reich experienced one of those “Ah ha!” moments in his life and stopped to evaluate it all.

He was one good cabinet member. He was enormously popular as Secretary of Labor. Yet his work took him away from his wife and two sons. He rarely saw them and missed them terribly.

Without a doubt my dad would have done the same thing. He did, in fact, decide against studying for his doctorate because he knew that wouldn’t have allowed him to parent in the way he felt best. That kind of approach to life, one that nurtures human relationships in spite of pressure to strive for fortune and fame regardless of the cost, is the kind of decisiveness Stephen Covey talks about in his book, “First Things First.”

Covey writes that Americans spend so much time putting out fires and focusing on the urgent we ultimately experience very little human growth. We rarely think about incorporating activities that will best serve our bodies, hearts, minds, spirits and human relationships. And if we do take a moment to consider that small voice, we often ignore it out of fear and misdirection.

One of the ways to identify or clarify what we truly want is to write a mission statement, It will, Covey points out, give each of us the courage to say, “Enough is enough!” If a request for your time and energy does not fit into your developed life plan that is concentrated into a statement, then it may be an activity that is right for someone else.

Robert Reich did just that. He refocused his mission statement and ultimately passed the baton to another striving civil servant, choosing instead a career that allowed him to actively parent his sons, foster a marriage he valued and utilize his interests and talents.

To produce a mission statement, you will want to return to the basics and ask yourself a series of questions. Where do I come from? Why am I here? What am I to do with the talents God has given me? Who are the people in my life and am I giving them my very best? How can I reprioritize my life so my best is given to the people who love and depend on me? How can I find joy when things are so (tedious, difficult, boring, etc.) at times?

This fundamental need for plausible answers leads millions of us worldwide to Jesus Christ. With a mission statement built on knowledge of and experience with Christ, I continually push myself to define my own sense of value and purpose. In my case it comes with the urgings of middle age. But it can also happen in response to major life events, a move, births and deaths and profound changes both welcomed and forced upon us.

Whatever the case, let’s do a little soul searching and statement writing this week. Parts of my old statement are being rewritten. How about yours?

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