A work deadline loomed, but my daughter had burrowed a handcrafted space for my head beside hers on her down pillow. Nose to nose, we bid farewell to another day. The smell of her breath filled the space between us.
She was five, but memories of her baby breath were still fresh on my mind. As I listened to the rise and fall of her laughter and smiled at her promise to snuggle me even when I grow into an old lady, I etched the moment onto my heart. Moments like this pull my heart in opposite directions: Snuggles with my baby girl or faithfulness to a deadline.
Most of us struggle to choose between time with loved ones and reaching career goals. We find ourselves in positions like my dad: Working to put food on the table, heat the home and provide an education with extracurricular experiences for children regardless of the economy.
Throughout my life every encounter with my dad—from meeting at the car wash to grabbing lunch—the phone interrupted our conversation. Even now I can hear his apologetic voice, “I’ve got to get this . . .”
But as his gentle heart awakened to the lifetime of moments he missed while meeting deadlines his apologies never ended. Regret traced new lines across his brow.
He tried to change. As years churned children into adults and grandchildren were birthed, my dad held time to his chest with a fierce grip. Instead of always saying no, he said, “Yes, I’ll meet you and the kids at the ice cream shop in five minutes” or stopped by unexpectedly because, he said, “I was in the area.” He learned from his regret that life is more than phone calls and deadlines.
He always said he’d work until the day he died—and he did, last year. His premature death was completely unexpected. My world still seems paused, as if at any moment he will return and life will resume with rich conversations and laughter.
Despite his struggle to balance work and connection, he was my True North; he continues to influence my life. His experience—and regret—leads me to wonder how am I balancing relationships and deadlines?
I’ve lived through recessions on pennies, witnessed rounds of layoffs, watched unethical leaders thwart careers and families fall apart. I know I’ll regret it if I justify every deadline with the standard of monetary success, fleeting comforts or conveniences. Deadlines happen, kids grow up and people pass into the afterlife.
My dad’s death forever changed my framework for considering my work. Now, I consider the time it occupies physically, mentally and spiritually. I ask, Is this project necessary? Is it worth the cost and sacrifices? Does it fit my life’s priorities and calling?
Balancing monetary needs, ability and calling is too much for me to manage, so I take a leap of faith and throw myself at the feet of the Almighty and pray, “Provide for our needs and give me eyes to overcome my shortcomings for Your glory.”
And He does. A few years ago, against all odds, God provided during the recession. We welcomed our two children, had a roof over our heads, food on the table, clothes on our backs and miraculously no debt. After depending on Him in that time, I find it easier to let faith anchor my freedom to take a break for snuggles.
God didn’t intend for us to work ourselves ragged, but it takes faith to take a break or even turn an opportunity away. Living within our means provides margins for our family to catch our breath instead of slaving to accumulated debts and deadlines.
The other night, as I struggled to decide whether to stay longer with my daughter, she snuggled closer to me and said, “You better go get your work done.” And with those words I had fresh eyes and a renewed heart for my deadline.
The balance between snuggles and deadlines is a tightrope. That night, I chose both.
Image credit: Donnie Ray Jones