I am the father of a beautiful six year old girl and a bulldozer of a two-year-old boy. On occasion, I take them to the office with me and they proceed to rearrange my books, play with my souveniors, and scribble on my desk. When we leave my office at the end of the day, it looks as if Hurricanes Natalie and Isaac have blown through with gale force winds. My office is a mess, but totally worth the time together.
There was another time I took my family to work and did not realize it. I was 24 years old and had started to experience anxiety attacks. I had been juggling too many responsibilities as a youth/college pastor, seminary student, basketball coach, and husband. I found myself experiencing chest pain, shortness of breath, feelings of impending death, and heart palpatations. I was falling apart. Literally.
Thankfully, I believe God intervened and worked out a transition for me and Tara (my wife) to move to Chicago. Long story short, I entered into counseling where my counselor one day asked me, “Why do you think you’re struggling so much with anxiety?” I had no idea, but like any good counselor, he began to help me peel back the metaphorical layers of my heart. Eventually we arrived at a core issue, not the only core issue, but a core issue nonetheless. (There were many core issues I had to process before healing. The expectations of my family were only a small piece of the process.) The core issue was my name, Paul B. Gibson II. I am named after my grandfather who was a prominent minister in my hometown. And, growing up, there was an expectation for me to follow in his footsteps; to be the next great preacher.
I carried that expectation with me throughout my young adulthood. As I worked as a pastor and seminary student, I waffled between fulfilling a calling God had placed on my life and a calling my family had wanted me to fulfill. I could not let God down, but deep down, I had a greater fear of letting my family down. In essence, every day that I worked as a pastor, I was taking my family’s expectations with me to work. It was a heck of a burden to carry and at the age of 24, the burden got to me.
Disclaimer: Now, at this point, I could easily point the finger at my family. Not going to happen. At times, they were overzealous, but they wanted what they thought was best for me. I am learning that one of the major challenges of parenthood is desiring what is best for your children and not necessarily what you think is best for your children. And, as a Christ-follower, I believe what is best for my children is what Jesus wants for their lives. So, as I am growing as a parent, I am learning to give my own parents much grace in regards to my own upbringing. But, that’s another post…Back to taking my family to work.
I started to heal from my anxiety once I began to focus on what God wanted for my life. And, after much searching, the answer came in three simple words; Abide…In…Me. I shifted my focus from wanting to ultimately please my family to ultimately fulfilling the calling God had placed on my life. And, before preaching, teaching, pastoring, learning, coaching, and making the donuts (any old school Dunkin Donut fans out there???), I learned that my ultimate calling was to abide in Jesus or simply…to follow him. The words of Matthew 11.28 from the Message version called out at me in a soothing voice, “Are you tired? Worn out? Burned out on religion? Come to me. Get away with me and you’ll recover your life. I’ll show you how to take a real rest.”
Are you taking your family to work with you through family stress or family expectations? If so, I encourage you to take a deep breath, pray a prayer of release to God, and focus on following him through simple actions of love and service towards others. You are not your job, any person’s expectations, or what anyone says about you. You are a treasured child of the Most High God. And he calls you to get away and rest. So, rest well and leave your family at home, unless they are cute and giggle an infectious giggle.
Paul is the husband to Tara, father to Natalie and Isaac, has an average jump shot, and enjoys running. His secret wish is to one day become a Jedi Knight. Paul holds a doctorate in marriage and family counseling from Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary and currently serves as senior pastor of Harrodsburg Baptist Church. Paul desires to help young couples navigate the early crucibles of marriage, especially when one or both of the spouses are engaged in vocational ministry.