If I asked you how much you value your family, you would answer me in terms of feelings and emotions. “I love them.” “I would do anything for them.” “I would throw myself in front of a bus for them.” But from your family’s perspective, the chief indicator of value isn’t measured in feelings, but in time. How much time do you give them?
Your job works the same way. Your value is measured in time spent there, not feelings or emotions. Thus the quandary is born: there’s not enough time in your week to give as much to your work and family as both would like. So where’s the balance in this impossible situation?
In Daniel 1, we find the story of a young man (Daniel) placed in an impossible situation. Taken captive and forced into a foreign king’s service, he was quickly presented with a crisis of faith: abandon his God or abandon his life. By eating the food from the king’s table, he was eating food sacrificed to other gods. Eating would be an act of worship to another god, forsaking his own. Yet if he didn’t follow the rules, his very life was at stake. So, how did Daniel navigate this impossible situation?
8 But Daniel resolved not to defile himself with the royal food and wine, and he asked the chief official for permission not to defile himself this way. 9 Now God had caused the official to show favor and compassionto Daniel, 10 but the official told Daniel, “I am afraid of my lord the king, who has assigned your food and drink. Why should he see you looking worse than the other young men your age? The king would then have my head because of you.”
11 Daniel then said to the guard whom the chief official had appointed over Daniel, Hananiah, Mishael and Azariah, 12 “Please test your servants for ten days: Give us nothing but vegetables to eat and water to drink. 13 Then compare our appearance with that of the young men who eat the royal food, and treat your servants in accordance with what you see.” 14 So he agreed to this and tested them for ten days.
15 At the end of the ten days they looked healthier and better nourished than any of the young men who ate the royal food. Daniel 1:8-15 (NIV)
Here’s how his actions give us insight into how to balance work and family.
- Make up your mind. Daniel resolved himself. He made up his mind. Out of the two, his relationship with God was more important than even his life. In your own life, you have to choose: between work and family, what’s more important? Once you choose, you have the resolve necessary to move forward.
- Create a plan. Daniel didn’t simply barge head first into his supervisor’s office and refuse to work. He prayed his heart out, and he came up with a plan. God honors dependence and diplomacy. No ‘impossible’ situation is impossible with God. There’s always a way. Perhaps it’s changing your hours up so that you can be home when you need to. Perhaps it’s saying that you’ll only travel out of town five days a month, or that you’ll be home by 6 pm for dinner, no matter what. Create a plan. For Daniel, it was to eat vegetables and water instead of the king’s food.
- Set up a test. Here’s where Daniel gives his supervisor a ‘win.’ He didn’t give him an ultimatum. He asked him for a test. “Let us try it for ten days.” If it doesn’t work, no harm done. This option of a test is very appealing from the perspective of your employer. When you present your plan, ask to try it out for a week, or a month.
In the end, be sure that you don’t sacrifice your family for your job. In your job you’re completely replaceable, but in your family you’re completely irreplaceable. There’s a way to find balance, I promise.
*all good thoughts from this post come from Andy Stanley’s book When Work and Family Collide.