My wife noticed our family suffered from “Computer Creep”. Those few hours after work, when we try to squeeze in dinner and time with our daughter before she goes to bed, were being encroached upon by computers. It starts with checking e-mail, then you just need to respond to one e-mail real quick, then . . . well, if I could just finish up this one thing . . . Next thing you know your wife is interrupting you so you can kiss the baby goodnight before she’s tucked in.
My wife decided to institute a new family policy: the No Power Hour. Between 5 PM and 7 PM (I know, this is actually two hours, but ‘No Power for Two Hours’ isn’t as catchy), no one is allowed to use any device requiring a non-human source of power. Bikes, OK. Computers, verboten. Books, OK. TV, auswerfen. Scrabble, OK. Blackberries, ’raus. (My wife also speaks German, hence her bi-lingual policy pronouncements.)
The No Power Hour’s been a good tool. It’s not really computers or TV’s that are the problem. Priorities are the problem. But the No Power Hour is a quick reference to remind us of proper priority ordering. Which means family first.
And not just in word, but in deed. When we’re tempted to check that e-mail once more, or flip through the channels to catch a score, the admonition of the “No Power Hour” looms before us. Scores have to wait until after Liz goes to bed.
Straightening out priorities and unplugging for a few hours has yielded rewards. The other night, instead of sitting at the computer, I was sitting on the floor reading a book to our daughter. She’s only ten months old, so she doesn’t really get it yet, but she likes the pictures. As we turned the pages, she gave me a hug. She wrapped her little arms around me, put her head against my chest, and said “Dada”.
Wow. No e-mail that can compare with that.
I was reminded of what Jesus told Mary and Martha. Jesus came to visit, and Mary sat at His feet listening to Him speak. But Martha was too busy with chores. Jesus told her: “‘Martha, Martha, you are anxious and worried about many things. There is need of only one thing. Mary has chosen the better part…’” Lk 10, 41-42.
Whenever I hear that Bible passage, I always wonder, “What was Martha thinking!?!” You have Jesus in your house, the chance to hear the words of Eternal Life spoken directly by Jesus, and you pass on that for chores!?! But when I look at the choices we make, I have pity for Martha. She probably just wasn’t thinking about it. Just like we don’t think about how we spend time. No one consciously decides “I’ll watch TV rather than spend time with the kids”. We just turn on the TV, and unconsciously fall into a choice. Plus, Martha probably didn’t realize her time with Jesus was finite. She didn’t think she wouldn’t always have Jesus stopping in for a visit.
The same is true for us fathers. The time our kids are home with us is finite. Their time as children is finite. They’re growing-up right now. There will be school, sports teams, friends, then a driver’s license, then they’re gone. And we want them to spread their wings, live their own life, and go out into the world to do what God made them to do. Just be aware that the time we have with them as kids is limited.
I wonder about Mary and Martha in the years after Jesus’ crucifixion. Mary had the memories of her time with Jesus, sitting at His feet, listening to His words. Could Martha remember what had seemed so pressing? Did she regret what could have been? I know I won’t remember what was on TV when Liz was a baby, or the supposedly urgent e-mails. But I will always remember those little arms hugging me, her head against my chest, and the love and joy expressed in a child’s voice as she said “Dada.” I know I chose the better part.