Exhausted, Michael lay in bed with his eyes wide open unable to sleep.  The plans for tomorrow and worries about the future were racing through his mind as they so often did late at night.  Sharon was sound asleep; she too was exhausted and hadn’t moved a muscle in the last hour.  Both had been pushing themselves hard for several years and were really beginning to feel the long-term effects.

Michael was an ambitious man and determined to make life for their family better than the one he had known.  They had purchased a nice home, established a pretty good life style, and their three teenagers were attending private school.  But now, in his middle forties, he was beginning to wonder if he had really counted the cost.

He was working long hours which often included weekends.  The pressure of making their house into a home, keeping up with three children, and working part time was taking a toll on Sharon as well.  It was obvious that their relationship was beginning to suffer.  And the kids, once models of obedience were exhibiting behavior that had him worried.

It feels like the dam is about to burst, he thought, how much longer are we going to be able to hold back this ever increasing pressure.  From the outside it appeared they had built a life to be envied.  But from the inside, he knew that real problems were creating cracks in the dam that could eventually end in a catastrophic failure.

A question that parents like Michael and Sharon should ask themselves on a regular basis is this; have we allowed ourselves to become so caught up in the pursuit of good things that we are sacrificing the essential things.

For example, helping your children take advantage of every opportunity can easily become a full time job in itself.  If you have two or three children and each is involved in two or three activities, your role is often reduced to transportation/activity director.  Their God given talents and skills may be developing beautifully, but what about their character.

Or perhaps you and your spouse both work long hours like Michael and Sharon. You want to provide a better home in a great neighborhood with good schools.  That could certainly be considered a good thing.  However, it often leaves you and your children with little energy or time for the essential thing, impacting their heart.

Opportunities that you provide and things that you give your children can not for one minute make up for your personal time and attention.  Recent findings of a new poll of young people ages 13-24 reveals some very surprising results.  The poll, conducted by

Associated Press/MTV, might seem an unlikely source for information until you realize they have the resources and the financial motivation to know the truth about their target market.

The young people interviewed in this poll were asked a series of questions stemming from one simple question; what makes you happy?  It’s important to note that this poll was not directed at Christians but taken from a cross section of the population.

So, what did they find you ask?  In a nut shell, they found that family really matters.  Young people were found to be the most happy when they spent time with their family and loved ones.  Parents were seen overwhelmingly as a positive influence in their lives.  Nearly half said that one of their parents was their hero.

Money and the things money can buy were almost never mentioned as a source of happiness.  Those for whom religion and spirituality play a bigger role tended to be happier.  Those who engaged in premarital sex were less happy than those who did not.  Those using drugs and alcohol were also less happy than those who did not.  Interestingly enough, over ninety percent still believe in marriage.  They believe that being married to one person for life and raising stable children of their own will make them happy.

Admittedly, these were questions about perception and feelings.  Nonetheless, they are a great indicator of the needs of our children.  As Jim Daly, President and CEO of Focus on the Family wrote, “These findings quantify what we have long known in our hearts and seen in our experience; a nurturing family environment is the most important thing we can offer our kids.” 

A nurturing family environment is not measured in our ability to provide opportunity and things for our children.  It is measured by our interactions with them; the kind of interaction that will touch their heart.  God sees us as their teacher; the voice of His word, the example of His character and nature, the ones who lead them to Him.

Deut. 6:6-7 “And these words, which I command thee this day, shall be in thine heart: And thou shalt teach them diligently unto thy children, and shalt talk of them when thou sittest in thine house, and when thou walkest by the way, and when thou liest down, and when thou risest up.”

This is the essential thing that Michael and Sharon were sacrificing to obtain the good.  In the end, only those things that have impacted the heart will remain.  Your children will live their lives based on what they believe in their heart, not the talents they have developed or the opportunities they have been given.  Your children need you!

God bless you,

Jim & Shirley Ertel

P.S.  If you want to fulfill Deut. 6:6-7, you’ll have to be there.

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