When I finished speaking that day, the pastors lined up to talk to me, and one after another embraced me, many with tears in their eyes, saying, “Obrigado. Muito obrigado!” (Thank you! Thank you so much!) In broken English or through translators, many explained they needed to hear this message—they too had put their ministry above their family or had mistakenly equated their relationship with God and their work for God. The man who served as my main translator later told me many of these pastors were struggling in their own marriages, and some had recently been divorced or separated.
God always keeps his promises.
In the midst of teaching me how to be the husband God wanted me to be, he was also teaching me how to be a better leader. I learned that relationships matter. My relationship with God still comes first, of course. For my marriage or my ministry to be effective and produce fruit, I must stay connected to him. I must abide in him and make him my first priority every day. When I do, he pours his life, his love, his strength, his forgiveness into me and simply—yet powerfully—overflows those things from me into the lives of others. I’ve learned I actually don’t have to work so hard on my own to make things happen. I can relax and trust God to work through me. This has freed me to be the leader, and the husband, and the dad God wants me to be.
In my ministry roles today, I have more than ever on my plate, yet I’m much more able to love my wife and kids and friends as I should. How do I accomplish this? How do I prevent myself from mixing up my priorities again?
First, I stay focused on what is truly vital in my life. Many of us leaders deal constantly with the tyranny of the urgent. When we do, those things that are vital in our lives—our relationships with God and our family—often take a backseat on our priority list until those relationships—or the mending of them—become urgent to us. That’s what happened to me. I didn’t pay attention to my wife’s pleas to make my relationship with her my priority until I almost lost it. Yes, the tyranny of the urgent still happens, but I handle it much differently now. I refuse to take on too much. I say no to many new demands and requests on my time. Every day, when Heidi gets home from work, I stop working, and we spend time preparing and eating dinner together. Weekly, we have a scheduled date night together. These are my priorities.
Second, Heidi and I have worked hard on how we communicate with one another. If Heidi ever feels like she’s not first in my life, she says so—and I listen! When I have a tight deadline and need to get some work done, I let her know, and she gives me the time I need. We’ve learned to work together. Heidi likes when I sit on the couch with her, and we’ve found we can, when needed, sit on the couch together, yet work on our separate projects. We never realized that before because we never talked about it. Simply communicating about how we feel solves many potential problems.