Dear brothers and sisters in Christ,
Here is a portion of the The New Testament reading for today in the Treasury of Daily Prayer:
1 Corinthians 9:24-27 (ESV): Do you not know that in a race all the runner tun, but only one receives the prize? So run that you may obtain it. Every athlete exercises self-control in all things. They do it to receive a perishable wreath, but we an imperishable. So I do not run aimlessly; I do not box as one beating the air. But I discipline my body and keep it under control, lest after preaching to others I myself should be disqualified."
I think every parent can relate to St. Paul's analogy of a runner in a race. In fact, life in today's fast-paced society has been commonly called a "rat race." And while St. Paul's encouragement to try to win the race is no surprise, I fear we misunderstand how to go about it.
We try harder, add more activities to the schedule, go, go , go, because that's what we think it means to "win." Or maybe it's just our fear of not "keeping up" with the Joneses, or whomever happens to live up the street from you and yours.
But St. Paul's encouragement doesn't include doing more, or packing as much into a daily routine as possible. In fact, it's quite the opposite. An athlete practices self-control so that his training isn't hindered by junk food, or foolish night time behavior, or a host of other detracting activities. Similarly, parents do well to be self-controlled, to sit down with one another and decide which activities the family will be a part of, and which nights they will simply practice the art of saying "no"--that is, being self-controlled.
And why are we able to practice this sort of self-control? Because we are God's children, and have received the gift of the Holy Spirit. You may remember that self-control is not something we have in ourselves from birth, it's actually given to us, and is a fruit of the Holy Spirit. So...because we have not been given a Spirit of timidity, but a Spirit of confidence in the victorious Son of God, we too do not have to give in to the "rat race" of life. We can say no, and as Christian families, be self-controlled so that in the end, first things remain first things.
We'll have time for one another; we'll have time for devotions; we'll have time to pray; we'll keep our family strong and running the race God's Way--and His crown is the best prize of all. Remember, you can't take a lot of things with you to heaven, but your family gets to come. Now they're something worth saying "yes" to.
Running toward the cross. Amen.