I’ve done some ridiculous things in survival mode. I remember our first night home in our new apartment after our honeymoon. The fire alarm went off in the middle of the night, and what do you think my response was? I picked up Mary Beth and carried her out of our bedroom to the living room where I proceeded to feverishly scoop up water bottles and granola bars. Why did I have to pick Mary Beth up? Why did I grab water and granola bars instead of things of actual value like photos or wallets? Who knows. We still laugh about my mental state that night when survival mode kicked in.
Strange things seem to happen when we go into survival mode. I’m sure each person’s response is different, but I tend to go into ultra task-mode (and apparently granola bar snatching mode). I also try to suppress emotions and pain. Some of the most intense times for us as a family (including parts of our journey with EoE) sent us all into survival mode. As a husband and dad, I’ve had to ask how to best care for my family when these challenges hit. I’ve learned that the weight of leadership is greater in those moments. I don’t have it all figured out, but here are a few things I try to do to lead and serve my family when we’re in those times.
1. Think Practical
Leadership requires service. So often, service is about small details. I have to study the details of our marriage and family life to know how to serve well. It pays off in the hectic times if I’ve paid attention when life was calmer because I know of practical (sometimes little) things that I can do to help carry the load when life is crazy. For me, this looks like:
- Wake up early to make breakfast (or walk the dog).
- Make a bed (this is a big treat for our girls).
- Take out the trash (in all the trash cans).
- Touch-up paint (or something else little on the house project list).
The point is, I’ve found that sometimes a small, practical task completed is enough to tell Mary Beth or one of the girls that I love them and care about them. Love is about action, and in hectic times, these little things can mean the world.
2. Think Emotional
Leadership requires transparency. My tendency is to emotionally shut down in survival mode, and I’m not sure if it’s because I don’t want to risk more pain or if it’s because my brain just can’t handle everything going on. I do know, though, that I’m not in this alone. If Mary Beth and I are going to walk through our journey side-by-side and parent our girls well, I have to engage my emotions. Here are some ways I try to do this:
- Share what’s on my mind.
- Tell Mary Beth what the hardest and best part of a day or experience was.
- Leave a love note for Mary Beth (or the girls).
- Send an unexpected “I’m thinking about you” or “I love you” text message in the middle of the day.
Emotions engage the heart, and I think it’s with open hearts that we’re meant to walk through life.
3. Think Spiritual
Leadership requires grace. I know that I’m more mistake prone, self-centered and generally difficult when I’m in survival mode. Sounds like I’m a real joy to be around, huh? It’s times like this that I have to lean into the grace of the good news we have in Jesus. When I remember the grace I’ve been given, it makes me a more patient, loving and compassionate husband and dad. Here are some things that work for me:
- Subscribe to a verse of the day feed or download a Bible app.
- Pray together, as a couple and a family.
- Listen to worship music or a favorite worship song.
- Forgive quickly and freely.
I believe there’s a spiritual component to our circumstances and that the Lord wants to open our eyes and ears to experience His grace in our craziest moments.
I’m far from having “arrived” in any of these categories, and I honestly feel unqualified to write this post. That said, I know that the Lord wants strong husbands to lead in humility, love and grace. I’m not there, but I’m willing. Will you join me?
In the comments:
What are ways that you care for your family in the most hectic times? Any practical ideas?
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