NB: This is a guest post from my good man Ash Carter. Ash studied with me at bible college, and since he has a wife and kids I asked if he’d write a response to my previous post. He very kindly said yes. In case you’re interested, he’s also written books on how to handle your finances, and how to hear from God.
NNB: You might be wondering what debates on babysitting have to do with Japan, prayer or missions. I will explain in my next post. For now, I’ll just say thank you to Ash for writing this and hand over to him.
Levi wrote a really thought-provoking blog about being brothers and sisters in Christ from the perspective of singles, and particularly singles at theological college. He has asked me to give the alternative perspective. I think I need to say that I agree with everything that he said. We’re not as good as we should be about opening our families to others. We probably do presume on the flexibility and generosity of single students more than we should. And we often assume that, because we know what it is like to be single, the singles know what it is to be married with kids. I hope I have caveated this enough; what I want to say is a complement, not a contradiction, of what Levi said.
Being parents is a 24/7 job. And I mean 24/7. Our youngest has just slept through the night for the first time in two months and three nights running for the first time in a year. We have two kids who knacker us out, who demand as much time and attention as we are able to give. Our home life is chaotic and the worst time of the day is kids tea because we’ve all run out of steam at that point. We want to have you over, we really do. We want you to see how fraying parenting is. But it takes enormous resources to personal strength to expose the worst of your day to others.
Particularly at college. Particularly when everyone else seems to have it together. You know they don’t. You don’t see their families at the worst times of the day. But it feels like your family is the only one is chaos. It feels like you are living in the middle of a series of 24. The world is about to end and everyone you pass in the street is completely oblivious.
Do you know what it is like to have no freedom? Of course you don’t. You can go where you want, stay up as late as you want, eat what you want. You can go to home group if you want. We can’t. We eat what our kids can eat. At 5:15, not at 7:30 like we used to. We have to go to bed early because our kids will be up by 7. Even at weekends. We cannot go out spontaneously. We can’t decide to go to the movies or the pub. Because one of us has to stay in to babysit. And we can’t both go to home group together, to bless and be blessed by God’s word and people, unless someone comes over to serve us. And we love that you do. We really love it. We are so thankful. I’m sorry if we don’t show it. Life doesn’t slow down often enough for us to see the need and opportunity to bless you back.
I am thankful for Levi’s post. I am thankful for friends who have pointed this out to me in the past. We try so hard to make time to eat with friends, even to have them over to kids’ tea. It is chaotic but the kids love it and we value adult company too!
But, let’s be honest, family tea time is not the only way in which you and I could express our brotherhood. Here are some other things that might help.
When it is coffee break, why not try mixing our social groups. I have lost count of the number of times, in an effort to make friends with other people, I have ‘broken into’ a circle of singles, particularly single girls. There is nothing quite so intimidating as a circle of people from the same demographic, especially when you very clearly don’t fit the mould. I’m sure it is for protection in a pretty male context. But I won’t bite (the kids aren’t allowed to, and neither am I). And the only way to get past your intimidation and mine is crossing the boundary. It seems to me that I do much more boundary crossing than many of my single friends.
If we are being honest, how much do you really want to get to know marrieds, to be brothers and sisters? If this issue only comes up when we are guilty of ‘using’ you as babysitters then there is no crime to answer for. If, on the other hand, you really want to be siblings in Christ then please make an effort to get to know me at break times, at lunch. Heck why not, and I know this is a bit out there, invite me to the pub or the movies with you. I might not be able to come very often. But persevere. Because we might just become brothers when both of us invite the other into our lives.