selfishness detox

Last week a friend announced he had resigned from his campus ministry position because it was coming before his wife and kids. (He’s in the process of finding a new job and you’d be lucky to have him—email me if you want an introduction.) He also said he’s pushing pause on the book he’s been writing as part of the Dream Year Books program. “I feel as though this season of my life requires me to give all I’ve got to my family,” he wrote.

Wow. As I read his email my first thought was respect and admiration for his willingness to make these tough decisions. My second thought was, “I’m not sure I could do that.”

This summer, or as I like to call it, “Selfishness Detox 2012,” forced me into a number of less significant choices than quitting a job or ending a major project. Most of the things I’ve given up for the sake of my new husband and stepkids have been minor. Instead of reading Entertainment Weekly by myself, I play Settlers of Catan with middle-schoolers. Instead of buying clothes for me I buy back-to-school clothes for them. Instead of finishing my work I attend a small group or eat dinner before I’m hungry or defend my record in frisbee golf on the Wii. (I’m undefeated, by the way.)

Some days this gets to me. Some days I don’t do a single thing I want to do when I want to do it, and some days this is very, very hard. But it is all part of the choice I made to join Matt’s family, and the rewards are huge. I give a lot, but I receive companionship, laughter, and a house full of people who love me. I get snuggles from a stepdaughter. I get a dog who’s only throwing up twice a week.

So although it’s hard to give time and attention and effort and money to new things, most days it feels worth it. But what about when it doesn’t? What happens when I face a choice like my friend did last week and I have to sacrifice professionally for this family?

I’ve already fretted about a few missed opportunities this summer—choosing not to participate in the “Sticky Conversations” panel at the NACC in July because it was the week after my honeymoon and missing a 2014 planning retreat last month because of a family trip to Maine. In both instances I gave up career advancement and personal fulfillment because of commitments to life here—but I also got a restful post-honeymoon re-entry period and a trip to one of the prettiest places in the US. What happens if (when?) I have to give up something more high-profile, or more long-term? What happens if it’s not an equal trade, or anything close to it? My career matters to me. A lot. Deep down I wonder if I’ll have the character to make the choices I might need to for this adopted family.

Right now I am learning to do what’s right, what’s loving, and what’s best for them even if it’s not fun. Selfishness detox may (gulp) just be basic training for more significant sacrifices in the future. Faithfulness in the small things will make the big things easier……right?

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