I still haven’t recovered from one scene in Intersteller. (Spoiler alert). When space pilot Cooper, played by Matthew McConaughey, returns to his ship after their first mission, he discovers that a couple hours on that planet actually equalled 27 years on earth. So while it was the same day to him, his children at home had lived 27 years.
And so he sat down to watch 27 years of video messages from his kids: first talking about school homework…then sharing a college story…then introducing his newborn grandchild…and on and on….until finally, his middle-aged son whispers “Dad, I know you probably aren’t getting these messages. We haven’t heard for you in so long. So this is my last message…”
It was all I could do in that packed movie theater to not lay down on the floor and cry.
Because Cooper missed his kids’ childhoods. While he was off trying to save the world, his kids had to grow up without a father. It didn’t matter that he loved them…because he wasn’t there to show them. And by the time he realized his colossal mistake, it was literally too late.
Many of our fathers did this. And my friends and I are in the season of deciding whether or not we’re going to do the same. None of us would ever consciously decide to miss our kid’s childhood, of course. Never! But we are setting the patterns in our 30s that will make the choice for us.
This is especially dangerous for those of us in professional ministry. As soon as we add “God called me to this work”, we can justify and spiritualize our workaholism. At least Silicon Valley CEOs can be honest and say they are driven by ambition, success, and power. We church workers, often driven by the exact same stuff, try to spin it as “humbly paying the price for The Lord’s work.” No wonder so many pastor’s kids hate the church. No wonder so many pastor’s wives hate the church.
Friends, we don’t have to do it this way. There is a better way. Our kids don’t need us to save the world; they need us to see their world, and join them in it. They need us to be there. Not just physically there, exhausted after work, but emotionally present. WITH them. Seeing them…hearing them…delighting in them.
This will cost us something. We may miss out on certain work successes and perks. We may not reach the peaks of our professional ambitions. But honestly, are those peaks worth our kid’s childhoods?
There is another way. And our children desperately need us to find it. There is still time.