The one that I have learned much about this past 3 years is about putting family first. Because we are out of a church setting and away from any formal "ministry," it has put us smack dab into the middle of our family. It is hard to put anything in front of them because there is nothing else to replace them with. It's just US here on this island for the while. Of course we have people in, one family that has always been family to us and another couple that has become just like family but in contrast to the crowds of people we were used to having in and being responsible for it has really become just our family.
What I learned is that I had never put my family first. I thought I had. I would have been mad at you if you suggested that I had put Church in front of my family but this is just what I had done.
It was hard to see back then. Sundays were always more important than family. We never missed one except for being out of town and even then we tried to plan around what was happening. If someone in the church needed something I felt totally guilty and unwilling to say "No," to the request. If we had people over to the house for an event, my kids worked like servants to pull it off. They never got a vote whether to do it or not. That is just what the "Peters Family" did. We worked hard at getting it ready and I often waived off any help cleaning it up by saying, "No, the girls will help me get it....you just run along." We were busy most of Sunday's and I always found church things to be involved with during the week. If there was a crisis with one of the kids, it would have to wait till after the church stuff we were involved in. Family first? Hardly.
My daughter just related a story the other day where she remembered a birthday of hers that happened to fall on a Sunday where we had a lot of people over. She had told some of them it was her birthday and I had urged her not to make a big deal of it in front of our guests. I did not remember this day so I'm not sure what I was thinking but we were so taught to put our needs last that I'm sure that is what I was "teaching" her. Yuck!
Plus, we were giving so much, financially, to the church that we really did not have much extra to spend on just "us." When I think of all the 100's of thousands of dollars giving in the offering plate and the building funds I am sick. My family should have had that money for college, needed cars, and time together. Family first? Hardly
See, I think that somewhere in my thinking putting God-first became putting the Church first. I showed my devotion to God by showing my devotion to the Church. Some of this was my fault for getting my identification from my role in the organization. But some of this was directly taught. Not so much directly from the pulpit but much of it by what was said behind someone's back that was not as "involved" as we were.
So I find myself here today, on a month-long vacation with my family. We have the finances, the time and the desire to do this and looking back at the time where I thought we were putting "Family-first," I just shake my head and wonder what universe I was in.
It breaks my heart now that I have tasted the richness of spending time with my kids and husband. I love them and would drop anything to be with them. We have grown to relate and listen to each other. It was intense at first. We had to work at it because we had grown up mostly being busy and avoiding the conflicts. But it is so worth it. I love my family. I want to protect my time with them. This is truly God-first, Family-second and Church....Well, Church as it happens around us.