Developing Family Time
By Fr. Mark A. Leondis
Some time ago, my in-laws came to visit my home. With their help, we planted a garden in our backyard. In the garden we planted corn, cucumbers, squash and other vegetables, as well a blueberry bush. Over time we have learned that planting was the easy part. We needed to spend time to watering our garden making sure that each seed got what it needed to grow to maturity. If we did not make sure that each seed is received the right amount of sunlight and that no animals used them as their food, our garden would not have survived.
Just as the seed needs water sunlight, love and attention, so does our family. If we do not spend the proper time nurturing them, spending time making sure they receive the proper light—the light of Christ—then our family will not flourish to maturity.
One of the greatest ways that we can nurture our family is by spending the appropriate time with them. We live in a busy world. We wake up in the morning rush to get the children ready for school and day care. We hurry off to work—work hard, return phone calls. We experience our days as filled with things to do, people to meet, projects to finish, letters to write, calls to make and appointments to be kept.
If we are serious about developing quality family time, we must be willing to look closely at our priorities. We must be willing to turn off our cellular phone when we arrive at home. We must be willing to come home at a decent hour. We must be willing to make our family a priority.
In a lifetime, the average American will:
- Spend six months sitting at traffic lights waiting for them to change.
- Spend one year searching through desk clutter looking for misplaced objects.
- Spend eight months opening junk mail.
- Spend two years trying to call people who are not in or whose lines are busy.
- Spend five years waiting in lines.
- Spend three years in meetings.
- Learn how to operate 20,000 different things from soda machines to can openers.
The average person will:
- Commute 45 minutes every day.
- Be interrupted 73 times every day (every 8 minutes)
- Travel 7,700 miles every year
- Watch 1,700 hours of television each year.
A Christian Home
A Christian home is modeled on the relationship between Christ and His Church. What is the relationship between Christ and His Church? Christ loved His Church so much, that He ultimately gave up His life for the Church. This is the same in the Christian home—the love that permeates must be self-sacrificial, never ending and unconditional.
In a healthy Christian family, all members of the family unit submit themselves to the will of God. How do they do this? By actively seeking what is best for others. By putting others first. By being self-sacrificial. By loving unconditionally. Mother, father, and children, all work together as a healthy unit, as a family.
In the Garden of Eden, Adam and Eve had a choice: to live separate from God, or to live with God forever in Paradise. They chose separation from God. As Orthodox families, we have a choice: to live a holy, pure life together, or to succumb to the pressures and realities of this world. We have a choice—to make a covenant with God or not—to put Christ at the center of our lives or to put the world at the center of our lives.
We read in the Gospel of Matthew, "When two or three are gathered in my name, I am there." When a husband and wife join in His name, Christ is there. When a child comes along and gathers with the father and mother in His name, Christ is also there. There is something sacred about two or three Christians gathering together in His Name. There is something sacred about a family that has placed Christ at the center of their lives, walking together toward salvation.
As we are quickly approaching the beautiful summer months, when children are off from school and when families make time for vacation, I challenge you to develop some quality family time. This family time should be developed and nurtured so that when the busy year begins in September it is carried through.
To grow healthy Christian families developing a personal relationship with Jesus Christ is a must. Below are some tips to begin your family time journey. After a dinner with all family members, begin to discuss the following questions:
- What does the term family time mean to you?
- What are some examples of family time?
- How can we make more time in our lives for family?
- What are some concrete ways that we can develop family time with our families? (turning off the television, prayers, reading the bible together, going for walks, hikes, etc.)
- Once you have discussed these questions, create and agree to a family time ritual for your family.
We must be fully committed to our Lord not only as individuals, but also as families. We must be willing to make the proper decisions and choices, ones that will affect our future. Once we commit ourselves to our Savior, we create a covenant that will be passed on to future generations. The moment we begin to experience life with others—with our spouses and children—the greater the responsibility we have. Remember in our Orthodox Tradition it clearly indicates that parents are responsible for passing on their Faith to their children. May God grant you and your family the peace from above.
Fr. Mark Leondis is the Archdiocesan Director of Youth and Young Adult Ministries for the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of America. In his 16 years of full time youth ministry, he has served as the Metropolis of Denver Youth Director, Archdiocesan Director, has taught classes in youth ministry and Christian education at St. Vladimir’s Seminary and serves as the Chairman of the OCF Board of Directors. He lives in New York with his wife and 2 children.
This article was adapted from the May 2002 Challenge section of the Orthodox Observer which is complied by the Department of Youth and Young Adult Ministries. For more information about this ministry, visit www.youth.goarch.org.