By Micah Stephen
Bedtime is one of my favorite times of the day. Not because of my kids going to sleep, but because I get to wrap up the day with them.
On one particular evening, however, as I walked across that squeaky old floor toward the kids’ bedroom, I was hoping bedtime would be easy. The routine includes a story, a quick prayer, kisses goodnight, and saying “I love you” to one another. At bedtime, I can forget my daily stress. No bills. No problem-solving. But, for whatever reason, on this night I just wanted “me” time. Little did I know my attitude was about to quickly shift the brightly shining spotlight away from me.
That night, my oldest son prayed, “God, I thank you for my dad preaching, but I wish he could spend more time with me. He doesn’t get to very much.”
I left his room wondering, What am I doing? How could I miss this?And then there was mental pushback—But I’m doing God’s work!—as I attempted to justify my actions.
I have always given everything I have to my ministry. I had watched my grandfather put forth seemingly endless effort and timeless hours to his 60-year ministry. I often wonder how my mother felt growing up as a PK. At the end of my grandfather’s life, he wasn’t known for his ability to preach—although he did that well—but for his genuine love for others. His example was one of the clearest I had. From day one of ministry, I believed if you’re willing to go all in, you must be willing to go all out.
So, I’d spend hours with people, making connections, preparing sermons, and coming up with church-growth ideas. And I worked another job to make ends meet. I wanted to bring people to Jesus, but I’d be lying if I said I didn’t want to have a vibrant, successful, growing church.
At his age, my son doesn’t have a filter; his prayer was real . . . it was from his heart and brutally honest. And it revealed that many of my motivations were selfish, prideful, and wrong. As I sat on our old brown couch that sinks to the floor, I couldn’t help but think I had missed the present by focusing on the future.
While I was busy connecting people to Jesus, leading a church, building my résumé, I had put my family in the back seat. If I can’t lead my family, I asked myself, what business do I have leading an even bigger family?
Proverbs tells us to train up our children in the way they should go. Still, I wondered what ways I was training my kids to go. I was humbled that day, but I was also thankful for the timing. I believe God used a little boy to change a grown man.
Micah Stephen serves as lead minister at Odon (Indiana) Christian Church.