Let’s try this again. Apparently a previous post on this topic was unclear and subject to misinterpretation.
A few years ago I told single dudes at Coram Deo, “If you’re single, you aren’t busy.” Clearly, that was a form of mild hyperbole for the sake of making a point. Some of the single guys took offense. After all, we have many unmarried men at Coram Deo who are med students, law students, etc. They are busting their chops studying and trying to survive the pressure-cooker of post-graduate work. So they wondered: isn’t it true that I’m busy? Answer: it depends on how you understand busyness.
Certainly, there is a sense in which all students – especially grad students – are busy. They are involved in a time-consuming endeavor that requires sustained mental energy and often lots and lots of hard work. But I am arguing for a different understanding of the word busy.
Most of us think of “busyness” strictly in terms of hours devoted to a specific job, role, or task. Instead, think of busyness as the amount of autonomy you have in the use of your time. When you are single, you are in control of your schedule. You have complete freedom to decide what to devote your time to. The decision of when to study, when to sleep, when to eat, is yours and yours alone. But once you enter into marriage, you’re no longer autonomous in your time management. And when you have kids, things really change. Even your “free time” is devoted first and foremost to the other human beings who depend on you. Which means you play a lot less golf and a lot more peek-a-boo. Your kids begin to determine when you sleep and eat – which aids in the process of dying to oneself.
This is one reason why we’re always urging single men at Coram Deo to “take a wife!” Not simply because marriage is good; but because marriage and child-rearing is sanctifying. Marriage kills selfishness. Every man, by nature, is self-absorbed. We are kingdom-builders, and we want to be left alone to pursue whatever “kingdom” we happen to be building (work, hobbies, athletics, financial stability, home improvement). Being a husband and a father is one of God’s primary means to bring us to the end of ourselves so that we truly know what it means to live for others – to lay down our lives so that others might thrive. Sadly, some men never die to themselves and end up abandoning their families once marriage/child-rearing gets in the way of their agenda. But by God’s grace, those with soft hearts toward God learn that “taking up your cross and following” often means dying to little things like free time and hobbies.
I think this is one reason why the qualifications for eldership require that a man “manage his own household well” (1 Tim 3:4). Learning to live for others as a husband and father is a prerequisite to laying down your life for others as you “shepherd the flock of God” (Acts 20:28). The Bible assumes that fatherhood is an important training ground for spiritual leadership. This doesn’t mean single men can’t grow in these same ways and serve as elders; but it does mean that it’s the exception and not the rule.
Recently married dudes and new fathers: your comments welcome on whether what I’m saying is true in your experience.