Help for Hurried Families

My mom promptly pulled up to the middle school parking lot in her minivan before the bell rang. 

Instead of waiting there to pick me up after a long day, she came inside. She headed to the gym, where folded-up bleachers and a waxy floor gave evidence that the expansive partitioned room was indeed part of a gymnasium instead of a library. She began filling metal carts with books. The annual book fair kept her working for the next five hours.

As pre-teens wandered about and browsed the books, my mom turned to another mother devoting the rest of the evening to this task.

“Why in the world am I doing this?”

The rhetorical question escaped from her burdened mind. Although my mom didn’t know why she had chosen to add another activity to her schedule, she stayed as busy the remaining days that week.

The day rarely ended when she picked me up after working her part-time hours as a receptionist and sales reporter for a printing company.

Our family kept little room for free time, apart from daily dinners and yearly vacations. We even filled dinner time with conversation about our to-do lists for the next homework assignment, the upcoming garage sale or the Sunday school lesson.

In this constant state of hurriedness, my family passed by the importance of rest. We looked like countless other American families. But families who mistake a busy life for a happy one miss the opportunity to display the power of resting well.

Missing relationships for a full schedule

While each activity might be good, together they become too much when they’re distractions from spending time with children or friends.

In his book Little House on the Freeway, Tim Kimmel describes “seven marks of a hurried family.” The seven signs can apply to individuals as well. An inability to relax and a lack of meaningful relationships start his list. He says, “Their schedule doesn’t allow them much time to cultivate close friendships.”

We’re meant to live in fellowship with believers and in gospel-centered relationships with non-believers. Those who don’t know Christ can’t see the gospel at work in us if we neglect to form strong relationships with them because we’re so busy. Instead, they see people devoted to their to-do lists and less concerned about family and friends.

Martha, whom Jesus lovingly corrected in Luke 10:41-42, showed these characteristics. He said to her, “Martha, Martha, you are anxious and troubled about many things, but one thing is necessary.”

When we’re in relationship with Jesus, the one we need, we can love God and others well. Better for the world to see this than a pretty facade masking tired eyes that see no rest.

Missing boundaries for people pleasing

The inability to relax often comes from saying “yes” to too many things. When the word “no” isn’t in a family’s vocabulary, it can become the “suffering servant,” number four on Tim Kimmel’s list.

Suffering servants, people pleasers who always “come to the rescue,” need affirmation to feel valuable. They agree to anything anyone asks them to do.

Giving of our time and talents is biblical, but we’re also meant to have boundaries. We can show others we care, yet only say “yes” to particular requests. For example, when New Year’s Eve came around, my family deferred hosting a party with friends every other year to focus more on time together and less on preparing the house.

Families can intentionally keep their schedule less than jampacked, so they don’t experience great pressure. As others see this lack of constant activity, they see people who aren’t defined by what they do, but whose focuses are on the Lord.

Missing present joy for future building

In becoming less busy, families can take the opportunity to live in the present. Society often overemphasizes success and tells us that in order to give kids a good life and future, parents need to be “world-class overachievers,” as Tim Kimmel describes in the seventh mark of a hurried family. They chase the dream of a better life some day down the road.

In the moment, children desire time with their parents playing basketball or working through a tough math problem. These activities can become priorities, with joy found in the day-to-day.

As families set aside time to rest together, their focus dims on the temporary things they can work toward. They steward what is in front of them. This gives a picture of thankfulness to God for what He has given as well.

Catching a break for rest

Evaluating our busy schedules gives us the chance to see what’s most important. When we bring our to-do lists before the Lord Jesus, we can follow His example of resting and reconnecting with God and with others. Then we truly demonstrate the significance of rest.

At the end of a day making phone calls and doing homework, my mom and I sat on the couch in our entryway and chatted as The Parent Trap played on our TV.

We didn’t ask ourselves why.

More than the planned events at my school, we valued time to stop and enjoy life. It was a moment to breathe.

See a list of Tim Kimmel’s “seven marks of a hurried family,” from his book, Little House on the Freeway.