There are many possible regrets. Yet, when I recently sat down for coffee with a dear friend and faithful, seasoned pastor, he had but one regret that stood out among the rest. It wasn’t a regret on how faithful he had preached. It wasn’t a regret in regard to wishing he had visited more widows than he did. It wasn’t a regret that he had not shared the gospel more. Make no mistake. There will be regrets for all of us who are pastors. If there aren’t, we think too highly of ourselves and the quality of work we have done. There is and will always be some level of these regrets in all pastors, including my friend. Yet, there was one regret that stood out. One regret that I saw hurt and burdened him more than any other. Here was his regret:
“I wish I would have enjoyed my children more when they were little.”
This came as a result of a family update I was giving him. With 4 children between 3-11 years old, we are moving from the baby stage to the little person-many fun activities stage. I was sharing of the fun we were having, though busy. All of a sudden, I looked up and he had tears in his eyes as he shared of this regret. This is a man who did so much right. He made time for his family. He spent individual time with each of his children. He was at the ball games and important events. All outside appearances pointed to “dad of the year” honors. His regret came as he confessed how much he allowed the stress and pressures of ministry to distract his mind while with them. They probably didn’t even know it…but he did. Now, his children are grown, out of the house, and as he says, “those days are gone.”
I can’t tell you how affected I was as I watched the sorrow in the face of this incredibly faithful, well-known and successful pastor. I would be a fool not to allow this man’s sorrow and regret to produce a serious “mind and heart check” every time I leave the church to go home to spent it with my family. I can say I had been trying to be mindful to enjoy my family in each stage, but I never felt a greater burden to do so, than when I left that conversation.
Dear brothers and fellow pastors with young children. I know there is much to distract us. I know there is much do to. I know there are good, godly burdens we are to carry that are not magically removed when we go home. I also know many young pastors are working “overtime” trying to prove to the skeptics you are a good and faithful pastor. However, heed to this dear, faithful pastor’s warning to enjoy our families in these precious stages that do not last long. As a wise pastor once told me, “There is always another ministry…you only have one wife.” To apply that wisdom to my friend’s counsel, “There will always be more to think about and do at the church. Your children will only be ‘that age’ once.”