When my wife and I got married we told people our plan. Lord willing, we were going to wait 5 years before we started having children. Not one person said to us, “Good for you. God honours those who use wisdom.” But we got a whole lot of, “Don’t say that! Gods ways are not our ways.” or, “I said that too, and then I had two kids in three years.”
Rather than getting positive affirmation, we felt the onslaught of warnings. People didn’t want us to get our hopes up. They wanted to brace us for reality. A reality they experienced first hand.
Michael Hyatt has one of the most popular leadership and inspirational blogs on the internet, garnering hundreds of thousands of visitors each month. His blog is titled, Intentional Leadership. It’s the “intentional” part that intrigues me. He’s said that somewhere around 90% of American’s are not intentional about life.
I have a feeling that is the case with most people who have felt the need to brace us for reality.
Now the truth is, what they said could have happened. We could have had a child after our first year of marriage. But I believe it didn’t happen because we were intentional, and God honours applied wisdom.
Now am I saying that people who plan to wait a period of time but then have a child earlier than they wanted did not apply wisdom? I can’t speak to every situation and make that judgment call. But I will say, in light of Michael’s statistic, yes. Most people have a plan and they may even take some precautions to see it through. But if most people are not intentional about life, then yes, I have to wonder if most of those warnings come from people who were not intentional enough to see their plan through.
My wife and I were determined. We had only known each other for about 18 months before we got married and the first five years of marriage are normally the most difficult, according to divorce rate statistics. We wanted to take that time to learn about each other and to enjoy each other. So we took strong and intentional measures to ensure that we would not have a child until we felt we were ready.
Now without going into private details, let me say that my wife and I have a healthy sex life. So we did not do as one pastor counselled, which was to “practice marital abstinence, since the purpose of sex is to reproduce.” I feel bad for that man’s wife. But we also didn’t do what another pastor counselled, which was to “schedule and plan your sex strategically each month without the use of birth control. That way you won’t hinder God’s will.” It’s no wonder this pastor got herself pregnant within a month of their marriage, even though she intended to wait.
We took measures to ensure, to a level of absolute confidence, that we would not have a child until we were ready. That way if my wife were to get pregnant prior to our set timing, it would have to have been a miracle.
Intentional living is a new concept for me. Like most, I drifted through life, letting it happen to me and taking the punches as they came. While I say that I feel my life is surrounded by negative people – or half-positive people who feel the need to speak negative affirmations – I was the most negative person I know. I would have been perfectly justified in garnering the nickname, “half-empty.” But that is slowly changing as I learn the importance of being intentional about life. Each day comes and each day goes. It’s happening whether we like it or not. Soon I’ll be a dad. Eventually I may be a grandparent. I’m only 33, but I need to remember that I’ll probably get there eventually. And it may happen faster than I realize.
The question is, what am I going to do when each day comes? Am I going to let them happen to me? If so, what does that mean for my life when one day I look back on it all? I squandered my 20′s away because I lacked intentionality.
Now life sometimes happens to us whether we like it or not. My dad died. Life happened and there was nothing I could do about it. But my guess is that 90 percent of life is more within our control than we realize, and it’s that 90 percent of life that I refuse to let hijack me.
Let’s take marriage as another example. We’ve all heard the statistic that the divorce rate, even in churches, is 50%. But if you’re married and you haven’t been divorced, what does that number mean to you, really?
Here’s what it should mean to you (and this is how Michael Hyatt put it): your marriage has a 50% chance of failing. So we’re not talking about some abstract number about society, we’re talking about your marriage and mine. You may think to yourself, “no way!” I bet half the population, at one time, said the same thing. In fact they did, when they stood at the altar.
That’s why it is important to be intentional about your marriage. Don’t let it just happen. Be intentional about complimenting your spouse and about speaking positively about them to others consistently. Be intentional about avoiding flirtatious chatter with members of the oppose sex. Be intentional about spending quality time together.
Or take parenting. Some time within the next seven months I’m going to become a parent. I spend countless hours trying to influence strangers through my blog, at work and people at church. I like to learn and to lead if and wherever possible. Never have I a better opportunity to lead and influence then I do right now. It would be absolutely foolish of me to kerplunk my child in front of the TV for countless hours. See them off to school, let them hang with their friends and grow up without investing quality time, bestowing verbal affirmations, and reading with them.
I don’t want life with my children to just happen. I want to be intentional in their lives.
Life is too valuable, and too short, to sit back and let it happen to you. Happen to life. Be intentional.