Losing Your Marbles by Brian West

IMG_0605 (1)Sometimes I look at my two daughters and think to myself, “Where did all the time go?”  And the truth is – they’re only five and seven.  Now, before those of you who have kids grown and gone call me crazy [though that’s not far from the truth], allow me to expand the thought a bit more.


Like most of you, at this time of year I once again go to the task of resetting priorities.  I, once again, reflect on all that’s happened over the course of the year and plan goals for the upcoming year.  That’s me.  I’m a planner.  I like to have a vision for what’s coming!  I like knowing what I do has purpose.  With a clear sense of the end goal, I can be more strategic with the almighty currency of time.  


Eat better.

Exercise more.

Spend more time in the scripture and in prayer.

Replace carpet

Get a six-pack [not the fermented kind…well, maybe that too]

Set goals.  Plan the strategy.  And execute.  It sounds easy.


But, like you, I experience vision “drift.”  I have well intentioned goals, I have clear strategies, but in the end, I drift away from what’s important.  Most often I’m not knowingly drifting.  It’s just that my time matters.  And when pressed for time – those well intentioned plans fly out the window.  Time seems to get the better of me.


Reggie Joiner, founder and CEO of Orange, says, “When you see how much time you have left you tend to value what happens over time.”  This is most certainly true when it comes to our children.  Joiner, in his book Losing Your Marbles, startles most readers with the number 936.  What’s significant with the number 936?  It’s the approximate number of weeks between the birth of a child and their graduation from High School.   


Mind. Blown.


To put that number in perspective: if you have a 10 year old…that number is down by 500 weeks.  Yes, you read that correctly.  There are only 400 weeks left.  If you have a freshman in high school, the number of weeks remaining is about 200.  200 weeks until your child is “out the door.”  200 weeks to make sure they are ready. 200 weeks left.


When I first came across 936 weeks it sounded like a lot.  But, is it?  Those parents who have children grown and gone will tell you, time and time again, that time goes way too fast.  In my experience, all parents want to do right by their children.  All parents want to parent well.  All parents want to leave a positive legacy in their children.  You see, as parents, we want to make the most of those 936 weeks.  We want to give them everything we can within the short time God has given them to us.  


But, like well-intentioned New Year’s goals, we often experience drift.  While we have great intentions of leveraging time with our children, other things demand our time…one more phone call, one more email, one more task, one more….  And then: well, we drift. Suddenly, we only have 200 weeks left.  Will they be ready for what life will bring?  How can I possibly mobilize them in 200 weeks? Do they even know how to do the laundry? How then can we make sure to maximize time?


When we see how much time you have left you tend to value what happens over time.”


One of the ways to avoid the drift is to give yourself visual clues.  Joiner, along with co-author Kristen Ivy, suggest a weekly reminder that helps parents see the remaining weeks until graduation – a jar full of marbles.  Parents fill a jar full of 936 marbles (minus the marbles you’ve already “used up”), and take a marble out once a week.  With a newborn, you get a whopping 936, but over time you lose your marbles.  


You see what they did there?


My guess is that you’ll seriously reflect on each marble every time you take it out of the jar, since each marble represents a week of opportunities – lost or made.  Visualizing time makes time valuable.


One thing parents can do to use their marbles well is to proactively connect their kids to other trusted adults and a regular group of peers.  This is particularly true in the middle and high school years.


Adolescent psychologists tell us that middle schoolers are attempting to shift from concrete thinking to abstract thinking.  And in the process, they are attempting to connect dots which, to us as leaders or parents, often sound incredibly left field…but not in their brains.  Applying this to one’s faith development, middle school is the time when middle schoolers are moving to the deeper things of God and doing their best to connect all the dots.  This can often lead to something that sounds like doubt.  Having a group of peers with whom they can wrestle through their ideas and a trusted adult who will continue to point them to Jesus becomes increasingly important.


Parents, let me ask you: when your daughter or son has a question that they don’t want to ask you about, don’t you want to know that there is another adult who will point them to Jesus?  Why not be proactive and help them form some of these relationships?  After all – once they’re in middle school, there is somewhere between 300-350 weeks left.


It’s at this time and place when an experience at Camp Arcadia is so profound.  It’s not only that it’s a beautiful location [which it is], or that the food is off the chain [have mercy], but it is a place where your son or daughter is surrounded by a group of their peers and trusted adults.  It’s here that they can wrestle the things of faith all the while walking with people who will continue to point them to their Savior.


It’s time to re-prioritize.  It’s time to make the most of time.  Let’s leverage those weeks.  Let’s lose those marbles well.

Rev. Brian West serves as a Pastor at Trinity Lutheran Church in Clinton Township, MI. He will be a first-time lecturer for Family Week 9: August 20 – 26, 2016. 

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