I am an ambitious person. I love working towards accomplishing new things and I have big dreams. When I’m on a mission… nothing can stop me.
“And that’s my struggle.
It’s a great quality to be ambitious. I accomplish a lot of great things and I usually produce products of great quality because I am so focused and committed to doing so. However, every once in a while I am reminded of how easily I lose track of my priorities and forget my first love. Sometimes I come home and I say “Dianne (my Bride), I got a lot of things to do tonight. I need at least an hour or two”. She’s always very understanding and supportive. My children, however, are incapable of understanding what that means. Every 2 or 3 minutes they come up asking me questions like, “Can you play with me?” or “Papi, what are you doing? Are you doing trabajo (work)?” At times I can’t get anything done because they are constantly interrupting so Dianne will take them to the park for a while to allow me to work. While this is often a good setup that allows me to do a lot of great things, it’s not hard for me to get caught up taking on big projects (and a lot of little ones) that end up making this a very frequent occasion. Because of that fact, I have noticed lately that my daughter, Elizabeth, has started to say things like, “Papi, I want to play with you” and “Papi, I don’t want you to do trabajo (work)”. As she and my son, John-Paul, began interrupting more I began getting more upset. I even took the time to get really mad and yell at them because they wouldn’t stop asking me questions, throwing toys at me, or tugging at my arm. In my mind I’m thinking. I have to get this stuff done.
“YOU HAVE NO IDEA HOW IMPORTANT THIS IS TO ME.
Maybe I’m not thinking those exact words but that’s exactly what I am telling them. I’m a crappy parent sometimes. I admit it. We all are. The truth is that all parents have moments of greatness as well as moments of shame.
One of my consistent prayers over the years has been “Lord, please never let me slip away from you. Keep me in your grasp.” I know the person I used to be before I committed myself to my faith and I know how easily I can slip back into bad habits. The reason I will often pray that particular prayer – especially when I am struggling – is because it helps me to recognize when God is pulling me back. Now, I’ve never heard God’s voice speak to me in a literal manner but I can usually tell when God is trying to speak to me through others.
Recently, I was talking to my parents about our upcoming Young Adult conference in September and I was asking for advice to get more people registered. We have invested a lot of money into the conference and although money is not our primary focus we don’t want to lose out on thousands of dollars so we are trying to be diligent in our “business and marketing strategy”. The question was then posed to me, “How much time have you put into prayer versus logistics planning”? Of course, the answer is not nearly as much. The advice given to me was to trust God and focus on the primary mission. If we were faithful God would bring the people he wanted to hear our message. All things I “know” but sometimes need to be reminded.
If we were faithful God would bring the people he wanted to hear our message.
This got me thinking about my prayer life as a whole. I began to realize how busy I have become with so many projects and goals. I began to realize that it’s – once again – that time for me to re-prioritize. My bride, Dianne, went out of town for the weekend with our smallest child and I had the opportunity to spend some quality time with our two oldest (and craziest) kids: Elizabeth and John-Paul. We read books, we watched movies, we made messes and we ate terribly (ice cream, chocolates, cakes, popsicles… the list goes on).
While reading a book called The Story of Saint John Paul II: A Boy Who Became Pope – for at least the tenth time to date – something popped out at me. On her death bed, Karol’s Wojtyla’s mother asks him “Who do you love the most?” As a little boy he didn’t have an answer. Later in life, as his brother was dying he was again reminded, “Don’t forget Mom’s question.
Who do you love most?”
When St. John Paul decided to become a Priest it was because he realized that God was who he loved most. The words stuck with me.
That evening I attended confession and reconciliation. I confessed that I had allowed my ambitions to become my focus and I had lacked in my prayer and dedication to loving my family. I confessed my shortness and impatience with my children and asked for forgiveness as well as grace to do better. God then spoke straight to my heart through the Priest hearing my confession. He looked at me and said, “You have become disconnected. In this world we have powerful machines and they can do amazing things but no matter how powerful they are, if you unplug them from the source they are nothing.” He pointed to the lamp next to him and said “When this lamp is unplugged it receives no power. When I walked into this room, it was very dark because there was no light but when I plugged in the lamp it lit up the room. If you become unplugged from God – who is the source – you cannot be a light to others. You must first receive power from the source who is God”.
Again I felt like God was talking to me through another person. He talked about machines and eletrical current and he had no idea that I am a computer science and electronics junkie. I kept those words in my heart. Later, I put on a cartoon for my children so that I could make food and cleanup (Oh no… I sound like a mom right now). I chose the first one that I saw, “Daniel Tiger’s Neighborhood”. The whole show was about affirming that every person is special. A song began to play and I found myself watching as the cartoon started showing real parents loving their children, having fun, putting them to bed with a kiss, all while the following song is playing in the background
You are my friend
You are special
You are my friend
You’re special to me.
You are the only one like you.
You are special
You’re special to me.
There’s only one in this wonderful world
You are special.
Right before that we watched The Lego Movie which is a film focused on a kid who imagines up a world where he is “the special” because his father is too wrapped up in business to play with him.
Now God is talking to me through cartoons.
I realized at that moment that my children have been craving my attention. Lately, even when I try to give them my attention it is completely divided. I am thinking about all the things I need to do. I’m often rushing to finish reading them a book or put them to bed so that I can get some stuff done. I realized that I was not making them feel special. I was making them second to my goals and ambitions.
I sat down at this tiny two-foot-high table and I stared at them in silence as they ate the meal I prepared for them. I was moved by their beauty and their innocence. They looked so happy and content. Completely stress free.
I realized that it’s been a while since I have taken the time to just stare at them and study their faces with absolutely nothing else on my mind.
After that I put down everything on my mind and on my plate and spent an amazing weekend with them.
There’s nothing wrong with ambition. There’s nothing wrong with being goal oriented and striving to accomplish great things. However, that evening I was reminded of a Scripture that I often meditate upon to keep me balanced between greatness and humility.
I know your deeds and your toil and perseverance, and that you cannot tolerate evil men, and you put to the test those who call themselves apostles, and they are not, and you found them to be false; and you have perseverance and have endured for My name’s sake, and have not grown weary. But I have this against you, that you have forgotten your first love. Therefore remember from where you have fallen, and repent and do the deeds you did at first; or else I am coming to you and will remove your lampstand out of its place—unless you repent … He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches. To him who overcomes, I will grant to eat of the tree of life which is in the Paradise of God.’
My desire is to be a witness, a leader, first for my family and my own sake and then for others. However, I cannot do that if I forget my first love… Jesus. I started this ministry out of desire to love and serve God and if I become unplugged from him – the source – I cannot minister to anyone… starting with my family.
So, after prayer and discussion with my bride, Dianne, we have decided to do away with our speaker fees and make our downloadable talks free for at least the 2015 calendar year. I want to remain true to our first mission and our first love. I’ll let God take it from there.