What is your family’s identity in? Are you filling your families schedule with what is important to your values? Who is controlling your time? You or what society is telling you to do?

I need to confess all of you; please don’t judge me. Just practice extending that mercy now. Are you ready for it?

When the initial quarantine happened back in 2020, I was happy for the break. Yup, I was. I had no idea of the months and years to come or the freedoms that were about to be taken from us. Grateful not to have to get kids to school, doctor’s appointments, sports, activities, etc. I thought – wow, not even homework? We just get to be….home…together!

It sounded like a dream. Sleeping in and getting to do anything we wanted. 

Well, that niceness didn’t last long and feeling like we were in prison soon set in. 

Lost in the abyss of my living room with screaming board kids, it made me start to ponder; why was I initially happy? Am I really that sleep-deprived? I don’t want to wake up early? Was our family being pulled at all ends, and if the answer is yes – where are we spending our time?

Are we reflecting what is important to us?

Well, I was given loads of time to think abut our family’s identity, as I was free of every obligation we did have. 

Soon I realized that well-meaning things were dictating our family’s schedule, but that weren’t all beneficial things. 

Even down to the number of doctor’s appointments my kids had. Now that a pandemic even dictated that those “necessary doctor’s appointments” aren’t essential. 

 We averaged five doctor appointments a week for my special needs kids. 

No doctor’s appointments accomplished or healed them. They were with various specialists. They were discussing different things. None of which were going to be my miracle cure. For the first time in their lives, I realized that I needed to set boundaries and start saying no to these appointments. Doctors for years have been dictating to me that these appointments and specialists were all necessary—funny how they weren’t essential once the pandemic hit. 

I needed this shut down to realize I had been manipulated. 

Years ago, I told my kids they could all have one sport at a time, and though I had stuck to that, I needed to extend that to one activity too. Especially having five kids, these activities add up to a whole lot of running around. 

Having an activity as a kid is a good thing, it helps you find hobbies that you like. But activities do not replace family time, and they are not supposed to stress out the family unit. 

Your identity is not your activities.

I just lost some of you there. I know if little Johnny isn’t in football even though the schedule doesn’t allow him to get enough sleep or do his schoolwork or see his family, I know his life will be over, right? Wrong.

I know little Jane will fall apart and be hooked on drugs if she is not able to dance until 9:30 every school night, and she won’t do anything with her life if she doesn’t get anxious trying to keep up with her school work because dance is her identity, right? Wrong. 

Activities start with good intent. Activities can be excellent and healthy. Unfortunately, they can also begin to be unhealthy. Parents have started letting these activities dictate what is essential in the family. For example, some families can’t go to church because of sports. 

What kind of message are you sending your kids when you let them skip church to sleep or to go to a sports game? 

You tell them that all the other things are more important than church. 

If you haven’t had a family meal in years because you are gone every day of the week traveling all over the state for a sport, you are showing your kids family meals are not that important. 

Think about the message you are sending. Is your family’s identity stressful?

These things, on the surface, arent terrible until you look a little deeper and realize that you are not creating good humans because you are not in their lives having excellent and challenging conversations with them. Their teammates are, their coaches are, not you. 

Think about how many kids have depression and anxiety because they are worried about social media. How many likes they get are dictating to them their worth. 

They will be the biggest loser if they aren’t on the team.

I realize it’s hard to explain to your kids that what they are feeling and doing right now are small potatoes in the span of their lives. But, it’s your job as heads of your family to show and teach your kids the right priorities. 

Teaching them while their young to find their identity in the Lord instead of any societal scale will be detrimental to their emotional well-being. 

God created us in His image. ~Genesis 1:27 We need to walk in that truth and lead our children in that truth. 

The business of this world just distracts us from our true calling. Our true identity, a healthy family identity.

1 Samuel 16:7

But the Lord said to Samuel, “Do not look on his appearance or on the height of his stature, because I have rejected him. For the Lord sees not as man sees: man looks on the outward appearance, but the Lord looks on the heart.”

John 15:5

“I am the vine; you are the branches. Whoever abides in me and I in him, he it is that bears much fruit, for apart from me you can do nothing.”

We are a part of God’s family, of His purpose, His love. Nothing we do separately from the Lord matters. Living this life for the Lord’s goodness and spreading His message is the greatest life lesson we can learn. 

Building communities and families to serve and love others need to take priority if we want to change this world for the better. 

As adults and parents, we need to realize how we affect our family’s identity and what message we are sending the next generation. 

Jenny Cioto with Pursuing true North