I have always had a strong work ethic and a passion to succeed in my work. This developed into my career plan during my time in business school; I knew the accounting firm that I wanted to work for, the timetable to climb the ranks, and I knew the income that I would benefit from at each level. From the start the hours were long, which we knew getting into it, but they never ceased. Pretty soon the status quo was working at least 60 hours a week, almost always working on the weekends, and during certain parts of the year practically living at work for weeks at a time, plus the occasional travel.
For the first year at my job, this did not bother me. I enjoyed the challenge of the work and long hours weren’t difficult. However, the relationship between my wife and me slowly dissolved into text messages and brief conversations when I returned home around 10 or 11 pm night after night. These were not deep conversations, and the times when we needed heartfelt discussion, the time was not available. Our marriage of just over 4 and a half years was strong during this time, but as my wife, Christine, put it, “It was like being married but without a husband.”
After that first year, we took time off and reflected on the previous year. We were shocked by the consistent amount of the long hours asked of me and our lack of deep relationship building that can only be done with quality time. Christine pointed out the difficulty with me living a life at work that was separate from her. I pointed out the stair-steps of the firm, and if I stayed, how we would have all of these opportunities, all this financial capital, and eventually, better life balance. I was like a dog chasing a bone as I chased my love of work, money, and success.
During my second year at the firm, the hours grew even longer, resulting in even less time to spend with my wife, our family, our friends, and church. I found myself working while watching movies with Christine and constantly on my work laptop during family holiday gatherings. There was no balance. This is where God stepped in, and His principles came to light.
“It is vain for you to rise up early, to retire late, to eat the bread of painful labors; for He gives to his beloved even in his sleep." (Psalm 127:2)
The change took place through months of prayer about our future and asking if we should change our current path. God opened a door to the perfect opportunity, a career that focused on life-balance. The next three months were filled with prayers together and individually, and I approached every mentor I had to answer the question of which path to follow: my current one or the new opportunity. However, I was praying the door to the new opportunity would close. In my mind, I had set my path to stay, but the Lord was directing my steps (Proverbs 16:9). Not long after that, I came across this quote from Russ Crosson in his book Your Life…Well Spent, and it opened my eyes:
“We Christians should be at the forefront of this movement to balance life and integrate meaning into our lives. We must be prepared to handle the peer pressure of the world and even of some well-meaning Christians who will not understand us. 'Why,' they will wonder, 'are you slowing down your climb up the ladder? Why didn’t you take that job with more income?' The answer is that we look to the end of our lives and realize we must make the tough decision now."*
The world instructs us to work the long hours and climb the corporate ladder during the youth of our 20s and 30s, but these years contain some of our most important moments; moments of building our life-long relationships, finding a spouse, developing roots, and teaching our children. It is no wonder that those who pursue the world’s path of career-building find themselves at the end of their lives wondering how they discarded their relationships, why their marriage(s) failed, and when they lost touch with their children.
Of all people, we Christians should be the first to balance work and build meaning into our lives. As Russ cautioned, we have to be ready for those who ask us, “Why are you slowing down your climb up the ladder?"
Christine and I just celebrated the first year of our new life with me in my new career, and what a year it was. Not only was it a year of quality time together in our marriage, but it was also a year of experiencing many blessings from the new friendships we have had time to develop in our new home of Laguna Beach. We finally got involved and better connected in our local church and took several memory-filled trips as a couple. When we reflect on what life could have been like if we had not committed to balance, it scares us. Our marriage would be much different, and not in a good way, without the time together. The danger of continuing my journey with a career-first mindset would certainly have resulted in me gaining a title and measurable financial accumulation, but it would also have come with a tremendous cost of relational, social and spiritual capital.
The Lord has set the number of hours we have on this earth, so don’t waste it. Seek the Kingdom and seek each other. Continually set goals as a couple and reevaluate so that you don’t have regrets. Pray together and seek solid mentors to keep you accountable and to guide you. You can always make more money, but you can't make more time. Do you need to consider changing your vocation to better fulfill your purpose and maximize your time flexibility, or will you just seek to make more money? Live as the salt and light of the world, and live with the end in mind.
*Crosson, Russ. Your Life...Well Spent. Harvest House, 2012
Colby and Christine were married in the beautiful Adirondacks of New York on August 3, 2013. They first met at Biola University in the fall of 2011. They currently reside in Laguna Beach, California and enjoy spending as much time as they can in the mountains hiking with their dog, Desmond. They love live music and road trips. They attend Little Church by the Sea in Laguna Beach.