Memories define our lives, and yet we never stop long enough to count the cost of how much we miss when we travel. Did you ever think that you were designed to have certain memories?
If you are a man, you should remember what your wife looked like when she told you she was pregnant with your first child. You should remember being there in the delivery room. If you are a woman you should remember when your husband proposed to you. You should remember the look in his eyes when you said yes.
You should remember what you did on your first anniversary, your fifth, your tenth, and your twenty-fifth. You should have a collection of unforgettable good memories with your spouse.
You should remember your daughter's first loose tooth, her first day of school, her horrible yet wonderful attempts to practice the piano, and the incredible feeling of a million good-morning hugs.
You can only have those memories if you're around. You can't predict when memories will be created; you just have to be there to catch them when they come. For many of us, travel for work is unavoidable. But a big theme of this article is that the amount we travel can only increase if we let it. We mistakenly equate more travel with more success, but more travel only robs us of what we really crave-deep relationships with the ones we love the most.
For those of you who absolutely can't cut down on travel, we recommend you read our book in its totality for some practical advice and tips for success. But for those of you who have a say in the matter, you must take advantage of the opportunities you have to diminish your time away from home.
A friend of mine named Len has been traveling intensely for nearly twenty years. He runs a major division of his company's sales force. He has a lot of responsibility and a great track record of success. He always travels first class, always stays at upscale hotels, and always dines at the finest restaurants around the world.
On one recent trip, Len received a call from his wife. "Len, you are not going to believe it! Charlie [their son] is getting married. He popped the question to Tiffany today. I am so excited!"
"That's great news, honey! Let's celebrate when I get home this weekend."
Later that week when Len got home, they took Charlie and his new fiancée out for dinner. During the dinner, Len's wife pulled out pictures of Charlie's childhood and began to reminisce about the days when their son was young.
"Charlie," said Len's wife, "do you remember that night when you were about twelve and got up and began sleepwalking?"
"Yeah, I sure remember that," Charlie said. "I was yelling, 'The sky is falling! The sky is falling!' I have no idea why I did that, but it sure got me to wake up in a hurry."
Another story was told. Another memory. Another laugh.
But Len found that he was laughing as an outsider. He felt as new to the family as his son's fiancée must have felt. His son's life was mostly a blur to him. Most of the memories he had were of the places he was at when he received messages on the road. What dawned on him that night was how much he had missed.
Wow! It sure went by quick, he thought.
Memories come from the direct experiences we have with others. As we interact with our family members, we observe their personalities, we learn their likes and dislikes, we develop trust and love, we grow in intimacy, and we become fulfilled emotionally. In the end, the memories of the times we experienced together complete the picture of our lives. Our experiences become our memories, and our memories become the building blocks of our souls. And because memories are defined by our experiences, our lives are defined by our memories.
In a life of constant travel, we are robbed above all of memories. Memories are among the most intimate parts of life. They are things God has designed for us and our families. There is a special place that God has built into each of us to house these precious memories, but most of the time we don't realize this until it's too late.
Each trip away from our spouses and children is one more set of experiences lost between us. It is one more step in the pursuit of loneliness. A little time apart can be managed, but are we aware how much each of our kids needs us? The compounding effect of each trip we take causes us to risk missing critical experiences at home, and our children will not easily forget our absence.
Take some time to ask yourself some hard questions:
• What do your kids remember about you?
• What do you remember about your kids?
• Who are the specific people you spend most of your life with-what sort of memories do you have of them?
Please hear me well-I'm not saying to stop making short-term memories. If you're on the road and a phone call is the only chance you get to connect to a loved one, make the call. It's easy to forget to make phone calls a priority. But if we commit to taking every possible opportunity to connect, we make it a priority to note important events and call right before or after to encourage our children and spouses.
How easy it is to spend time focusing on a career while the kids are young. But these are the most important years of our families' lives, and we spend those years away from them. Our kids learn to function without us. They learn not to rely on us for anything but money, and they continue to build relationships with others in place of us. After all, that is what we have modeled for them.
Creating true memories will protect and nurture these relationships. Memories provide a foundation-something for our relationships to stand on when times get tough. If we cannot remember how we are loved, we will not be able to fight off loneliness. Eventually we will not be able to fight off temptation.
The above piece is an adaptation from Road Warrior: Road Warrior: How to Keep Your Faith, Relationships, and Integrity When Away From Home, by Steve Arterburn and Sam Gallucci. Colorado Springs, Waterbrook Press, 2007.
Stephen Arterburn is the founder of New Life Clinics, the largest provider of Christian counseling and treatment in North America. As host of the daily New Life Live! radio program, he is heard nationally on over one hundred and eighty stations and at www.newlife.com. Steve is the lead speaker at The New Life Weekend, a conference with specialty programs for Marriage, Balancing Your Life, Anger, Fear, Boundaries, Depression, Weight Loss, Abuse, and Forgiveness. Steve is also the creator of Women of Faith® Conferences and the author/coauthor of over fifty books, including Healing is a Choice, Lose it For Life, Internet Protect Your Kids, Every Man's Battle, Avoiding Mr. Wrong, Reframe Your Life, and Midlife Manual for Men.