When I was little, every morning was unknown territory for me. I never knew which type of mood my mother was going to wake up with whether or not her energy would be energizing or draining, that is. Many times, it was a foul mood, and it affected my entire day. The mornings when she seemed happy to be awake were the days that all was right in the world.
More threatening than the morning was the return home. Mom could have been in a great mood when we left for school, but by the time we came back—who knew? It was always the mood of my mother that set a tone for me for a significant portion of my childhood and teen life. When I moved out, I noticed that I was imitating some of my mother’s methods of mood infection. Once I became self-aware of that, I was able to curb the number of times I created the mood for the day.
From time to time, my mood lingers a bit too heavy, and it affects others. It is something I need to be careful of, mainly because I homeschool my children. I spend every single day with them. I am interrupted 70 million times a day to “look at this” to discover they have not learned anything new; they just simply want my attention. If I allow my mood to infect my entire atmosphere, homeschooling and working from home can look feel a prison. To free myself from any perceived mental incarceration, I must stay focused, present, and intentional. Otherwise, I will go mad—as if parenting doesn’t already offer such risk as it is!
Sometimes, I can get caught up in my work. I am currently working on a book—I have been for over a year now. It has created changes to our schedules and to how I do things. For me, there are some days where no matter how much I want to write, I have other things to do. The days I do have the opportunity to disappear into my nook of an office and get some work done, I must stay most intentional about not reacting to interruption. More than that, I must save energy for the rest of the inhabitants.
Firstfruits of Energy
My struggle is not a solo struggle. Each day, millions of Americans rise to the dawn and deliver their first fruits of energy to things or people that don’t necessarily reciprocate in kind to such a harvest of energy. We give our first fruits to our alarm clocks, our coffee pots, our work clothes, our thoughts about the agenda for the day, which appointments we have, and so on. Very rarely do we reserve much energy for intentional connection with our loved ones. We rush each other through routines and cycle through the same systematic requirements of adulthood.
Throughout the day, the energy is dispersed, slowly reducing our charge to low levels of battery life. We allocate bits and pieces of ourselves and our enthusiasm for projects, assignments, meetings, reports, shift changes, traffic, weather, etc. By the time we have finished our adulting, we return home, and we have nothing left to give. No energy. “I need just to relax,” we say. “I just need to decompress on Twitter for a little bit.” Others must continue another cycle at home. Work is never indeed done for the day, especially for a mother. “Just let mommy get dinner started, and then I can help you with your homework.” “After I put groceries away and fold this laundry, then I can read with you.”
Our first fruits are handed over to technology or responsibility, rarely for the sole purpose of connection and presence. Throughout the day, we hand out doses of our energy to others without one thought as to whether we evenly distribute our electricity or give the proper amount of energy to people versus projects and profits.
Connection Interrupted- Intimacy Doesn’t Pay the Bills
Are we this way because we are an achievement-oriented society? I believe we are. Is relationship considered achievement? That depends. Do you find conversations and intimacy to be something of value? Is it a goal that you hold- to connect with others, even your loved ones?
Does it pay the bills? Now, that’s the bigger question. Love doesn’t cost a thing, and intimacy does not have a limit, but neither of these phenomena can produce a mortgage payment or fulfill an 8-hour shift obligation. A connection then, it would seem, stands to be worthless without generative revenue, or a byproduct of a requirement. Either way, nothing about intimate contact seems valuable enough for it to be a priority.
Communication is vital to relay the needs of any job. But none of that communication depends on intimacy, compassion, or even consideration of the individual. The atmospheric conditions that we are accustomed to all but evaporate the space for intimate relationships. Such an atmosphere that we are subject to—the one we habitually operate in and are influenced by— and this is the atmosphere that lingers into our home environment, uninvited.
This energy is exasperating. It drains instead of fueling. Our first fruits expended for those who may not have a meaningful relationship with us, yet we reserve nothing for those who add value—who add to us and our experiences. Not only are we distributing energy unfairly, but those who deserve our attention and energy suffer from it. Do we even notice?
It wasn’t just my mother’s moods and her general aura that impacted my life, however. We also ate together every single night, as a family, at the dinner table. That was the time of day we all gathered, focused on nourishment of not only our bodies but our mind and spirit. We conversed. We shared stories about our days. We discussed homework issues, vented about work or a person, gossiped a bit about the neighbors, and learned something new.
It’s the one practice I carried on for my own family. We eat together every evening—even if it’s takeout. Sometimes we listen to a podcast. Occasionally, we have music playing in the background. Other times, we use dinner to address inevitable conflicts, and we discuss problem-solving methods. Sometimes my grandson joins, and we pass him around the table. Occasionally, we don’t talk at all, but we share the energy and the ambiance.
What it is, is an intentional connection. A formal, attentive method that aims to keep us all connected despite how chaotic life can be. It doesn’t always go according to plan. Sometimes family members are absent because of other engagements or work commitments or community responsibilities or church obligations or social events. The presumption remains, however, in our home, that we will gather to eat for a meal. Except on the rare occasion that I say, “let’s just veg,” and we snack in the living room while watching Netflix together.
Many of us can’t apply such daily practices to their lives. It’s a luxury in some aspects. Work shifts go longer than expected; another last-minute deadline just hit your desk, the kids have soccer practice, she has a ballet recital, he has confirmation class, the twins have a dentist appointment to attend, etc.
And so, if we are not reserving time for intentional connection and if we are not reserving any energy for our loved ones, how healthy are our relationships? Why are we prioritizing in such a way? Shouldn’t our loved ones always be on the front burner, on a gentle simmer, while everything else gets shuffled to the back burners? Can we not justify enough intentionality to reserve energy— maybe even our first fruits — for those that we depend on for connection and intimacy?
Make Moments that Matter
Not everyone cannot make dinner time their intentional connection time. Not everyone can deliver the firstfruits of energy and attention to their loved ones in the morning. So, what can we do to enliven intimacy and restore a full connection to our relationships?
We make moments that matter. We are co-creators with the universe. We have the power to generate energy for moments that matter, especially if backed by love.
We do this by engaging with every moment as a gift. We make moments that matter by pausing to gaze at and listen to our loved ones. We put our devices in another room, on silent, and we show our partner, our children, our friends, that they matter by giving them listening ears and by creating vulnerable space for conflicts that need addressing.
We can share in dialogues about ideas we are wrestling with, within our minds. We can find the courage to ask bold questions that will provide us with more information for a better understanding. We can choose to see how every moment we experience is overflowing out with abundant beauty—even the moments that seem terrifying or threatening.
We can take the time to: encourage another, exalt another, help another, serve another, feed another, shelter another, hug another. We can cry together, pray together, rejoice together, laugh together.
The Bible depicts one of the most intimate moments shared by Jesus and the disciples—the washing of the feet. It is this concrete practice that we can all gift to the other as a spiritual way to connect and relate.
Have you ever washed your children’s feet? How can you make that energizing and intimate?
Have you ever washed your best friend’s feet? What kind of walls could this vulnerable act break down?
Have you ever washed your partner’s feet? What could this practice reveal about our intimacy levels with our significant other?
Feasting and feet-washing are two straightforward practices that create both intimacy and connective energy. What if we considered these practices—of eating together or washing each other’s feet as ways of nourishing, cleansing, and purifying our relationships. What if these two approaches could offer us a way to reconnect not only to loved ones but to our deeper purpose?
These are the moments that we make that matter the most. These are the moments that generate energy for the good of love and can benefit every aspect of our lives.