Who is Your Family?

“You can’t choose your family. They are God’s gift to you, as you are to them.” (Desmond Tutu)

The Family Business

When I was a child, and that’s many years ago, our family business owned a Wimpy restaurant where we made hamburgers and other meals. I would spend some days in the restaurant helping out, behind the grill flipping burgers and generally working with my brothers.

My father has always had a strong work ethic and continually challenged us to participate in his business affairs. I then wished that I could just have a ‘normal’ life of more leisure and less work. Looking back I realize that those moments behind the grill have forever shaped me in incredible ways.

It’s now 37 years later and I’m still working in the family business, just behind a different grill. The times in the business always gave me a solid understanding of how commerce operates and a work ethic that continues to drive me today. These times together as family were precious as they united us as a family. We shared so many fun moments together, often over a meal.

Indeed, today my relationships with my parents and brothers are among the most important ones to me. Now with my own children, I see the importance of investing in these relationships. In business I invest time and money into a range of things, expecting a good return, but I know that the best returns come from investing into my family.

The Time Spent with Family

I read an article recently where the author had calculated the number of days the average child spends with their parents. Essentially, he worked out that within an average family, by the age of 18 children had already used up 93% of their in person, parent time. In other words, when children left home at 18, the amount of interaction with their parents for the rest of their lives was only 7% of their time.

Our biggest and most lasting impact into the lives of our children are during the years when they are living under our roof. Considering that once they leave home we will only share 7% of our life with them, we need to intentionally make sure we are building into their lives before they leave.

As I am a driven person and try to achieve success in business, I need to keep practising the art of connecting with my family. This does not come easily but I continue to strive to build this connection into my lifestyle. In our busy lives we need to be intentionally focusing on our children, recognizing that only while they are in our households do we have the biggest influence upon their lives.

Vertical Faith

If we are to be successful by every other standard but lose our family in the process, then we will be miserable failures. In Proverbs 22:6 we read: “Train up a child in the way he should go, and when he is old he will not depart from it.”

My parents taught me the great virtues of vertical faith. During a very stressful time of my life, when I was wrongfully accused, the need to defend and justify became great. However, the teaching of my parents in my youth helped me during this time, when I was taught how Jesus handled false accusations.

He could have used His power to put the people in their place (responding “horizontally”). However, He chose to respond in a different way by entrust Himself to His Father who judges justly (responding “vertically”).

It requires faith to entrust ourselves to God in the midst of personal assault, and it is most helpful when as a child we see our parents exercise such faith.

Reading the above statistics, I realized afresh how valuable the years with my children in my home are. I grasp that I need to work hard to create memories of life within our family that are positive and life-giving. My family, and your family, are our most important legacy.

AlanlouisPicAbout the Author: Dr Alan Louis is a third generation entrepreneur in a family with a 100-year business history. He devoted his life to Christianity as a child. Awarded a PhD in Commerce, is an Ultra Ironman Triathlete Gold medallist and was inducted in the IBC Hall of Fame for entrepreneurship. Internationally he has served on more than 100 private corporate boards, and has experienced the trials and successes of commerce for 3 decades.

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