Time away is always a good thing. It’s good to get away to clear your head, to change your surroundings, to change your perspective. It can be helpful, especially when that time is full of restoring, recharging, and life-giving activity. Time away can prepare you for diving back into the fray of everyday life, of facing the pressures that come on a regular basis.
At the same time, time away can be a strain on family. Spouses are tasked with single-parenting for a period of time, children who are not old enough to understand this absence may be confused, and most likely other various impacts on the family.
My seminary education was done by distance. I had to go away for 2 weeks every year. I also was gone from my family for one night a week during that time as I traveled to a class 2 hours from my home. I remember the night before I left for Minnesota, where my classes were held, my wife was pregnant with our second child and we were up in Connecticut with our family.
I had never been away from my wife and 18 month old son for more than an evening. As I stood in the room where my son was staying, holding him in my arms, I began to weep. I wept because of the gravity of the moment. I was going back to school after a nearly 10 year hiatus. I knew none of my classmates. My background had been in engineering and this was going to be a significantly different degree. I wept mostly because I would be away and would be missing moments with my family.
My wife and I had made a commitment at the beginning of the seminary process that I would not be gone for more than 2 weeks a year. That was the best decision that I ever made. While the 2 weeks away were difficult, I grew to appreciate them and even benefit from them. I grew to know many of my classmates and the time away truly became life-giving, restoring, and recharging for me, so much so that time outside of class felt like the more significant time than the time spent within the classroom.
This past year, I have been away from my family a lot. I realize that statement is relative considering that what is “a lot” to me is normal, average, or typical to many others. The time away has not been easy, but I think that it’s been beneficial. This recent trip away, my middle child broke his arm when he fell off the monkey bars (those @#$% monkey bars). It was hard not being there, but squeezing him and hugging him will feel that much better when we reunite.
Home is a good place to land. It always feels good to be back there. No matter how many times I go away, there is nothing else that can bring me joy and peace like coming home again. While I’m grateful for time away, there’s nothing like time at home. I think that the old adage still stands true, absence does indeed make the heart grow fonder.