This week is chapter five with "The Home as a Safe Haven". Joy St. John shares her husband Clint's and her experience of providing a safe home for their young family, and how they model an authentic and personal relationship with Jesus, in this summer’s Book & Blog series in “Organic Outreach for Families: Turning Your Home into a Lighthouse.” Each week we read a chapter and hear from various FirstCov’ers. Join us and leave a comment or question below!
“Demonstrating faith is the safest thing you can do.” Charles Stanley
When I was given the opportunity to write for the church’s summer blog series, this chapter heading instantly stood out to me. Nothing has so blown wide open the idea of “safety” as becoming a parent and raising children. Parenting as a stay-at-home mother (my specific family role) has brought a vulnerability to my sense of self and safety that has been marred with victory and pain, often times, simultaneously. The onslaught of responsibilities and worries consume most days. And, the connection between these tasks and safety as it relates to Christianity, are very much intertwined.
Being Torch-Bearers in the Battle
I think we often times, if we grow up in the church especially, believe that Jesus/God is “safe and good”. As we get older, life’s circumstances challenge those ideals, assumptions, desires, and hopes. If you are reading this and have gone through any sort of experience that left you feeling extremely unsafe, this idea is a fragile and tender topic. Trauma seeks to shake our notion that there is safety as a believer, and reminds us that whether we have personally lived through such experiences or not, that we cannot control every aspect of our day to day lives. Yes, we can all acknowledge by watching the news that the world is indeed quite fallen. Remaining faithful in this present age is a serious battle, which we must choose to engage, because the enemy is very real.
I’m reminded of my absolute favorite quote from the master C.S. Lewis about his Aslan, “He isn’t safe; but He is Good.” Life is absolutely unsafe. So, as Christians, what are we to do? God uses a myriad of illustrations, incredibly poetic verse and imagery, to strengthen us for the battle of seeing the light amidst the dark. Our homes are to be the training ground. This is where we not only carry the torch of the faithful ones before us, but where we as parents live out 2 Timothy 3:16: teaching, rebuking, correcting, and training. Loved ones in our care should be so inspired and safeguarded within the confines of the actual physical home that they leave our nests one day bursting with fire for the message of the Gospel.
Are you Bound by Boundaries? When Free Will Intersects with God's Laws.
What has most surprised me as a mother is how sensitive of a topic this idea of safety is to other parents. With what is a mixture of pride and resolve, I think most parents are truly trying their best to provide safety. But, with every family completely unique from the next, the spiritual implications must be sensitive to the guidance of God’s spiritual authority. We can, in pride, become unwilling to hear what anyone has to suggest, or we can reflect on the issues at hand. We can keep our children from ever watching the news, seeing any Disney or R rated movie, wearing bikinis, or getting tattoos. We can, conversely, allow our kids to wear anything, watch anything, and have constant access to cable TV and internet on phones. Spiritually we call it free will. Both can have elements of trying to make sense of this complex aspect of child rearing. But, both sides need to be open to God’s personal conviction. Safety isn’t a list of rules; rules that provide for our safety though and allow our children to thrive are very much bound up within boundaries. Ultimately, do we bring questions back to God to reign over our decisions and homes?
Cross-Shaped Rules for a Lifelong Relationship
What I now think must happen, for our homes to be healthy, is to have a constantly open conversation with the Lord and with our spouses that personally evaluates how safe our homes and our children’s influences are. Many times when our children start to incur problems, we can look back at red flag warnings. I grew up in a home steeped in much Christian tradition, additionally, a lot of rules. And, honestly, it wasn’t until college that I first learned about having a real relationship with Jesus. Instead of swinging the pendulum so far to either side, I love the phrase I heard at a school convention about families who successfully raised their children to adulthood to continue to follow Jesus as their Savior. “Their parents did not elevate their house rules above God’s laws.” In essence, rules were not the cornerstone of how they defended their faith, their apologetics. The love of God was paramount, conviction was personal, faith was authentic.
Shelter in the Storms of this World
In regards to our actual physical homes, wherever that might be, and whatever those may look like, our homes must remain a lighthouse for our children to return to for safety and shelter. I think for many parents, putting up safeguards for our children’s physical safety in childhood is somewhat simplistic. We teach our children not to run into the road, to wear helmets, to be careful with outlets. Clearly, as our children age, the realm and scope of “safety” becomes mired with complexity considering their mental, physical, emotional, psychological, social, and spiritual well beings. We worry about what others will think of our safeguards, we confuse our boundaries with those of the worlds, we want to protect our children but also relate to them, and we may or may not even realize how our own childhoods factor into how we make decisions. And what must evolve from these childrearing years are a very clear understanding of Biblical safety, that God is our refuge, and that we can and should choose His shelter over the world’s acceptance.
Connecting God's Laws with House Rules
If you look at the purpose of a lighthouse, it is wonderful as a visual for how we are sheltered by God and His Son whom He sent to be the Light of the world. Something about our home must clearly represent that scriptural image! I find motivation in looking at how other families curate and craft these spiritual images into real life rhythms.
Foremost, our children absolutely need to see us (as their parents and their greatest examples) on our knees, Bibles open, worshipping God through study, meditation, prayer, and song. There has to be a connection between the house rules and habits and how they amplify God’s laws. Two main ideas are family meetings and regular family meals. The research is crystal clear on how nightly family dinners, together around the table, can protect kids from many poor decisions. Children need to learn to obey their parents and also how to work! Teamwork frees up the entire family for more time together.
Our family also advocates for learning to love reading, whether that is reading aloud, listening to audiobooks, or reading books alone. And, we often say no to technology, so that we can say yes to family activities. We have found these things to be the most edifying and character building. I mention these specific ideas because homes that are laden with disrespect and disorder absolutely do not feel safe. They are not safe for the individual family members, it isn’t inviting for relatives or guests, and it influences the type of homes our own children will seek to create in the future.
Overall, as parents, we fight valiantly against things that erode our family’s ability to truly see and know each other. We maintain schedules and sleep and diets and devotion so that the capacity for our family to shine for Jesus does not get diminished by the world.
The Comforts of Home Build the Foundation
God loves being our lighthouse, as our King and in sending us His Son as our Savior. The home is the perfect place to practice His loving kindness, to work through authentic relationships. They may be messy, but they are so worth it! Children can truly get along and have homegrown best friends for life. They get a sense of belonging and self-worth. They learn purpose and hard work. They can dream. They can cheer each other on as they have victory and comfort each other as they endure failure or trauma.
If we allow our own sins as parents and family (fighting, anger, sarcasm, criticism), poisonous habits (drugs, alcohol, video games, sports, shopping, screen time), or outside influences whether through technology or relationships, to totally destroy our homes, we leave our kids out in the vast ocean to find their way. They are meant to stay in the lighthouse and develop strength under our care. What we model as families to the world is meant to be inspirational to all those around us.
Leaving the Light on
At the proper time, we are to send our children out as young adults to keep the lighthouses of faith burning for everyone to see. Then the light of Jesus will never be extinguished from generation to generation.
Take it to the comments: Let's have a conversation!
- Share examples of how you remain a consistent force in your home and for your family.
- How has God's laws determined or reinforced the rules you have at home?
Enjoy chapter 5 this week! (Catch other posts in this series here.)