I’ve never thought about my house and our life inside it as much as I have these past few months. How can I turn this room into a school for three young students? Where could we plant a toilet-paper tree since all of the stores are out, and why isn’t there such a thing? When did those tiles crack? Is wanting fast enough internet to keep up with all the Zooming like wishing for a pet unicorn? (Yes.) Part of the collective experience of 2020 has been that our homes have been much more lived in than perhaps ever before.
But the lives being lived in them have looked very, very different. While we’ve added things, like gardens and sourdough starters and home office nooks, one thing in particular has been missing. Our people. Community isn’t gathered around a table with chairs pulled in from the other room. Friends aren’t stopping by unannounced and helping themselves to a drink from the fridge. We feel it—the change, the loss. And so do our kids. Time with their friends and the people normally in their day-to-days has been disrupted and delayed.
As believers, we are compelled to lean in this discouragement, disappointment, and discomfort with a posture of faith and we are promised that suffering intends to produce steadfastness. It’s by no means easy, and we do it imperfectly, but we lean in. But what does this mean for us as parents? What would it look like to leverage both those faith-filled moments and the faithless ones to show our kids what our houses of faith are built on, and what this means for living our lives together in community?
“Everyone then who hears these words of mine and does them will be like a wise man who built his house on the rock. And the rain fell, and the floods came, and the winds blew and beat on that house, but it did not fall, because it had been founded on the rock. And everyone who hears these words of mine and does not do them will be like a foolish man who built his house on the sand. And the rain fell, and the floods came, and the winds blew and beat against that house, and it fell, and great was the fall of it.” (Matthew 7:24-27 ESV)
Certainly, we all want to be like the wise man whose house is built on rock and is therefore able to withstand rain, floods, and wind. Ultimately, Jesus is teaching us about our need to trust in Him for salvation, rather than the shifting sands of self-righteousness or religiosity. But the reality of walking in faith is that we are called to continually evaluate what our houses are built on since our pesky flesh likes to return to those sandy foundations quite frequently when left unchecked . The year of 2020 has highlighted that reality in spades—our houses have been ravaged by the elements. So, as believers, we lean in. And as parents, we bring our kids along, praying they’ll see Jesus as the Rock, and learn how to persevere with joy together.
Let Them See What Your House is Really Built On
The sneaky thing about a sandy foundation is that no one would build on it if they thought it wouldn’t hold up a house. I had no idea just how much steadiness I found in having a plan and depending on friends and community in specific and predictible ways. But then 2020 rolled in with it’s pandemic-plans and flipped everything upside down. I joined most of you in feeling outwitted and overwhelmed, often opting for a shelter in the sand, ranging from over-engaging with the news to under-engaging with my Bible. Though I certainly didn’t go down without some kicking and screaming, I believe that it was by God’s grace that my insufficient and often downright faulty foundations were revealed in the process of losing what I thought 2020 would be.
But far too often, I forget that the best thing I could do for my kids is to let them see how foolish I am so that they can see how great Jesus is. Far too often, my inclination is to focus on being a good parent instead of pointing my kids to their better Savior. But when my faith falters and I am disheartened over the difficulty of pursuing community in these crazy days, they get to see what my house is actually built on and, maybe for the first time, see what it looks like for a sandy foundation to give way. I love to share my faith when it’s strong, but what about sharing my Savior with them when it’s paltry? But Jesus is the Rock, not me. And so, each time I realize I am putting my hope in a foundation I have made of sand, I not only have the opportunity to repent, I have an opportunity to let my kids see it. I get to show them my idols, so they can see them dismantled in the backyard.
Let Them See You Encounter Rains, Floods, and Winds
One day in particular, it was all just too much for me. The news and the virus and the injustices and the screens and the isolation from others. It had started raining, but now the floodwaters seemed to be rising. The wind was howling. My head was spinning. I snapped at my pre-teen for not putting his shoes away. I huffed at my girls when they wanted my attention. I ignored my husband when he gently asked what was wrong. I wanted to hide from everything and everyone—I wanted the hard things to just go away.
If I had a nickel for everytime I said, “This isn’t how we thought this would go,” with respect to the last few months, I’d finally be able to spring for that super-fast Zoom-worthy internet. From loss of preferences and unmet expectations to deep suffering and loss, the rains and floods and winds have been real. So, let’s not pretend that they’re not. Let’s not give our kids false hope in a life of only sunny days. Doing so will threaten both their contentment and perseverance when the storms in their own lives inevitably come. Yes, share in wisdom. But then let them see you pursue friendship over Zoom. Let them hear you ask for prayer around the dinner table because loneliness is real and you miss your people and things feeling normal. Let’s not neglect the privilege we have to show them what it looks like to do hard things in hard seasons because both are guaranteed.
Let Them See That There Are Other Houses
When you spend so much time within the same walls, it’s easy to forget that there are other people in other houses. The temptation towards isolation has probably never been stronger. We can easily fail to realize that the weather may be far worse for a neighbor than it currently is for us. But our need for each other isn’t diminished by our need to stand six feet apart. In fact, if anything it highlights how great our need actually is.
My heart has needed to be frequently reminded that the difficulties in relationships right now are not to be ignored or pacified, but lamented and pursued nonetheless. I have never wanted to throw a dinner party like I do right now (and I’ve always been game for a dinner party). I have never wanted to sit next to a stranger for hours and hours and hear their story like I do now. I have never been brought to tears over the injustices experienced by my brothers and sisters of color like I have been recently. So, while there are limitations to inviting neighbors and friends over to enjoy my newly-hung porch swing, I can invite my kids into the reality that community is worth fighting for, people are worth seeing, and our house is not the center of any universe.
You don’t have to be a parent for long to learn that most of what we need to teach our children is stuff we need to learn. The little eyes watching us in our lives and around our tables are a grace to us. Let’s humble ourselves so that we can learn with them that He is our Rock, that no storm is stronger than He is, and that we are not alone.