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Volume 17, Issue 4: Femina

Perfectly Domestic

Nancy Wilson

In the world of platonic domesticity, everything runs like clockwork. The children all rise up at the same time each morning, arrive at the breakfast table promptly and dressed appropriately, and then begin to check off the chores one by one on the list posted on the fridge door. Soon they all assemble, homework in hand, ready to leave for school, or they sit down at their desks at home, all attention and cheerfulness, ready to begin their daily studies. Throw in morning worship somewhere in there, and add tidying up their bedrooms, and we have the platonic form of the perfectly-run, "godly" home. The only problem is that so many homes like this can be perfect hell-holes.

Now I'm not against being organized. But we have to model our homes after the style of our Creator, not after the style of a robot or a computer. How does God organize His world? Into precise days, minutes, hours, and seconds. But also into seasons and lifetimes, sunrise, sunset, spring and fall, winter and harvest, full moons, and summer thunderstorms. My husband is fond of saying that God is perfect, but He is not a perfectionist. Perfectionism is man's invention. And some well-meaning saints can fall into the temptation of trying to achieve (so-called) perfection by means of their well-ordered schedules which they impose on everyone around them.
The sun does not get up at the same time every day. But he does get up. The sun doesn't even set at the same time every day, but we always have sunset. Sometimes spring is early, sometimes late. Snow arrives in October one year and stays until March, but then never shows up at all, not even for Christmas, the very next year. God's world is generally predictable, but not exactly predictable. If the weather teaches us anything, it is that God is in charge and He does as He pleases.
Now how does this translate into overseeing our domestic responsibilities? Am I saying we should be unpredictable, never serving dinner up at the same time two days in a row? Of course not. But at the same time, we should not get stressed out about many of the details. When we say dinner is at six, it should come out of the oven sometime around six, give or take a few minutes, and not worrying over such things. Am I saying it doesn't matter if your husband shows up to work on time or not? Of course it matters. But if he is extremely punctual to the second, he is not spiritually superior to the man who is occasionally a couple minutes late. Our flesh wants to take pride in the dumbest things.
This has particular application in raising children. Life should be generally predictable for them. This gives them security and makes them feel loved and cared for. But the schedule should never become more important than they are. I seem to remember the Lord saying something like this: the schedule was made for man, not man for the schedule. If "keeping to the schedule" is an ongoing temptation and source of friction in the home, then the schedule is a snare and a trap. If parents think they are godly if they "run a tight ship," but the children are like the Von Trapp family before Maria arrived, then all is not well. Real godliness can discern the difference between external conformity to the rules, and a heart overflowing with delight in obedience. Wisdom knows when the schedule needs to be ignored, stretched, or thrown out all together.
The spiritual snare in these kinds of things has to do with self-approval. If we have a regimented home life, with every hour planned, we can find satisfaction with ourselves when we have stuck to our schedule, and we view our children as godly when they check off their daily list of duties. But then we are tempted to overlook our bad heart attitudes that come out when we snap at the kids, jerk them by the shoulder, glower at them when they don't do what they are told, scold and correct them for not instant obedience, while all along we are disobeying the biggies right before their eyes. When we go beyond snapping and scolding and even yell at the kids over something little like leaving their shoes in the wrong place, something is seriously out of order. This can be the result of a self-imposed pressure to keep everything in its place, including the children.
But the errors are never just on one side. Some families could use a good dose of scheduling to calm some of the chaos in their homes and provide a little order and stability. And even those families who just careen from one thing to the next can sin by feeling superior to the families who in their opinion are much too tidy. The balance comes when we take ownership of our very own particular sins and weaknesses by confessing them to God. Only then we can learn from one another, discipline our own troubles, and not compare ourselves to our neighbor, either to gloat or to feel inferior.
In the average home, there is much work to be done, and God does not approve of laziness. But beware thinking that your schedule (whether it is a home schooling schedule or feeding the baby schedule) is inspired by the Holy Spirit. Life in our homes should be characterized by joy and thanksgiving where children are taught and nourished in a way that takes their souls into account.

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