Like many things I write about, this topic has been on my mind not because I'm so good at it, but because I'm quite the opposite. Much as I would love to glide through our front door and enter a Norman Rockwell painting, most days my home more closely resembles a Jackson Pollock train wreck.
Get me out of this house! Have you ever thought (or sobbed or screamed) those words? Worse yet, do you think your husband or children ever feel that way? Obviously, we all get cabin fever now and then, and there's nothing wrong with an escape out of the house for a while—even better if it's to the Waffle House! But if our homes are more characterized by turmoil than rest, something is amiss.
How Do We Get There?
Years ago I stumbled upon a blog post in which the author examined every occurrence of the word "home" in the Bible. She discovered that the Bible consistently referenced "home" as a place of rest from labor (1 Kings 8:66, 12:24, 13:7), a place of refuge (Josh. 20:6; 2 Kings 14:12), and a place of joy (2 Chron. 7:10; Ps. 126:6). What beautiful attributes for a home! But how do we get there? What are some practical ways we can cultivate rest and refreshment in our own homes? Here are some thoughts from someone who still has a long way to go.
1. Make rest and refreshment a personal priority.
Nobody wants an anemic for a blood donor. Sure, we could wake up running and not pause for breath until bedtime, but we'd probably look more like Medusa than Martha Stewart. And honestly, our families would be the first to suffer.
So how do we make time for personal rest? We assess our schedule and carve it out. God Himself set the standard for Sabbath rest when He finished creating the world and rested on the seventh day (Gen. 2:2–3). Exodus 20:8–11 commands believers to follow His example. While many people observe a day of rest and reflection on Sunday, if you or your husband is employed at a church, this may not work for you! So you need to find the days and times that work the best for you.
I once heard a Christian leader suggest that believers allot time for Sabbath rest for one hour each day, one day each week, and one week each year. Obviously it was just a guideline, not a biblical mandate, but he was stressing the importance of being intentional about scheduling rest. Where could you allot some time for daily personal rest? Could you set aside one day every week for Sabbath rest? How might you prioritize your yearly calendar to include an extended time of rest?
2. Recognize that there's a hierarchy to rest.
Now that we have a window of time, it's important to realize not all restful activities are created equally. While a hearty Netflix binge may feel restful, it's hardly nourishing. In her book Treasuring Christ When Your Hands are Full, Gloria Furman writes, "I'm learning firsthand how turning to the world for comfort and strength just leaves me dissatisfied and weak." Amen, Gloria! Can anyone else relate?
If we want lasting rest, the Bible says it only comes in a Person. Listen to what Jesus says in Matthew 11:29–30: "Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light."
If we want lasting rest, the Bible says it only comes in a Person.
It's not easy to learn from Someone you never spend any time with. I'm not suggesting there's no room for personal hobbies, but those forms of rest shouldn't trump the most important form. How are you using your free time? Is it providing lasting rest?
3. If you have children, enforce a consistent bedtime.
When it comes to practical strategies for rest, few things are as glorious as an early bedtime. From the moment our kids exited the womb, we started putting them to bed at 7 p.m. (Sometimes even 6 p.m. when they were really little. No joke!) Of course it took time for them to get used to the routine, and it's always necessary to deviate now and then, but on a typical day, at 7 p.m. it's "Daddy and Mommy time." Sayonara, kiddos, we'll see you in the morning! It's healthy for their little bodies, my sanity, and our marriage. If your kids don't have a consistent bedtime, what sort of nightly routine could you create to help them develop one?
4. Designate a daily "down time."
This goes hand-in-hand with the early bedtime concept. It's just easier to love someone (particularly those under the age of five) when you get a little break from them now and then! If that doesn't convince you, the Bible also champions the importance of solitude. Luke 5:16 tells us that Jesus "would withdraw to desolate places and pray." Teaching young children to have "quiet time" or "down time" is a great first step to one day teaching them to spend time with God alone.
A simple way to initiate down time is to introduce the concept as your child outgrows an afternoon nap. Replace that chunk of time with a box of crayons, books, or toys. There's no right or wrong way to structure it, and it may take some troubleshooting, but a good goal is to work toward one hour of quiet time a day. Depending on the ages of your kids, how could you establish a designated "down time" for them every day?
5. Work to maintain an efficient home.
Isn't it ironic that we have to work hard in order to rest well? But if the house is a wreck with no clean clothes and no food for dinner, how restful will it really feel? I'm finding that the more energy I invest in the home, the more my family enjoys being in it. But there's a fine balance! As we do our best to manage the home diligently, we must also remember to . . .
6. Love the people in the home more than the tasks of the home.
This is where the rubber meets the road for me. I am a "to-do list" girl. (Check, check, check! It feels so good!) And yet the primary reason our home isn't more restful is because I can be a drill sergeant about maintaining it.
If you consistently value "order" more than you value God's mandate to be kind and gracious with your family, it's possible you (like me) have stumbled into idolatry. Even our good ole' Proverbs 31 gal, who had to be task-oriented, didn't let accomplishment trump relationship. Verse 12 says she brought her husband (and probably her family, too!) "good, and not harm, all the days of her life."
I'm guessing this means she never screamed at them to pick up all their junk before she threw it in the garbage. Is your approach to maintaining the home balanced? Do you need to become more diligent or more gracious? What one step could you take today to grow toward balance?
7. Find opportunities to bless your husband with time alone.
As we think about valuing the people in our homes, let's start with the head of the home. I know my husband often feels guilty taking any time to himself. Because he works all day, he feels bad not spending the rest of his time with the kids and me. But if he's going to serve and lead our family well, he needs time to rest and rejuvenate.
Moreover, he needs a tender welcome after a weary day. I think of the women of 1 Samuel 18:6, who welcomed their men home from battle with songs and dancing. How are you welcoming your husband home from his daily battles at work? What does your husband find restful? How can you give him some time for personal refreshment this week?
8. Be at peace with those within the home.
I'll never forget the day I stumbled upon Deuteronomy 24:5, which says, "When a man is newly married, he shall not go out with the army or be liable for any other public duty. He shall be free at home one year to be happy with his wife whom he has taken." Clint and I had only been married for a few months, and I raced through the house with my Bible held high. "Listen to this!" I cried jubilantly. "Stay home, and let's play all day!" Okay, obviously I took it out of context, but it was so cool to see how God deeply esteems marriage. Clearly, our homes are to be havens of marital and familial joy.
Nothing transforms a restful home into a war zone faster than discord.
But nothing transforms a restful home into a war zone faster than discord. Colossians 3:12–17 urges believers to bear with one another, to forgive one another, to allow the peace of Christ to rule in our hearts, and to let the Word of God dwell so richly within us that we admonish one another in wisdom and gratitude. Let me ask you two final questions that I'm also asking myself: Am I at peace with every member of my household? If not, what steps can I take today, to restore the peace?
Hope for the Journey
I already admitted I'm a checklist girl, and if you're anything like me, you may already have the paper and pen in hand! Okay, let's check these eight steps off and create that perfect home!
Let me just tell you, I wrote the article and the only thing "perfect" in my home right now is the homemade peach ice cream my mother-in-law just dropped off. Becoming a woman whose life and home reflects Jesus is a journey, not a checklist. But the best part is, we don't journey alone. As we work hard to create more biblical homes, ultimately we rest in the reality that Christ Himself is working hard within us (Phil. 2:12–13). His power enables us. His pleasure sustains us. And His grace never fails us.