One regular morning I dropped my teens off at school, then headed home to tackle the laundry pile and breakfast dishes. My normalcy was abruptly interrupted when my phone rang at 8:30. Our dear friend Bob Lepine called to suggest I turn on the television. A plane had just flown into one of the twin towers in NYC. I ran to tell Dennis, who hadn’t yet left for the office. We both watched in disbelief as the tragedy unraveled before our eyes.
Thousands of ripple effect crises continued nationwide as every airport shut down, stranding millions. Rental car companies emptied their lots. Complete strangers carpooled together as Americans suddenly had one supreme desire: to find a way home.
For all its flaws, stresses and challenges, home and family is where we most want to be when faced with a crisis, national or personal.
-When the weatherman calls for a winter snowstorm, where do we want to be? Home.
-When work is difficult, we can’t wait to get…Home.
-When our kids share a carpool line lament of a friend’s rejection or disappointment over an assignment that was harder than expected, they are ready to just go…Home.
Home is the place and the environment God designed where every person can find belonging and shelter from all the storms of life. While our homes offer safety and security, they are not without challenges. Jesus taught that every house will face storms. (See Matthew 7:24-27.)
It’s a hard truth to accept that every family will experience storms, so making the most of them is not something most of us plan for. Instead, we spend great amounts of energy working to avoid all sickness, pain and losses.
But our work is futile; we cannot avoid the trials in our world, our family, our home. So it’s time to consider how we can make the best of some common storms:
- Sickness: The way we care for a sick family member models how God cares for us. Nurturing someone back to health is a picture of God’s nurture of us. Your children need to see that kind of love in action. Jesus spoke of this too when He said in Matthew 25:40, “As you did it to one of the least of these my brothers, you did it to me.” Your children can learn about how in the body of Christ, when one part hurts we all hurt. They understand that as they are cared for when they are weak, so God cares for us when we are weak. Being sick is an interruption none of us enjoy, but you can make it a teaching time for your children. Teach your children to be quiet when the sick person is sleeping. Let them take in a tray of food. Encourage them to make a homemade card, read a story, or pray for the sibling who isn’t well.
- Academic Challenges: Create an atmosphere of open conversation for your children to debrief at the end of every school day. Four of our children had the same teacher for junior AP English. She was a brilliant woman, with very liberal beliefs about many subjects, including faith. One of her best qualities as a teacher was challenging her students’ thinking. A lesson she was known for was called “the hot seat.” She placed a chair in the middle of the room, and the students circled their desks around that center chair. One by one the students took their turns on the hot seat to be questioned by this teacher to see how they could defend their beliefs. It was a great opportunity for our kids to feel the intense focus, the debate, and the challenges to their thinking. This teacher knew, just like we did, that these students would experience similar situations ahead on the college campus and in grown up life. But the students knew, just like we did, that the hot seat wasn’t an easy place to be. We were grateful for this trial while they were still living with us, where we could encourage and discuss the experience with them. Coming home on those afternoons and debriefing at dinner was always a safe, welcoming respite for our teens. They learned their doubts and questions were healthy and necessary as we talked. Yes, they experienced some insecurity, anxiety and even embarrassment on the hot seat, but it was an important trial that helped them establish their own faith. And we were waiting at home to love them through it.
- Social Challenges: Not being chosen for the team, not making the grades, not having friends, not being liked by a teacher, and not liking themselves are just a few of the many emotional storms that pounded our kids as they grew up. One of our sons went through a long season of suffering as a teen. Not only was he dealing with a health-related issue that turned his world upside down, but it seemed for a season that everything was falling apart for him. I remember thinking that if we, his mom and dad, didn’t believe in him, that perhaps no one else ever would. He didn’t know what he was good at anymore. He was struggling in school and his teachers didn’t believe in him. He was picking on his siblings who didn’t like him in return. It was a long, lonely journey, which I would have changed in an instant if I’d had the power of God. But God had purposes in mind far beyond what we could see.
We had to wait. Until then our job as parents was to love, encourage, and listen to him as we prayed…and prayed… and prayed. Our home was literally the only place of safety in those years for our son. And he would say even he sometimes felt alone even inside those four walls because our best intentions still fell short. We could not do for him what only God could, nurture and heal his wounded soul. In time God did that and today, 20 years later, he is a remarkable godly man.
What makes a home a shelter in the storm?
-A single parent or a mom and a dad who welcome their children home in any and every circumstance of life with love, acceptance, and correction, if needed and at the right time.
-Lots of prayer, both with your kids and privately on their behalf,
-Ongoing teaching of the aligning truth of God’s Word with grace, love, and wisdom.
“Our earthly family should be the ones we want to run, cry, telephone [or text] when we feel overwhelmed by failure! An earthly family is meant to be a solid dependable ‘ear’ that will listen and understand, as well as a place to which to run. Parents should be able to say, ‘You know something of the way we love you. You can always come to us in any kind of trouble. Yet we are nothing in comparison to God, our Heavenly Father whose faithfulness is perfect compared to our imperfection.’
It’s certainly not an easy job for us moms and dads to foster a home that’s a safe and stable refuge. But we’re not alone. We have the Holy Spirit as our helper and guide while we work toward making our house a home.
Not every house is a home, but yours can be. Size and ownership don’t matter. What does matter is the presence of God in your heart and in the heart of your home.
May you make your dwelling a shelter in the storms of life so that your family learns this eternal truth, “And He shall be the stability of your times” (Isaiah 33:6).