Sitting outside amidst pine trees, a coral setting sun, our crew gathered on the deck. We find the company of each other an affirmation of our essential selves. We find rest, freedom to be ourselves, a place to belong away from the eyes of the world. Crazy though it is, our family are all idealistic writers. Each of us at home this week, (Nathan, Joel, Joy, Clay and me) are working on book deadlines. We cherish the power of the word, and the Word become flesh. Our deck has become a haven of retreat, food, drink, giggles, awash with the antics of our already beloved golden retriever, Darcy, amidst a week of hard work hours and hours every day.
As I look at life from my 60's, I can see how having a place to retreat, a place to grow up without the expectations of outside peers and pressure to perform has been of infinite value. Home is the place where all should feel they belong. It is a place for immature people to grow steadily toward maturity. A place where people are believed in for what someday they will become but may not be yet. A place where the foundation of love is set in steel so that at the end of the day, all fusses, let downs, blow ups, straining towards ideals in a life that is so secular, it disdains ideals--that love holds us all, every day, unconditionally. Love that believes forward by faith in what one will become while saying that today, I love you, because I understand vulnerability.
Home is a place where even teens can feel a freedom to grow, wiggle, change, question, push. I was remembering how important this was to a sweet one who needed to know I understood that ideals ar what we move toward, even if the warp and woof of life is constantly in flux with growing people.
Furrowed eyebrows above large dark eyes was the signal to me as a mom that something was not right with one of my children. Like my other precious ones, she had faced the challenge of growing up more or less in public and was feeling exposed and fragile, inadequate to live into such a pressured role.
God has blessed our family with the opportunity to interact with so many people from so many different walks of life and to touch others with our ministry, but I had learned very quickly that this was not always easy for my children. And this particular child had begun to grow into a challenging point of adolescence and especially needed attention and affirmation from me.
“Mama, do you ever feel like a hypocrite when your life is so . . .visible? Doesn’t it get hard to keep on writing and speaking about your ideals when your failures are right out there for people to see? Do you ever feel disqualified?”
She went on: “I really need to get away from the voices and eyes of the world right now. Can’t we hole up in the house for a few days and just be ourselves, with all our warts and weirdnesses?” We ended up doing just that.
Truth be told, I could totally relate to what my sweet daughter was saying. I feel like quitting ministry about ten times a week! I am just a normal Christian woman wanting to love Jesus and live according to His example, and God simply called me into a more public place than I would ever have chosen.
How well I know what my child was discovering—the vulnerability that comes from being a leader, from publicly standing firm on an ideal. You put your neck out and stand for principles, and yet you are still only human and make mistakes along the way. Not everyone understands, and there is plenty of criticism to face in the journey.
Add to that our breakneck, high- pressure, high-consumption contemporary culture and it’s easy to reach a place where we feel depleted, needing a place of safety and refuge, desperately thirsty for emotional, physical, and spiritual water to refresh us. The way I have been able to bear all this (most of the time) is to make our fallibility a part of our message. I’ve always been up- front about the reality that I and my family aren’t perfect or always strong.
The way I have been able to bear all this (most of the time) is to make our fallibility a part of our message. I’ve always been up- front about the reality that I and my family aren’t perfect or always strong.
We fall down and mess up like any other family. But even when we’ve blown it, struggled with the dark side of life, or wallowed in our own sin and selfishness, God has been faithful to us. The heart of my message is that God still redeems every moment, every mistake, and every failure.
It is a risk to stand for something, to seek after the holy ways of God, to keep going when you are weary to the bone, to love when you feel hurt and rejected, especially by those who call themselves Christians. Every one of us will be called in some capacity to live into a call that is holy, separating us from the world, and leading us to pathways towards God--and will face this struggle in some way.
That’s why all of us need a place of escape from time to time. We need a home—but not just any home. Home needs to be a haven of safety, acceptance, and unconditional love, a place where we can rest and find refuge from all the devastating and depleting parts of life. And mamas need grace of forgiveness and compassion most of all.
When the storms and difficulties come, home should be the first line of defense against despair, the place doubt can be fully expressed, yet find a place to move forward to faith. A place where failure moments can be met with, "I understand," and ideals can still be at the foundation to hold it up. This is why we must guard our homes as if they were our very lifelines. Because they are! And God wants us to find his mercy, compassion and love in this place of breathing rest.