Life looks a lot different these days, doesn’t it? We’ve all become homeschoolers. Most of us are working from our kitchen tables instead of at the office. We’re struggling to find a rhythm that feels normal. Thrown out of your groove, you wonder how to be the man your family needs right now. You want to be a dad and husband who loves his family like Jesus.
For Joanna and me, we were homeschooling for years when homeschooling wasn’t cool. We’ve also been working from home for over two years now, before we knew this would be a forced reality for all of us. However, even though we’ve already experienced both of these situations, we were not prepared to adjust to a 24/7 quarantine together as a family.
As weird as it was, at first it was kind of fun. It felt like we’d been handed a few unexpected Michigan snow days. Our family was just like you–we were posting photos of all the ways we were taking advantage of the extra togetherness. Yet as the days are turning into weeks, we’re seeing devastating effects on people’s health, quality of life, jobs, and finances. At our house, the natives are restless! My wife and I fell into one of the dumbest fights the other day. It was one of those fights where you look back later and wonder, What was I so upset about?! You feel a little embarrassed you could even get that upset over something so trivial. This thing has definitely lost its luster.
At Growing Home Together, we like to say that home is a place where God teaches us how to love better. It’s where we see both the best and the worst sides of ourselves on display. Some days I do a pretty good job of loving and serving my wife, and other times I’m determined to have my own way and feed my ego. One minute I do a decent job of giving my kids a glimpse of the father-heart of God, and the next moment I’m sure they see a big hypocrite. So as good and as hard as quarantine has been for us, I’m reminded once again to grab the chance to love my family like Jesus.
I know you want to grab your chance, too. Here are six ways you can live out your calling and be the man your family needs right now:
Giving and Serving
During this lockdown, I have 1,440 minutes each day with my family. The Bible says I’m to lead our home, and the best characteristic of any leader is servanthood. Jesus himself “did not come to be served, but to serve.” (Matthew 20:28)
The ways I’m trying to serve are really simple, but it ain’t always easy. I’m helping around the house before dishes pile up in the sink or the floor gets too crunchy. I suggest takeout so Joanna doesn’t feel obligated to cook all the time. When groceries run low, I head to the store with the list and a mask. The kids get twitchy, so I’m running, hiking, and biking with them before the “Mom! Mom! Mom!” makes my wife’s head pop off. If I ask, “Do you need anything?” I make sure I’m sincere and follow through. And, I’m learning to care for my own needs a little better so I’m up to the task of serving my family.
God is using this season of serving to expose my heart attitudes. Am I serving out of duty and obligation or out of love? Can I step up and do what might not come naturally? Am I willing to form new habits of serving that will endure when life gets closer to normal again? I want to become a man who puts love in action as I serve my wife and kids.
Biting My Tongue
Michigan played a cruel joke on us last week by interrupting spring with a chilly dose of winter weather. I noticed as we were stuck indoors for hour upon hour, it was easy to become impatient with each other. Bored, frustrated, and anxious, we struggled to obey the Word to be “slow to speak and slow to become angry.” (James 1:19) The first sign that I’m hitting my limit is my speech–I become cynical and sarcastic. I get punchy and turn into Mr. Jokester.
My quarantine challenge is to push the mute button if my words are not beneficial or edifying to my family. Everyone has enough stress right now. My wife does not need to hear all the things she needs to do or how to do them better. My kids don’t need a rude critique of their home haircut, cluttered closet, or mood swings. So, if it’s not helpful and encouraging to my people, then I’m trying my best not to say it.
Choosing our words carefully is always the wise way to go. Proverbs 21:23 says, “Those who guard their mouths and their tongues keep themselves from calamity.” By self-editing, I can spare my family the “calamity” of wounded hearts and broken relationships. Who needs a calamity on top of a pandemic? Let’s be prayerful about the words we speak.
Opening my mouth
While my family doesn’t need me to speak foolish and hurtful words, they do need to hear all the ways they’re valued. My kids need to hear I’m proud of them for facing the challenge of online learning and social isolation. I want my wife to know she’s awesome for juggling all the things so well. Words of affirmation are not my love language, but I’m not off the hook if I want to build up my family.
Will my words speak life into our home each day? Saying “thank you” instead of complaining goes a long way in this hard time of life. I can express optimism and faith instead of repeating the negativity spouting from every screen. Through my words, I can love my family and influence the spirit of our home for the better. I’m asking God to teach me daily to say “what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen.” (Ephesians 4:29)
Chucking my agenda
If you’re like me, you’re battling to get as much done as you can. Your job (or job loss), finances, and to-do list are capturing your focus and attention. When we feel like life is spinning into chaos, we grab on even more tightly to our agenda of security and productivity. We react to our stress by pulling away from our family and going passive as dads and husbands. .
Are you like me, trying to check off the boxes of your to-do list in a houseful of people? Have you immersed yourself in distractions like projects, entertainment, or technology? Are you clamping down on your family like a drill sergeant to create a sense of order and control? For me, I’m working to ditch my agenda and lean in to what my family needs right now.
Jesus says to love my wife “just as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her.” (Ephesians 5:25) God reminds me that “a father has compassion on his children.” (Psalm 103:13)
It’s time to chuck the agenda of doing what I want, when I want, how I want, and die to myself like Jesus died for me.
As we push through this lockdown, I’m still pressing on to finish a class I’m taking. God must have known I’d need to study the book Invitation to the Jesus Life. He’s using it to challenge me about what it means to be an attentive listener. The author makes the point that for Jesus, listening was a vehicle to love people well. It hit me how I need the spiritual discipline of listening to love my own people more fully.
Do you give just half an ear to your son or daughter while you’re on your devices, responding with a nod or “uh-huh” without taking in a word they’ve said? Does your wife have to pull headphones out of your ears to get your attention? Do you ask questions but mentally not stick around to hear the answers? Loving and listening like Jesus means looking my family in the eyes and giving undivided attention when they have something to day.
Listening is honestly one of the most honoring and Christlike things we can do for others in this day and age. Everyone is aching to be heard, because so few of us are willing to listen. I want to use this season to practice true listening as a way to show I love my wife and kids.
In my calling to serve, speak, surrender, and listen in love, I’ve got to pray. There is no way I can do these things without the Spirit’s help. It’s impossible to build these habits into my life in my own strength.
And, one of the best ways I can care for my family in these stressful times is to lift each of them up in prayer. I can ask God to accomplish his plan to draw us closer to him and each other. To show us how to depend and trust him more completely. To comfort us in our losses and give us courage to face the future. The Bible says that the prayer of a righteous man is “powerful and effective.” (James 5:16) Through prayer, God will reveal the story he’s writing for our family.
I know this isn’t the first word of challenge you’ve read during the pandemic. All over social media, we’re pushed to “hustle” and grab the next opportunity for ourselves. I know God doesn’t want me to waste these days, either, but he doesn’t want me to use them to build my own kingdom. Instead, he is calling me to learn to love in a whole new way.
I still blow it. (Remember that ridiculous argument I mentioned?) Clearly I’m still a work in progress. As hard as these days and weeks might be, it’s the perfect training ground for God to grow us as dads and husbands. He’s going to show us how to love better under our own roof, so we can share Jesus with a world who needs him more than anything. Commit your way to God, and he will give you all you need to be the man your family needs right now.
To pray targeted, powerful prayers for your marriage and your kids, we offer these resources for you! Available to order today!