By: Jenni Walker
“But above all these things, put on love, which is the bond of perfection.” Colossians 3:14
All of us have a rhythm by which we live our lives. Of course, some of the elements of our family lives will vary from family to family. But many of them are emphasized in Scripture and must be prioritized, taught, and sought after as disciples of Christ. These elements of daily family life are not just for the purpose of making our own lives “better,” but they help to make the context of family a living testimony of the glory, grace, and goodness of God as we rely on Him!
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Sometimes, life looks very normal or, perhaps, does not look the way we might have planned at all on any given day. I remember a day that I woke up not feeling great. I had a lingering allergy headache and had been up later than I planned the night before trying to transfer family videos on my phone to a DVD/USB converter app. The dishwasher was full of clean dishes, and there were dirty dishes filling the sink from dinner the night before. Our young son played heartily as he often does, and he is in an especially imaginative stage where trains go down car ramps, elaborate pretend meals are made for whatever action figure or toy he is playing with at the moment, and Daniel Tiger and Woody and Sesame Street characters all play together. There were toys strewn about the living room that were part of his ongoing play, and I have learned as a mom that is just part of life. The tidying up would happen later, and the day marched on.
When my son went down for his once-a-day nap later that afternoon, I decided to lay down, too, rather than read a book or tackle the dishes. I turned on a show in the background on the iPad and let my body rest on the couch. My husband has been working from home the past month, and when the end of his workday arrived, I moseyed into our bedroom to say hello before waking our little one. We have been intentional to routinely eat meals at home, but tonight would not be part of that routine. I had not meal-prepped for tonight, and there was a particular restaurant nearby that does pickup orders which sounded delicious to both of us. So I woke up our sleeping toddler from his nap, my husband placed the order, and off we went together in the car to pick up our dinner.
As Bryan drove, the radio played in the background, and I read a few portions of Scripture from my Bible between our usual family chatter. Upon returning home, we settled in to the dining room and dove into the meal before us. Our toddler is not a fast eater these days, and as I was sitting near his high chair doing a final “is your tummy full and happy?” check before clearing the table, my rockstar husband began tackling the dishes in the kitchen. Truthfully, I felt bad, because he is extremely servant-hearted, and I have not been as “on the ball” with doing the dishes each day. But I decided to receive his gracious gesture and began loading our leftovers into the fridge as our toddler ran to find his bubble lawn mower down the hall.
Upon returning to the kitchen with it, we noticed that the bubbles seemed to be out as our little one raced back and forth with it on the tile floor. Bryan started the dishwasher, retrieved a bottle of bubble solution, and sat down beside the toy mower to refill it. Moments later, it was sitting in a puddle of bubble solution from a mysterious leak in its undercarriage. I took our son’s hand and led him to the living room for a quick “tidy-up,” allowing Daddy undisturbed time to figure out the solution to the leak. A few minutes later, the living room rug was visible again, and the mower was its usual self. On we went with the rest of the night: more play, tickle chases through the house, a bedtime story, nighttime prayers, a Mister Rogers episode, PJs, brush teeth, go outside to see the stars (and to find a toad hopping in the driveway!), and then off to bed for our little one.
After he was asleep, Bryan and I poured over the photo apps on our phones as he tried to figure out a storage issue I was having so I could finish my DVD/USB converter project. We debriefed about the day a bit and did our usual “check-in”: Are you going to bed yet? What time are you getting up tomorrow? What do you need right now? We both decided to let ourselves relax a little, him with a bubble bath and me returning a call to a Minnesota family member and then playing a bit of cribbage. Shortly after that, we were both in bed and settling in for the night.
These were the things my family “did” that day. The values they were rooted in and the state of the heart is what I want to focus on. The experience of the day could have been so different if I had begun complaining to myself, if I had demanded more of myself instead of quieting my heart and my body when I needed rest, or if I had begun to approach life as a toddler mom as merely a to-do list rather than a beautiful calling to connect and grow in relationship with my son. There are so many “normal” ways to pour ourselves out in love for one another each day. Many days, that includes me making meals and doing the dishes.. But this day, it was my husband who poured himself out in love in that way by serving me in in such simple yet soul-strengthening ways by making a plan for our dinner and cleaning up the kitchen. On top of that, he fixed our son’s toy lawn mower and threw himself into our evening family time.
In the middle of “doing” (or “not doing” sometimes!), it is so important to keep our hearts turned toward Christ as we receive from Him and pour ourselves out, too. This often happens in small ways. We are teaching our son to put away his laundry (with help, of course) and his toys and to say please and thank you with a happy heart. As for me, I tuned in to what my husband needed at the end of the day – a moment to connect and then some time to personally relax and unwind. And rather than feeling down on myself for not “doing” all the things I typically do, I pivoted my heart toward the Lord and received His grace and perspective.
All of our family lives most definitely require to-do lists and have many normal, as well as unplanned, things that occur in the home. As followers of Christ, sometimes we read passages of Scripture about sacrificial love, patience, and grace, and we immediately think of it as another thing to “add to the to-do list” or to “work into our schedule” somewhere. But the Bible does not merely give us to-do lists. Rather, it provides an invitation to experience the sacrificial love of Christ in the daily rhythms of our family life. In the middle of a regular day, there were multiple moments that I lifted up my heart to the Lord in worship, dependence, and gratitude to Him as I folded laundry, sat on the floor to play with our son, talked with my husband, and lived a seemingly normal “at-home” day.
The next day, I had more energy and a meal plan. The sun was shining, and we got outside for some fresh air. But that does not necessarily make that day “better” than the one before. Each day is full of opportunities to receive wisdom, strength, and love from our Lord and, in turn, to allow Him to infuse even the most normal of moments with His sacrificial love and unshakable grace. We close today with Colossians 3:12–14. As you read this passage, remember that this is not merely a spiritual to-do list but, rather, an invitation to experience the sacrificial love of Christ in your home in transformative ways. We cannot consistently do these things in our own strength. It is both practical and supernatural. The rhythms of our daily family lives will pulse to the beat of His sacrificial love when we choose to value this above all else!
“Therefore, as the elect of God, holy and beloved, put on tender mercies, kindness, humility, meekness, longsuffering; bearing with one another and forgiving one another, if anyone has a complaint against another; even as Christ forgave you, so you also must do. But above all these things, put on love, which is the bond of perfection” (Colossians 3:12–14).
TIME TO REFLECT
1. What specific values guide the daily rhythms of your family life?
2. Read Colossians 3:12–14 again. What is the Lord speaking to your heart?