Keeping the Home4
At age 60 I remember the days when church women’s ministries were focused on Titus 2: 3-5 which in part teaches women to be “keepers at home.” In fact, I was one of those pastor’s wives who taught this passage in our own church’s women’s ministry. Honestly, I benefited from this. I gained a vision for my home as the primary focus of my gifts and ministry. I learned to push through not feeling creative or administrative enough to get it all done. God used other women in my life to inspire and help me overcome patterns of procrastination and I really did come to love the often mundane tasks of keeping a home running.
In recent years I’ve observed what seems to be a reaction to church teachings on “Biblical Womanhood” issues. While I fully agree I participated in a too-narrow application of passages including Titus 2 as being the end-all of a woman’s life and ministry, the fact is this passage is in the Bible and it is one of the few passages that specifically addresses pastoral teaching to women about ways we can prevent God’s word from being “maligned” (defamed, nullified, slandered). I think the course adjustment to broader passages of Christian living that apply to women and men alike is a good one. But I’m concerned that some women have reacted to what is sometimes called “legalistic” teaching for women by giving in to the common temptations women have faced for generations to invest the best of our gifts and skills outside the home.
Whether married or single, with children or without, working both outside and inside the home or stay-at-home mom, we have the God-given mandate and privilege to make our homes a place where God is honored and others are blessed. As a mother of seven I’ve often thought over the years that being a keeper of my home was a lot like being a zookeeper! But how does caring for my home celebrate and honor God’s word? Here are just a few ways being a homemaker has tethered me to God’s word in some helpful ways:
• I learn to be faithful in little things…really little things I tend to think are unimportant (Luke 16:10)
• I’m able to practice the “one-another’s” of scripture (i.e serve, live in harmony with, lay down my life for, bless, feed those in my home)
• I have a daily context for incarnating Christ to my family and others by seeing their needs as more important than my own (Phil 2: 3-4)
• I learn to serve and bless often without appreciation and to live for His “Well done, good and faithful servant” on That Day (Matthew 25:23)
• I get to cultivate and use management skills to make my home a place of warmth and hospitality (Hebrews 13:2; Acts 2:42-27)
• I have to cry out to God in dependence on Him because I don’t have the strength to get it all done (2 Peter 1:3)
• I learn about wisdom verses foolishness in my battles to do what I want rather than what I ought (Ephesians 5:16)
• I’m able to run to God regularly for grace when I begin to drift back toward the procrastination or laziness that once characterized me (Hebrews 4:16)
• I get to imitate my Savior who “came not be served but to serve” and who made it practical by cooking for and washing the feet of those He loved (Matthew 20:28)
Ladies, my daughters generation is facing the same call I faced at their age and that my mother talked about facing at hers. Is God’s timeless word the beacon we follow? The lighthouse on the shoreline piercing the darkness and fog of worldly thinking that calls us to safety? Women throughout history have been lured to find primary fulfillment outside rather than in the home, and have also needed to be taught how to care for their homes! After all, 2000 years ago Paul was instructing Timothy to make sure the ladies in his church were being taught to be homemakers (among other things) and wise pastors are following that example to this day.
If you’re like me, you think you should just know how to do “the obvious.” Who doesn’t know how to make a grocery list? Clean a bathroom? Organize a closet so things won’t fall out when you open the door? Mop a kitchen floor?
While I think most women can figure those things out, what we all need help with is being keepers of our homes. Think about what it means "to keep." I have a friend who has kept me for over three decades. Through rough times in both our lives she has endured with me. She hasn’t cast me aside but has kept me close. When she could have given in to weariness at my stubbornness or thick-headedness or sins against her she chose to keep our friendship a priority. Keeping is hard work. Whether what should be kept is a family heirloom or a friendship, keeping something requires making sure it’s protected through moves or rough times or temptations to think it’s just not that important anymore.
What others and I need to be regularly taught is that keeping a home goes far beyond cleaning, organizing and cooking. I attempted to teach my three daughters that no matter what season they walked through – toddlerhood through old age – the Christ-like character needed to invest themselves into their home wouldn’t be easy. It started with chore charts on the frig…and now includes one daughter with five kids, another with her first baby, and our last college-aged child at home, who needs to be reminded that her laundry isn’t going to walk out of her room and jump into the washer as she dashes from work, to school, to time with friends.
Keeping a home means giving it the value God places on what we do there. I’m keeping something very precious to Him. Making a place where memories can be made and fellowship can be experienced. Milestones can be celebrated and laughter can swell. Conflicts can be resolved and tears are wiped. Yes, that requires grocery lists, (hopefully) clean toilets, and an environment where I’m focused more on people than dust bunnies. But let’s face it: most people enjoy all those precious things more when the environment is warmly tidy.
Which means I’m done here. That irritating dryer signal is calling my name.