Sometimes as Christians we can give the impression that we are not concerned with 'earthly' matters such as aesthetics. Quite properly we don't want to be distracted from our primary focus of glorifying God by vanities. However we can limit our glorification of God and diminish our witness in the world if we spurn all areas of art and beautification. The obvious paradigm is the elaborate instructions for the beautification of the tabernacle given by God Himself. The creation too, is not merely functional but even though marred by the curse, is yet breathtakingly beautiful. These things please God and reveal an aspect of His character to us.
Our appreciation of beauty is both a gift to enjoy and a tool for dominion. As Christian women we have opportunities to utilise this gift and tool in our homes. If our homes and our persons are attractive, especially in a wholesome and enduring way, this helps to provide a safe haven against the pull of the world. Our families may be less tempted by the glitter of worldliness if what we establish in our homes is beautiful and holy in every way.
There is a current philosophy, generated through play groups, kindergartens and child care providers which denigrates careful housekeeping, especially in the area of cleanliness and tidiness. Mothers are encouraged to spend their time enjoying their children, especially playing with them and seeing the world from their perspective. This is seen to be 'quality time'. The neglect of household tasks is mooted as a virtue, a sacrifice for the child's wellbeing and a breaking with the rigidity of family life of past generations.
There are some aspects of this thinking which are laudable, however as always when ideas arise independently of Scripture, the pendulum has swung too far from an earlier extreme. The trouble with worldly philosophies is that they often contain a grain of truth which then sugars the lie. It is true that we can deny ourselves the joys of motherhood by being so 'houseproud' that we have no time to cherish our little ones. They will grow up faster than we anticipate. However it is also true that the way we run our homes affects the way we train up our children. We need to establish godly practices and routines which reflect God's attribute of orderliness, as a haven against the clamour of the world. Homes that are clean, tidy and orderly are restful and peaceful.
That kind of atmosphere also encourages good use of time and allows the members of the family to do important and creative things without being hampered by chaos. Clutter enslaves! If all the cupboards, shelves and even rooms are full of things that we don't regularly use, then we have difficulty putting things away, finding things that we need and to top it off, we have to clean it all! One thing I have learned is not to feel guilty about getting rid of things, it is a release! Let's face it, if we can't use all of those Tupperware containers, icecream tins, old magazines, worn out or never worn clothing and shoes etc., etc. then why should we store it all? We would need bigger and bigger barns!
A lot of frustration arises out of not being able to put your hand to the things that are needed to get things done. If things are generally in the right place then we won't be hindered and distracted from our tasks and we will have time to enjoy beautifying our homes and creating a richness of family life that goes beyond merely meeting necessities.
Children can contribute to the expansion and enrichment of family life also. If they are trained to be careful with good things then they will learn to appreciate them too. For example, every meal can be made a special occasion by the children learning to set the table nicely using napkins, a pretty cloth and perhaps some flowers. When we have visitors, it is easy to make them feel like honoured guests by making up an attractive tray and using good things to serve, elevating even a humble cup of tea to an occasion. This is part of extending hospitality, giving of the best of our households.
These attentions to detail set the tone of a household, create memories and teach the children about a life that is in abundance (John 10:10). Children also learn to care for other peoples' property if they are used to handling more than plastic and if the whole house is more than just a playpen. As children grow out of their babyhood, our more precious things can be used when appropriate and not just kept out of reach and sight. The state of our homes reflect who we are and whom we serve. I believe it is very important to always be prepared for those unexpected 'angels' or the 'least of [His] brethren'.
Your sister in Christ
(Mrs) Lisa Vaatstra (Dunedin).
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Faith in Focus /NZ Reformed Church / email@example.com / revised April 1998 / Copyright 1998