Many of us often suffer from a dreadful dichotomy of Faith. Nancy Pearcey (1952-present) has put it this way,
“Our lives are often fractured and fragmented….The aura of worship dissipates after Sunday, and we unconsciously absorb secular attitudes the rest of the week. We inhabit two separate “worlds,” navigating a sharp divide between our religious life and ordinary life.”
A prime example of this division between our “religious lives” and “ordinary lives” is within our own homes. Often when the aura of worship dissipates on Sunday, we leave the church house wiping off our Sunday-go-to-meeting faces, in preparation for getting back to the “real business of living.” We often go to our homes and nestle back into the monotony of maintaining our same old attitudes and behaviors towards our families as before. But we must remember that the Gospel is not relegated to a single day nor a single sphere of our lives. Even amid our domestic lives, among the everyday routines of familial life, we must allow Christ to examine us and be exalted throughout. He is either Lord of all or Lord of none when it comes to our lives.
FAMILY LIFE AND THE CONTOURS OF OUR SOUL
In a very real sense how you treat your familiars displays more about the contours of your soul than anything else.
You can sing in the church choir and still be full of unforgiveness towards your spouse every week. You can beat the altars and wail in worship and still possess a disrespectful spirit towards your parents. You can preach with the fire of a prophet and still display an insensitivity to the needs of your family. You can even serve in a soup kitchen and still allow hate to reign in your soul towards your sibling.
The point is God is not interested in your displays of spirituality and churchliness. He is interested in how His holy-love is changing you into the image of His Son amid the little things in life.
Some of the most consistent “little things” of life are how we live with our families and loved ones. This is why in many ways our domestic lives are the truest barometers in measuring the authenticity of our Faith. It is in this environment that most of our time is spent and our personalities, passions, and behaviors fully displayed. Thus, we need to take inventory of how the Adversary uses this area of life to often slowly sap our spiritual vitality. C.S. Lewis’ devil Screwtape gets this across with convicting sharpness when he begins advising Wormwood on how to inflame domestic tensions between a Christian son and his mother,
Keep [the Christians] mind on the inner life…. Keep his mind off the most elementary duties by directing it to the most advanced and spiritual ones. Aggravate that most useful human characteristic, the horror, and neglect of the obvious. You must bring him to a condition in which he can practice self-examination for an hour without discovering any of those facts about himself which are perfectly clear to anyone who has ever lived in the same house with him or worked in the same office…. When two humans [like your patient and his mother] have lived together for many years, it usually happens that each has tones of voice and expressions of face which are almost unenduringly irritating to the other. Work on that…. To keep this game up you…must see to it that each of these two fools [the Christian and his mother] has a sort of double standard. Your patient must demand that all his utterances are to be taken at their face value and judged simply on the actual words, while at the same time judging all his mother’s utterances with the fullest and most oversensitive interpretation of the tone and the context and the suspected intention. She must be encouraged to do the same to him. Hence from every quarrel they can both go away convinced, or very nearly convinced, that they are quite innocent. You know the kind of thing: “I simply ask her what time dinner will be and she flies into a temper.” Once this habit is well established you have the delightful situation of a human saying things with the express purpose of offending and yet having a grievance when offence is taken."
What a convicting incite Lewis has here. He is showing us, through a devil’s words, that how we treat our husbands, wives, children, and parents reveals the state of our soul and shapes it. Marriage, child-rearing, family time, communication between spouses, interactions among siblings, attitudes between parents and children, are all part of this. Through these situations, we come to interact with the first agents in our socialization not only in society at large but also our socialization within the confines of The Church writ large. While our spouses are spouses, they are also brothers and sisters of the Kingdom. While our kids are our kids, they are also agents of Christ. The Adversary does not want us to see this aspect of family life because he knows it's dangerous. This is why he works overtime to craft wedges of indifference and animosity and tartness between us.
Do you want to kill your child’s faith? Then show them habitual indifference to the things of God in the home. This is where the soil of their heart is tilled way before some secular professor plants the seeds of atheism or relativism. Do you want to kill your spouse’s faith? Then show a lack of authenticity in the power of the Gospel to transform your attitude and speech. Do you want to kill your parent’s faith? Then show duplicity of respect towards strangers and unabashed disregard towards them. These are hard things to think about, but if we are to overcome the gentle slopes of spiritual indifference we must come to terms with such things in our lives.
The hardest people to slay one’s flesh before are those we live with. Why? Because we see their warts and they see ours. They see us for who we really are. Thus, it is most often here the hardest battles in our Christian walk reside. What do we do? How do we overcome this? Well, let me first preface that I dare not presume to give complete answers in this field. Nor do I dare presume to affirm having all my proverbial ducks in a row. That said, I believe two things shine forth from Lewis’ insights that are worth considering as we wrestle with the gentle slope of domestic pinpricks (re-read his excerpt before reading below). Consider:
(1)Deliberately displaying spirituality through the ordinary – Too often we Christians like to get “ultra-churchy” with our spirituality. Christianity becomes a place we go, a mode we get in, a particular lingo we squawk. This isn’t how it is supposed to be. Christianity is to be an earthy and practical reality lived through everyday monotony. It’s more than an experience, it’s a way of life. It's more than tongues or prophecy or raising hands, it is about how you treat your husband and wife and kids and parents and friends and family and neighbors (Colossians 3:5-10, James 1:19-27, Ephesians 5-6, 1 Peter 3). This means we need to recover a practical spirituality that takes the initiative to display Christ’s goodness throughout our days in the little things. For example: How we respond when asked to do chores. How we react when corrected. How we serve through cooking and cleaning. How we go about changing diapers and washing clothes. Sound ridiculous? Does not the Scripture say, “So whether you eat or drink or whatever you do, do it all for the glory of God” (1 Corinthians 10:31)? If we are to glorify God even with the baser things of eating and drinking, then would any of the aforementioned be exempt from this?
Rethink your Christianity to include the baser things. Christ is Lord of the great things and the baser things.
(2)Intentional and routine self-examination – We must realize that true spiritual authenticity is found through an honest, consistent, unmasked lifestyle among our acquaintances and familiars. In other words, we need to be asking ourselves how we fall into the equation of our families' imperfections. It is always easier to find fault with our spouses, our kids, and our parents. It is always easier to blame them for why we are overworked, short-tempered, frustrated, angry, and so forth. But is this the whole story? One striking thing about scripture is its continual call to self-examination instead of casting blame on others (Psalm 139:23-24, Galatians 6:3-5, 2 Corinthians 13:5, James 1:23-25). This makes us squirm because we intuitively love to think we are right and the problems of the world are foisted upon us instead of us being part of their making. Sometimes we are. Sometimes we aren’t. Sometimes we are partially and others are partially.
We need to look at our loved ones through the lens of Christ. We need to see them, in all their faults, as Christ sees them – broken yet beloved, imperfect seeking the Perfect One, beggars nourished only by the heavenly Bread. When we do this how we react and interact can and will be transformed, for the glory of God.
 Nancy Pearcey, Total Truth: Liberating Christianity for Its Cultural Captivity (Wheaton, IL: Crossway, 2005), pg. 35
 C.S. Lewis, Signature Classics, The Screwtape Letters (New York, NY: HarperOne, 2003), pg. 191-192
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Michael H. Erskine is a high school Social Studies Teacher, has an M.A. in History & School Administration, serves as a Bible teacher in the local church, and is happily married to his beautiful wife Amanda.