My dog, Chloe, has what we often term in the human world as “selective hearing”. I’m pretty sure her hearing, at age 14, is impaired. She has good days and not so good days but, then, so do I. On the other hand, when Chloe wants to hear, miraculously she can. If I say, “Do you want a cookie?” her ears perk right up, she puts on her super intelligent look, assumes a slightly cocked head and her tail wags quite appealingly – all to secure the deal. Then she goes right for the closet where I keep her jar of “cookies”.
Okay, that I can buy but I do have to ask why five minutes after the cookie has been consumed Chloe will suddenly go deaf again…this time to my encouraging calls to come and sit with me on the chair. After a few tries I give up, push my lounge chair back into a reclining position, pick up my book, and start to read. Inevitably, as soon as Chloe is sure I’m comfortable she walks over to me, sits despondently at the foot of the chair, and whines pathetically until I lower it and lift her up so she can sit next to me.
There’s at least one other time when Chloe’s hearing seems to miraculously improve. As soon as we drive down the road to the house and I say to her, “We’re almost home”. Inevitably, she’s all ears, tail and bark. She’s knows home. She knows it’s where her food and her bedding is, where she can curl up on the rug in a favorite sunspot and get warmed all over. She knows who lives there and she knows she lives there. Home means something to her just as going home means something to all us.
Hopefully, for most of us, home is a place of sanctuary, comfort, and peace. It’s not always true but even if our homes aren’t like this, we sense they should be. Homes are where we know we should feel safe and protected. Sadly, there are many homes, which don’t provide this sense of security and calm and there are many more who have no place to call “home”. But, as I said, even in the homes that lack the ideal, even among those without a home to call their own, something within us and them knows what should be though it may not have been experienced by us first hand. I wonder why that is. Why do we know and even yearn for an ideal we may never have experienced?
Ralph Waldo Emerson once wrote: “Every spirit builds itself a house, and beyond its house a world, and beyond its world a heaven. Know then that world exists for you.” That says it all. There is something within us creating a vision of what is so central to our lives…home. Home, real or imagined, is where our hearts rest.
John’s gospel talks about this ideal. In Chapter 14, Christ tells his disciples he will go ahead of them to prepare a place…a home where they can rest. Even in this chapter, Chapter 10, John speaks of the shepherd who leads his flock, keeps them safe, and who will guide them to good pastures, a place to rest and where they will be fed and cared for.
The importance of family cannot be minimized, though in the world in which I move, there are often more broken families than intact families. A family can best support one another when it is supported by those entities around them like churches, like schools, like work places. All these supporting structure are integral to truly healthy, strong families with strong, healthy parents and children. We don’t live in that world anymore. Maybe it never existed. Instead, what we experience far too often are churches, which become critical of parenting styles, schools, which fail to work cooperatively and collaboratively with families to support the needs of both children and their parents and work places, which seem to forget or not care that there personnel have ongoing responsibilities to meet by being present to and for their kids. Too many hours at work with too little pay and a lack of flexibility on the job makes scheduling doctor appointments, attending special days at school when their children are involved in science fairs, sporting events, a play, concert or some other activity…all this will lead to the kind of emotional issues and depression that is rampant in our society.
We can hold a day like this one; we can celebrate the Festival of the Christian Home but as Christians, as caring God-people, we really need to do more than give lip service to the idea of a healthy family. Prayer, outreach, intentional helps for families within and beyond our walls should be high on our priority list. God has called all of us to be good shepherds of one another. God encourages us to take the lead on reaching out to families and we can do that in so many ways. How?
Well, here’s just a short list:
- Volunteer in the school system.
- Mentor a child through Big brother/Big Sister.
- Give some time at our week long end of June Vacation Bible School.
- Give a donation of food to the Food Pantry.
- Befriend a family in your neighborhood.
- Offer to be a reader to preschoolers at your local library.
- Attend a sporting event or concert of one of our own church kids.
In all these ways, and this really is a very short list, we can make a difference in helping to strengthen our families. Even one changed life, even one child, one parent; one family who experiences some sense of support from someone can create a sense of home…a place of safety, a place of peace, and a place of rest. Now that would create a festival worthy of celebration. The concept of family and home would cease to be an ideal and become, as it should, a reality. Amen.