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Habits of the Household: What Is Your Normal?

Habits of the Household: What Is Your Normal?

It’s a hard question to answer, because normal things are usually the invisible things. Your everyday habits are precisely the habits you don’t notice. That is, until a crisis reveals them.

It was a kids’ bedtime that first revealed to me my normal as a dad. A few years ago, I was putting my four boys to bed, and everything was going the way it always did. There was bathwater everywhere. The boys were escaping bath and wrestling on the floor of their room. I was shouting orders with increasing volume. No one was listening. I threatened severe bodily harm if teeth were not brushed. It didn’t really work.

I finally muscled everyone into bed, turned off the lights, murmured something about I love you and God does too, and then closed the door.

Standing in the hallway that night, the Holy Spirit suddenly revealed something to me: This is your normal.

Like all moments of grace, it was at first startling. It was convicting. Standing in the hallway with one hand on the doorknob of the boys room, I realized that it was totally normal for me to yell and shout my kids to bed. My evening routine was a liturgy of anger and frustration. Again, like all moments of grace, I suddenly realized I should change that.

A few weeks later after sharing this with one of my pastors, he gave me the idea to try a “bedtime liturgy” with my boys as a way to shake up my bedtime routine. Below is what is wrote.

 Habits of the Household bedtime routines

The first time I did this, it was not smooth. At first, I forgot what I was going to say. Then they took the “Can you see my eyes” as an excuse to poke my eyes. When I asked if they knew I loved them no matter what bad things they do, they were confident the answer was, “No. You clearly do not.”

We had a lot of work to do, but at least by that time in my parenting career, I knew that nothing is normal until it is. A good parent perseveres with a habit.

Then came a night a few weeks later where one of my sons, laying in bed, asked if they could have their nighttime blessing. We exchanged these words of God’s unconditional love for us, no matter how our behavior went, and I shut the door and had another moment hallway reflection.

Nothing about my circumstances had changed. The boys were still little children that got a lot of bathwater on the floor again. They still fought over the toothbrushes. They still had trouble listening. But I was different. I was no longer driving the night towards a moment where I could shut the door and say goodnight, I was driving towards a moment when we could talk about how we are loved by God no matter what.

I realized that is the power of a good parenting habit.

By changing our knee-jerk reaction to ordinary circumstances, God opens up new pathways of grace to guide our hearts, and our children’s hearts, into new patterns of life together.

The Spiritual Power of Habit

Soon I began to see this everywhere.

Habits are the things that shape us even when we don’t notice it. That’s why they are so powerful. Christians have a spiritual word for this, we call it “liturgy.” Liturgies are the patterns of worship we do over and over, semi-consciously to unconsciously, because we want to be shaped in the image of the God who loves us.

But notice how similar habits and liturgies are. They are both things that we do over and over, semi-consciously to unconsciously, and they both shape up. The only difference is that liturgy “admits” that it is centered around worship. Our daily habits often obscure what we worship, but that of course doesn’t mean were not worshiping something.

  • We were created by God to be people of worship. We can’t help but worship. So the question is not whether we’re worshipping in our daily habits, the question is just “What are we worshipping?”.

Habits of the Household

Here is a thought for you: “We become our habits, and our kids become us.” If that has any truth to it, then our habits of the household are one of the most significant parts of our children’s spiritual formation. And usually, we don’t pay any attention to it!

After my bedtime fiasco of realizing my “normal,” I started to think about this everywhere. Habits of the Household: Practicing the Story of God in Everyday Family Rhythms is what came out of those years of refection.

My boys are still quite little. We have four of them, from pre-school to middle-school, and if you came into our house you would find it as messy and loud as any house. However, I hope you would also notice some rhythms that to us, have become normal. And yet, they shape our days in powerfully spiritual ways.

They are all little things: We begin dinner by lighting a candle and proclaiming “Christ is light.” It’s a small way to call kids to dinner (as it turns out they like fire) but a big way to shape their theological imagination in the truth that Christ animates all of existence.

Before leaving for school in the morning, we pause at the door and all recite a sending prayer: “Father, Son and Holy Spirit, thank You for this day. Bless us as we work, study, and pray. Be present with us, in all we do, may we bring glory and honor to You.” It’s simple and short, it even rhymes a little. But it’s a way to make our moment before school a little less of a rush, and a little more of a missional moment where we all walk out into the world to glorify God.

After discipline, we have liturgies of saying, “I’m sorry,” “I forgive you,” and then hugging to reconcile. This has been a really important one for us, as I’m confident me and my boys get more opportunities to apologize and reconcile than most. But it’s a wonderful way to remember that conflict amongst sinners is not unusual. What’s unusual is forgiveness and reconciliation.

Letting God Make “New Normals”

All of these things are little, and yet the Lord has used all of them to reshape our day to day interactions in meaningful ways.

  • We all have habits. Why not try to let the Lord reshape them into new normals?

But remember this: Habits won’t change God’s love for us. But God’s love for us should change our habits.

Written for Devotionals Daily by Justin Whitmel Earley, author of Habits of the Household, copyright Justin Whitmel Earley.

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Your Turn

What is your normal? What could be adjusted even just a little bit, reshaped and focused by the Lord to lead to “new normals”? Come share with us. We want to hear what new habits/liturgies you’re putting in place. ~ Devotionals Daily