Creating a Godly Home
In my faith, there’s a lot of emphasis on this idea of the “domestic church.” It’s the idea that our families and homes are as integral a part of our faith as the community we experience on Sundays. Parents are called to cultivate a domestic faith environment that nurtures belief and becomes a safe haven to be truly ourselves. Those without children are also called to creating a domestic church at home. A place of quiet, calm, peace, and great faith and happiness.
Even if we aren’t members of a faith community, having a happy, welcoming, sacred home is something worth striving for. It’s a safe place to land after a hard day. It’s a place to invite others into your life and heart. It’s a place for goodness and honesty and happiness.
What does a domestic church look like? Is it full of images of saints, statues, holy water, candles, Bible quotations in frames, and a family altar? For me, it doesn’t mean that. If those objects were necessary to create a warm hearth then I’d be out of luck! I’m not one for much religious decoration. It would also make it pretty hard for economically disadvantaged families to take part in this teaching. Faith shouldn’t cost a thing. All lovely, but not necessary.
I think it looks like Holy Spirit breathing into our lives so that every moment is full of the fruits of Holy Spirit: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, self-control, and gentleness. It looks like meeting each other where we are, and encouraging the people in our home to embrace their true calling and true identity in Christ. It also means loving everyone who steps through your door, welcoming them in faith, and showing them hospitality and grace. That unconditional love stuff that’s sometimes hard to find out in the world.
With this crisis of Catholic faith throughout the world, many families are choosing to stay home, curtail their donations, and avoid community events and programs. God loves us in our process and honors the journeys we are all on. I can’t say that I blame people for it. But when we step back from a faith community, it really makes us see our homes up close and the faith life we’ve built Monday through Saturday in a new way. It asks us “What really matters?” “What do I need from my church?” “Why is community important?” “Why am I a part of this faith to begin with?”
Those questions of reflection are essential if we’re going to live an authentic faith life. Whether you get all dressed up and make it out the door on Sundays or stay in pajamas the whole day, I think it’s good to think about the meaning of church and how it fits in our lives.
While many of us are stepping away from a more structured worship life, it becomes even more important to create a sanctuary in our homes. It becomes essential to cultivate that life, protect that time, and enrich our home environment to make it all happen.
I wanted to share a few ways that I’m making that happen in my own life to inspire you to start thinking of ways to build up your domestic church and make it a safe haven from the storms of life.
+ the metronome of heaven
A few posts back, I mentioned this amazing quotation from Bethel Music’s Kalley Heiligenthal, “We need to let the pace of our lives be set to the metronome of heaven.” That resonates with me every day. Especially when I’m walking with my son while he gets his balance as a new walker. I don’t want to miss a minute of that because it forces me to slow way down and appreciate every flower, branch, ant, and breeze. I’m blessed with the ability to be a stay at home parent, but I don’t think the stay at home life is necessary to start slowing down and appreciating the world on a minute by minute basis.
As a family, we’ve chosen to scale back our commitments and schedules to accommodate growth and peace in our hearts. That doesn’t always happen! My husband is out of town nearly every week, so we’re tempted to cram all of life into the handful of hours he’s home and not working. On the weekend, I have a million and one things I’d love to do: go to the zoo, the art museum, go out for dinner, go to the pool, hang out with friends, go to National Parks, you name it.
We’ve had to be very intentional with our plans and wishes so we can have a place of calm and peace in our home. That doesn’t mean canceling everything or staying home every weekend. That means engaging mindfully and only committing to things that really matter to us. It also means saying no sometimes to the things we would like to do to get to the things we love to do: walking with our dog and our baby, sitting on the porch and having coffee, having s’mores with our friends. It’s sometimes difficult, but it always pays off and creates a spiritual haven in the midst of a very hectic, modern world.
+ being loving in our language
My husband and I have been married for 15 years now, and over the years our language hasn’t always been patient or loving. That’s ok though! We’re imperfect and our love is imperfect. But we strive to always be respectful and kind in what we say to each other. I also try to curtail my temper when something frustrates me by stepping away for a minute until I can take a deep breath and speak with kindness to my family. I work hard at being respectful and discreet with my language about my family outside of our four walls. I try to avoid criticizing my husband or my son in public, teasing them in front of others, or pointing out their weaknesses and failures. I try to keep my word to them and protect the things they entrust to me. This will be especially important as my son gets older. I want him to know that I won’t share his secrets or confidences with the world. I want to be loving enough that he trusts his family with the things that matter most to him.
+ faith is caught not taught
I read recently that “faith is not taught, it’s caught.” I love that! It’s so important to develop a faith life in ourselves before we start preaching it to others. I’ve also heard that we should “preach what we practice.” I can’t think of any more important way to create a domestic church and a Godly home. If we aren’t chasing after our faith, talking to God, worshipping, spending time with Scripture, or living a life of integrity, how are the people we love supposed to find their own faith? If they’re not seeing it in action every day, a million words and lectures won’t create any kind of desire in their hearts for God.
By setting a good example, being honest with our doubts and questions, creating faith practices in our private lives, and showing generosity and a heart for the less fortunate, we are giving our loved ones the space to be themselves and live an authentic spiritual life. We can also show that a spiritual life doesn’t look the same for everybody. My husband’s faith life is in action and ethics. Mine is full of emotion, prayer, and music. Some of my friends find their faith in meditation, service to others, and good books. That’s great! Everyone interacts with God in different ways and setting that example is the best way to allow people to be authentically themselves around us.
+ making space for creativity
Jonathan and Melissa Helser are two of my biggest spiritual inspirations. They run a workshop retreat called the Eighteen Inch Journey that leads young people into a life of hope and creativity and encounter with God. Jonathan Helser once said, “Creation is waiting for the sound that is inside of you.” In his programs, he and his family help others find the creative center of their soul and allow a safe space to share it with others. They participate in visual arts, music, making meals together, handwork, gardening. The Helsers believe that every person is called to express themselves creatively. They also emphasize that God is first and foremost a creative God who crafted us out of dust into the complicated, joyful, messy, wonderful souls that we are. By participating in creation and creativity, we can participate in the Divine.
For my family, that looks like my husband’s useful woodworking projects throughout our home: the bench at the door, the desk in the corner, the totally practical shelf in our foyer for dog treats, leashes, and bags. It looks like my son playing piano and drums and singing and trying to use highlighters and colored pencils to “decorate” our living room. It looks like me creating space in our home for projects, carefully arranging our living space and decorations, wrapping presents, making meals, singing songs. For my dog it looks like creating a comfy bed out of a pile of laundry.
Embracing and encouraging creativity is such an important part of creating a Godly home. It’s His very heartbeat in our lives. Dan McCollam from Bethel Church put it so well, “Creativity is not a mood. Creativity is not a gift. It’s the very nature of God inside you.”
+ cultivating gratitude
Regardless of your faith practice, we can all agree that gratitude is a vital way to live a healthy life. Research supports this too! Some people keep gratitude journals that they fill out every morning and night. I love that idea. For me, it means expressing thanks while I’m doing simple chores. When I unload groceries, I think about how grateful I am to have a full fridge and pantry and the ability to stock it with good food for my family. When I wash my dishes, I look at a picture in my kitchen of the little girl from Ghana we sponsor and thank God for clean, plentiful water. When I’m in line at the pharmacy, I try to take a second to be grateful and mindful of the availability of effective medicines and vaccines. At my son’s bath time, I’m again grateful that the water is clean and comes right out of my faucet at any temperature I like. Not everyone has that convenience, so I try to be mindful of others and appreciate my everyday blessings.
We also started trying a 90/10 prayer routine at bedtime with our son. We do about 90% words of gratitude and about 10% special requests. I ask God for all kinds of things during the day, and it’s important to Him that we ask. It’s also hugely important to Him when we thank Him for all His blessings. It’s a once a day routine that keeps our hearts grateful. However you practice gratitude, whether with your spouse, your roommates, your children, your pets, cultivating gratitude makes your home a lot more loving and kind.
+ identifying God in our daily lives
For me, I see God in all kinds of things. When I was teaching high school, I had a large number of students who were atheist. I often admired their dedication to charity, kindness, service, and being ethical people. I loved that they did these things out of the goodness of their hearts, not out of any kind of religious obligation. We can all be inspired by this! In their small actions like buying a thirsty classmate a drink from the vending machine, helping classmates study and finish homework, being respectful to teachers, avoiding gossip, and thanking people, I could see God working really clearly through them. If God is love, then the love they were showing has to be a part of the Divine.
Now that I have a child, I like to point out how God works in our daily life. As he gets more and more verbal, it’s going to be easier to get that concept across. When a stranger says hello or opens the door for us, when someone helps us bring the groceries into our apartment building, when we see two friends laughing and talking together, when we see someone donate food or money to someone living on the street, I can so easily point out how God is working through that person. I can also encourage our family to be Jesus’ hands and feet by doing these things in return.
And when scary things happen like storms or accidents or we see emergency vehicles go past, we can ask God for help. It’s really as simple as that. Pointing out times where God is present and where we need God in our lives is such an essential way to create a domestic church.
+ creating a healthy haven
In 1 Corinthians 6:19, Paul says that our bodies are “the temple of the Holy Spirit.” That has a lot of different interpretations, but the one that rings most true to me is that our bodies are just as important to our spiritual lives as our hearts and minds. I don’t take that teaching lightly.
Sure I love my indulgences: zillion calorie desserts, drinks with friends, fried appetizers, but I try not to let that be the bulk of our meals at home. I like to create meals based around fruits, vegetables, lean proteins, healthy grains. I make the best meals I can afford and make sure I’m planning healthy meals for my family so we’re not reaching for junk food all the time. I love cooking with my husband and going to the grocery store together to pick out things to eat. It doesn’t happen all the time, but when we do I’d like to think we’re participating in something important. Together, we’re creating a home where health is a priority.
Physical activity is also important to me. Our family likes to go on walks together any time we can and spend time in the park. It doesn’t have to be formal like doing a workout at the gym. Just making time for activity and shutting the tv off sometimes shows that we consider it a priority. I also like to work out and take my son to classes at a local toddler gymnastics program. Moving around and being healthy are totally a part of the domestic church! If our body is a temple than loving and caring for it is absolutely holy.
+ rituals and routines
If we are participating in a church community, coming together during the week is so important. It’s where we encounter each other and where we can clearly encounter God. As we serve and worship and follow the seasons with our neighbors, we emphasize how important that is to our little domestic church. These routines and rituals and seasons are a way to mark change and time and move together in fellowship throughout the year.
If we’re not participating in a church community, following along with seasons and ritual is also important and can be done pretty easily in our lives. We can celebrate holidays with our friends and neighbors, decorate for the seasons, set up daily, weekly, monthly, and yearly routines, start paying attention to changes in weather or environment or the phases of the moon.
In my home, we have a pretty consistent daily routine and weekly routine that includes work, rest, and play. I love to have that kind of predictability in my life. Even when things are hectic, it’s good to return to that routine to remind us that we have a home and responsibilities in life that give our lives meaning. On holidays, we like to spend time with family and friends and make things a little special. Even if I’m not looking at a faith calendar with clearly marked saints’ festivals, I’m still aware of the holiness of daily life and the regular sacrifices I make throughout the year to love everyone I meet.
Those are just a few of the ways I like to cultivate a domestic church in my home. Is that how yours will look? Maybe! But I encourage you to create your own list and add to it daily. If yours involves your children coloring pages of religious figures or specific things from scripture, embrace it and make it a regular part of your life. If yours involves writing in a daily gratitude journal and meditating on the goodness of life, make it happen more often. I just want to encourage people to see how faith permeates our everyday lives, not only in specific “church-y” ways. I also want to let non-believers know that you can create dignity and holiness in your daily life that has nothing to do with a faith practice at all! Gratitude, service, health, kindness, peace. These are all things we can strive for regardless of what our faith practice looks like.
So whether you’re sitting out church for awhile, attending regularly, or just chilling out on a Sunday watching football, try to think of some ways that your home can be a happy place full of love and laughter and the rhythm of heaven.