Have you ever walked into a home where grace just overshadowed you crowding out your fears and the heavy loads you were carrying?
Early on in our marriage, John and I were fortunate enough to be invited to a sweet couple’s beautiful home. The Nichol’s home was beautiful physically, but in no way compared to the love and grace that filled the space inside. They had a way with people. Their preteen daughters were bursting with life and did their part making guests feel welcome. Their home was filled with laughter, love and most of all – Jesus. Each person has a story and Tim wanted to hear it. He would draw out the reluctant ones, laugh easily with the funny ones, and show compassion for the sad ones. He was there. He was with us. Kathy moved through all of us making contact with each person making sure all of our needs were met. She talked easily with everyone, drawing us out and into the conversation. In those days, I was a shadow lurker and there was none of that in their house. I was leaning on the counter, when I noticed a family mission statement hanging on the refrigerator. Suddenly, it all made sense. Their home was like this on purpose. They didn’t just stumble upon having a home filled with grace. They choose it. I slipped over to John, quietly pulled him next to me and in the most not obvious way I could, I pointed to the paper hanging there. He read it and then looked at me. I knew we would talk about it later – and we did. Long story short – by the end of the night, we wanted to BE them. One night at the Nichol’s truly made a difference in our lives. I don’t know if we knew it then, but we can see it clearly now. A shift happened.
One casual night roughly seventeen years ago, was probably one of the most pivotal nights for our marriage and future family. Strangely, it wasn’t a conference, it wasn’t a book, it wasn’t a teaching and there wasn’t even a word spoken about marriage and family. The overwhelming love, kindness and heart of Jesus that filled their home changed us. It changed what we desired, changed where we were heading, and quite honestly, changed our life. I imagine we still don’t know how much that little night influenced us.
Before that night, we were trying to not fight, not be selfish, not say words that shouldn’t be said and a handful of other ‘nots.’ That night we realized that those goals, while worthy, were missing the point entirely. We didn’t want a home that was just void of bad things, but we wanted a home filled intentionally with the life that Jesus brings. We didn’t want to just not say hurtful words, we wanted to speak life giving ones. We didn’t just want to be in the same room, we wanted to be present with those who were in that room. We didn’t just want to not be selfish, we wanted to actively give of ourselves to those around us. We wanted a filled home. One filled with the good things that is the result of unhindered surrender to Jesus and His ways of doing things. We wanted a home like that. We want a home like that. A home where when someone walks into it, they walk away different because of the love that is there. A home where all belong. A place where Jesus is found. If I had to guess, I would guess that is what you want too. We want our home to be a place filled with good things.
A place of unrelenting love.
A place of belonging.
A place of grace and freedom.
A place where words rebuild and restore.
A place where creativity and courage are called out.
A place where compassion is built.
We learned that day we can choose what kind of a home we will have. We can just allow whatever we’re thinking and feeling to be said and acted on or we can choose to love. Choosing something takes a lot more effort than allowing something. Choosing takes thought.
We don’t go looking for things to allow into our home – those things come looking for us. Allowing means we are letting something in. In my mind, allowing is a bit passive. We allow ourselves to get worked up about something. We allow ourselves to speak harshly when things don’t go our way. We allow ourselves to say that sarcastic comment, knowing full well it will hit the mark. We allow ourselves to have a bad attitude internally that always eventually makes its way out.
Choosing requires deciding something and acting on it. Choosing requires God. It requires us to hand God our feelings, our anger and our rights and let Him exchange them for His perspective, His forgiveness and His grace. Choosing is hard. In the moment, it’s much easier to allow our little desire for our own way or our own rights to cause us to lose sight of our larger desire for a home filled with compassion, grace and love. So often we give up something so valuable for something so trivial.
We can allow angry words out of our mouth or we can choose to leave them unsaid and speak life instead.
We can allow our home to be filled with landmines that need to be avoided or choose to create a safe place for the other to rest.
We can allow destructive and sarcastic words or we can choose to speak words that rebuild and restore.
We can allow attitudes of condemnation and shame or we can choose to give grace.
We can allow issues to stay under the surface or choose to confront them in a healthy way – even seeking counsel if needed.
We can allow bad attitudes to infiltrate our home or choose to fight them in prayer.
We can allow chaos or choose to invite peace.
We can allow ourselves to demand our rights or we can choose to follow Jesus in humility.
I don’t know about you, but I do not want to allow anything to take the beauty of the home I truly desire. I want to choose a grace. I want to choose love. I want to choose Him and His ways of doing things.
Most importantly, this life we live isn’t spiritually neutral. There is an enemy who wants our home to be full of chaos and strife. When this happens we are worn out before we even step into our day and the God encounters that are waiting outside of our doors. We will leave our doorstep defeated.
Sometimes we notice that our home becomes filled with strife and little annoyances with each other. The last couple of weeks have been like that for us. The kids have been off. John and I have been off. When we went to talk things out, it was like trying to catch gnats in the wind. We were more or less irritated with each other for no reason. We began to pray and noticed an immediate shift in our home. Obviously, sometimes there are real issues that need to be worked out and addressed in our family, but we have found that there are other times when the strife is unfounded and only an inch deep. When this happens, we know that the enemy is trying to create problems and destroy the atmosphere of our home. When we let that go, it doesn’t take long for real problems to take root and unforgiveness to begin to infiltrate our home. That’s his goal.
We are firm believers that people can walk into a home and be changed because of the freedom that God has brought in that place. Afterall, it happened to us. We have learned God desires our home to be a place where we are refreshed. A place we can come and get re-oriented and receive clarity to live our smaller stories within the bigger story that He is writing. He doesn’t only want this for our families, but also for the people who step into our homes. Our homes can be outposts for His Kingdom where wounded souls experience healing, discouraged souls find hope, chaotic souls find rest and all souls can find His love. We have to fight for this. We can choose that He is who determines our attitudes, our activities, the way we handle each other and what we call important or we can allow our every reaction and small desire to rule the day. When it comes to our lives and our homes, we get to choose. Let’s choose grace. Let’s choose love. Let’s choose Him.
*In loving memory of Tim Nichols.
*Thank you Tim and Kathy for sharing your beautiful family with us all of those years ago. We cannot thank you enough for the impact you had in our lives.