Home. What should be a wonderful and nurturing environment, full of love and peace, is often anything but. The enemy is hell-bent on destroying marriages and pitting spouses against each other. His goal: bring ruin and destruction to as many homes as he possibly can.
Many spouses believe that if they agree on the big issues in life, everything else will fall into place. But often it's the "little" things that determine whether the home is peaceful or full of strife, a forgiving atmosphere or one of growing resentment.
Ephesians 4 is an entire chapter urging "unity in the Spirit," which includes our homes. Families grow stronger and closer when individual parts function as they should.
A basketball team doesn't win championships with a single player on the court. The same applies to our homes. During conflicts or trials, it's easy to forget that we're on the same team. But whether your "team" is two (your spouse and you) or 20-plus (think Duggar), you all have a part to play and you're all on the same team.
Having been married for nearly 24 years, I'll be the first to admit that our home hasn't always been harmonious. It took six years of a miserable marriage to finally realize that harmony in the home doesn't just happen; it requires determination and discipline. Yes, it took that long, but I'm just thankful we finally got it!
Along the course of our marriage, we've discovered some principles that have helped us build a harmonious home. Here are six:
• Spend time together. Don't put off the time you have with your spouse for what may seem greener on the other side. It's not—there's just a whole lot more fertilizer there.
The enemy thrives on separation; don't allow too much. We're all busy. Sometimes too busy. While sometimes it can't be helped, often there are things we could cut out, like excess TV viewing, to free up more time for one another.
I work at home and at my husband's new job he's allowed to email me, so we keep in contact throughout the day with words of encouragement, daily happenings, and simple "I love yous." He also calls me three times a day: when he gets to work, on his lunch break, and when he's leaving work—no texting, a real conversation. He may work 45 minutes away, but the regular contact keeps us close.
We also regularly schedule date nights; otherwise they just wouldn't happen. When it's on the calendar, very little will cause us to break the date. We have at least two date nights a month, minimum.
• Make Jesus the center of your home life. When the Prince of Peace is Lord in a home, everyone who enters the home knows it. Anything the world might have to offer cannot even begin to compare to a Christ-centered atmosphere.
I have been in a home where the spousal tension was so charged it could have powered the entire house. I couldn't wait to leave. And I have been in a home where, from the moment I walked in the door, I felt at home, at peace, and blessed to be there. Both were Christian homes.
The difference between the homes of these two couples was the priority Jesus had in their lives. Christ was at the center of one marriage and in the background of the other. But with Jesus as our focal point, even in trials, there will be harmony in the home.
• Build teamwork among family members. You may or may not have children in your home, but teamwork is a necessary ingredient for any harmonious home. Leave out teamwork and you are left with a husband and a wife competing with one another.
One of the greatest obstacles in this area has to do with housework—who's going to take out the trash, wash the dishes and laundry, mow the lawn, and so on. The reason housework becomes such an area of contention is because it's not discussed. When assumption rules, disharmony is not far behind.
Periodically discuss who's going to be responsible for what. Strengths and weaknesses, like and dislikes, and schedules should all be factors in determining who does what. Some things, such as washing dishes, can be done as a team—more together time! The point is to come to agreement so no one person is carrying the load alone.
• Practice the "Golden Rule." As Jesus put it, "Do to others whatever you would like them to do to you" (Matthew 7:12). In our home, the principle is applied in areas of everyday basic life, as well as in decision-making, conflict, and, with four children, discipline. We've discovered that even very young children can understand this principle when discussed on their level. It's in the Bible for a reason: It's universal and priceless.
A while back I was feeling a bit neglected by my husband when he was consumed with work issues, so I decided to throw myself a pity party. But my husband didn't attend; I was still on my own and merely added misery to the mix. There had to be a better way. There was, but it required death to self.
Treating my husband the way I'd like to be treated means I have to lay down my pride. When I started rubbing my husband's shoulders after work, it wasn't long before he was rubbing my feet. When he was short-tempered due to stress, I choose to speak softly and calmly; soon he was doing the same.
• Forgive freely. When we're aware of the logs in our own eyes (Matthew 7:3), it's a lot easier to forgive others for their weaknesses, excesses, and hurts. Modeling quick forgiveness in our homes restores a harmonious balance.
In a home of grace, each family member feels safe to air his or her grievances toward others. We trust that our hurts will not be ridiculed and that we'll be treated with respect at all times.
Unforgiveness leads to bitterness, resentment, and even anger. Pretty soon the home's atmosphere is like that of the aforementioned couple—unhappy and tension-filled. Harmony comes as you "make allowance for each other's faults, and forgive anyone who offends you. Remember, the Lord forgave you, so you must forgive others" (Colossians 3:13).
• Don't neglect the little things that make a big difference. Regularly encourage one another, pay sincere compliments, ban bad-mouthing, and serve freely, to name a few. I've been in homes where these principles are consistently practiced and in ones where they are MIA—huge difference in the levels of peace and joy in the homes.
In our home, when my husband and I let these disciplines slip we soon find ourselves snarky and selfish instead. When we forgo a habit—good or bad—it will be replaced with something else.
Being kind and thoughtful, serving others freely, and giving praise and affirmation don't come naturally; they take deliberate effort. Lately my husband and I have been trying to go out of our way to be kind, even when we don't want to. And that's key, because you won't always want to. But if you practice these disciplines daily, I believe the repetition will cultivate them as a way of life.
A harmonious home is a peaceful home. And peace is found only in and through Jesus Christ. If there is an absence of peace, there will be an absence of harmony. Keep God close to your heart and continuously seek his path for your family.
When our lives are rooted in Christ, his priorities become ours and we desire nothing more than to walk in his ways. "How joyful are those who fear the Lord—all who follow his ways! You will enjoy the fruit of your labor. How joyful and prosperous you will be! Your wife will be like a fruitful grapevine, flourishing within your home. Your children will be like vigorous young olive trees as they sit around your table" (Psalm 128:1-3). Sound like harmony in the home to me.
Tammy Darling is a freelance writer who lives in Three Springs, Pennsylvania.
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