Saturday, April 21, 2007

Watchfulness in Regard to Spiritual and Emotional Needs -- Random Thoughts on Looking Well to the Ways of our Household

In addition to watching over the ways of our household with regard to the physical needs of our family, we need to think in terms of spiritual and the emotional needs, as well.

Of course, if we are married, we look to and follow our husband's leadership. But, we, too, have a responsibility to watch over the ways of our households. The original Greek word for keeper at home conveys, in part, the idea of a guardian.

Today, in English, we use the word keeper in the following senses: book keeper, zoo keeper, score keeper, and time keeper. What do we expect of the people who fulfill these offices? We expect them to pay attention to their responsibilities! Imagine the score keeper who looks away just as your team scores a home run! Or, the book keeper who forgets to record important transactions. Or, the zoo keeper whose animals languish and die under his care. (This actually happened at the Atlanta zoo when I was a child).

In the same way, the keeper at home pays attention to what goes on in her home. This echoes what is said about the virtuous wife: "She looks well to the ways of her household".

What is the most important area we should "keep" or "guard"? Proverbs tells us to guard our hearts, for out of it flows the issues of life. The most important area in which we should keep watch is in our personal relationship to God.

Next, we should consider our husbands. Men generally need the following from a wife: respect, companionship, physical intimacy, domestic support, a willing listener, someone to share recreational activities, and a spouse who keeps herself neat and fresh in appearance. We need to keep watch to make sure we are meeting those needs.

Men also need our prayers. They need these far more than they need us to nag them "for their own good". Of course, there will be times when we will provide then with input, provided that we speak with wisdom, kindness, and respect.

Our prayers will be more effective we are alert to what is going on in their lives. One way to do this is simply by asking our husbands, "Is there anything you would like me to pray about for you?"

We can also take note if our husband seems happy or sorrowful, if his work is going well or if its stressful at the moment, if his health seems good, whether or not he has male friendships that encourage him spiritually, etc. How is your physical life going? What temptations might your husband be prey to. Praying about these things is one way we can love our husbands.

Women can neglect their marriages for the sake of their children. This is unwise. Children need for their parents to have a strong relationship. They do not do well when parents sacrifice the marriage under the guise of rearing them. Also, your children will grow up and leave home at some point. If children have been the entire focus of your marriage, you will experience deep relationship problems when they are not longer living under your roof. Conversely, if you have maintained your relationship, the empty nest years can be some of the sweetest in your marriage. So, the wise woman watches for ways to do her husband good all the days of her life.

Regarding the household as a whole, I have found through the years that my husband appreciates it when I respectfully bring things to his attention that need his guidance. This goes much better when I speak from faith and do not give way to fear, as I am prone to do.

Of course, there are times when my husband brings things to my attention, as well. Spouses do need to work together as a team.

Often a woman, especially the woman who makes home her career, will be the first in the family to see the emotional and spiritual needs of family members. A gentle word from a wife can provide valuable input that a husband can use as he leads the household.

In the same way, siblings are often highly aware of what is going on with each other. You and your husband can glean valuable insight by watching their interaction. Sometimes, if a sibling is truly concerned about another one, they will come to you with their concerns. I'm not talking about childish tattle-tales, but about genuine caring. In such cases, you will need to discern what is best for both the child who has a concern and the child who might have a struggle you didn't know about.

After children have passed the preschool stage, they don't need us to hover over them continually. As children grow up, we need to let out the apron strings a little at a time so that they enter adult life strong in character and prepared for life. But, we can and must do this while keeping a watchful eye over them. As our children grow, we must invest in close relationships, in which our children feel comfortable being open with us. Only if they feel that they can talk with us will we be able to give them the love, guidance, and discipline they need. If nothing else, the tragic events at Columbine and at Virginia Tech show us how important it is to stay involved with our children -- even those who are in their teens and twenties.

Here are some questions to ask ourselves: Are my children growing in wisdom? In stature? In their relationships with God and man? Are they influencing their friends for good, or are their friends influencing them for ill? Are their closest relationships with children who desire spiritual things? Or, are their closet friendships worldly in nature? Do they speak respectfully to us and to other adults? Are they happy? What is each child's general temperament? How can we help the child express his God-given temperament in positive ways? What are his strengths and his weaknesses? What are his interests? His talents? How are siblings getting along with each other? How are their manners? Are they shy to the point that it hinders them? Do they need some help from us in learning how to smile, to make others feel welcome, and to build a few really close friendships? Are they outgoing? Are our children getting fresh air and exercise? Are they developing the resources to be able to entertain themselves? Are they negative or faithful in outlook? Are their schedules too booked, or, conversely, do they have too much time on their hands? Are they growing in character and self-discipline? Are they growing in love for God and for others?

On every one's mind at the moment is the issue of what our children watch on TV, see on computers, and play via video games. We do well to pay attention to this. We should also have conversations with our growing children that help them form their own convictions about what they will and won't take into their minds. One rule of thumb is not overreact every time we are confronted with something in our pop culture that concerns us. Our kids will heed us better if we calmly help them stay within the limitations we have set as a family. They also need our support to stay within the limitations they have set for themselves.

We must be watchful here. This is an area in which we can veer either into legalism and judgementalism or else into compromise with sin. So, we must continually pray for guidance.

As moms, we spend a lot of time driving children and their friends to different places. Especially during the preteen and early teen years, kids get so involved in talking to each other they almost forget you are in the car. Mothers, this is a great time to observe the topics they discuss and if they talk to each other kindly or not. I don't mean that you should eavesdrop on every word they say. But, some of their chatter will float forward in the car, and you can learn a lot if you tune in to the overall tone of the conversation.

One afternoon, when both of my children had entered their early teens, I stood in the kitchen pondering how my children didn't need me as much anymore. I started to feel a little sorry for myself, but I was determined to think faithfully about what God had in store for me next. In part, I was responding to pressure from a few friends who did not share my convictions about the importance of being keepers at home. They naturally assumed that I should and would get a full time job outside the home once my children were "grown", and they defined "grown enough" as being school age! They thought it strange that I still valued my role as wife and mother, when I could be out "doing something with my life."

While I was pondering how I wasn't needed, one child came in and asked me something. Then, the next child came in. And, a few minutes later, here came the first child, and so forth. I became slightly irritated at being interrupted by my children, because I wanted to concentrate on how I should fill my time now that my children "didn't need me anymore". Then, I laughed at the irony of my attitude! There I was feeling sorry for myself for not being needed, yet irritated that my children needed me! How silly!

The truth was that my children did not my constant, round-the clock supervision, as a toddler might. But, they still needed access to me. And, they still needed me to be around to keep a watchful eye out for how they were doing.

Looking back, I'm glad that I continued on in my role as keeper at home. I believe wholeheartedly that some of the years when children most need us to look well to the ways of our household are when they are between ten years and fifteen years old. My children have told me that these were the years when peer pressure was the hardest.

I believe this, because we knew many children in our neighborhood and school district whose mothers worked outside the home and who went home to empty houses after school. Sadly, many of these children got into serious trouble.

My children are both in their twenties now. One is married, and one is working his first adult job three hours away from us. Yet, I see how much they both still enjoy having close family relationships.

I have friends in their seventies who still pray faithfully for fifty-something children and their twenty-something grandchildren.

If there ever comes a point when we parents stop watching and praying for our children on this side of heaven, I haven't found it!



ello said...

These posts have been so helpful and interesting to me. I can't wait until our printer works again so I can print them for future reference.

Elizabeth said...

Hi ello.

I'm glad you enjoyed these posts!