My husband is a pastor who also has a masters degree in counseling. A few weeks ago in one of his sermons he mentioned that in counseling sessions, almost any time someone is talking about their childhood, they can identify a home that was a safe place for them.
For some people, the safe place is their family, and their own home. Their parents and siblings were mostly for them, not against them, and the home was a place where you could try new things with courage, knowing that you had a secure place to fall back on if the new thing was a total failure.
For some people, the home of a neighbor or a friend from school is the safest place they can think of. Maybe their own home life wasn’t super stable, or there were extenuating circumstances, even for a time, and another family was able to provide that hiding place where the masks can come off.
And some people are lucky enough to have both. Their home is nurturing but there are families outside their own homes who come alongside and confirm what their own parents are communicating –- you, child, are an image-bearer of the Lord Almighty. You are not perfect. But you are known, and loved, because of God’s loving kindness toward you.
We have three young girls, and while I really love the phase we’re in right now, I also recognize that we’re still in the trenches. We have one in elementary school, one who is pre-K, and one who just learned to walk six months ago. They’re in different stages developmentally, and while two-thirds of them can dress themselves, get a snack, clean up, and that kind of thing...the need levels are still VERY high.
Even though I love where we are, it’s easy for me to feel like I just don’t have much to offer, week by week. That can be so frustrating. I want to be able to love people in big, loud ways all the time. But right now, I have to reign that in for the sake of my family. Because if I stretch myself too far, I threaten the safe place we want our home to be for our kids.
And then came that sermon. Where he talked about the safe places, and about how everyone has one. And it dawned on me –- sometimes I feel like I don’t have that much to offer. But it might be that I actually have one of the most lasting, formative, valuable things. Without going out of my way, or stretching myself too thin, or even rearranging my schedule too much, I can offer our safe place to others simply by inviting them into our home.
We can be a home where both our kids and kids from other families hear the Good News in big and small ways. We can affirm, and confirm, and come alongside other parents. We can do unto other families what we’re doing with ours.
As we start fresh this year with big ideas and big goals, let’s remember that we have a big love to offer, and that sharing it sometimes looks wonderfully ordinary.
Kristi James is a writer, pastor’s wife, and mom to three pretty spectacular little girls. She writes at And Babies Don’t Keep, ‘grams at @kristenannjames, and survives mostly on chips and salsa.