One of my favorite movie scenes is from Disney’s The Hunchback of Notre Dame. In this scene, the city is burning all around because the minister of justice is trying to capture a gypsy woman to burn her at the stake. But the hunchback, who has been held prisoner inside the church his entire life, turns his prison into a safe haven after he swoops down and rescues the innocent woman.
The hunchback stands with the limp woman held high in his arms over his head. Her body drapes over his hands like the shape of a cross, and he yells out with all his might to the crowds below, “Sanctuary! Sanctuary! Sanctuary!”
That’s the kind of passion we should have about making our homes a place of peace and safety—a respite for the weary souls of those who live there and those who visit.
That’s not an easy task in today’s fast-paced society. Many people only come home long enough to sleep, and then they are off again—trying to attend all the meetings and extra-curricular activities every night after working all day. Home is more like a pit stop than a place of rest—run to the bathroom, warm up some cold fried chicken, grab a caffeine-infused drink, and rush off to the next stop.
A place that fosters peace
But home doesn’t have to be that way. Jesus said, “Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls” (Matthew 11:29). Even God rested from his work of creation (Genesis 2:3). The day of rest was consecrated, and we were commanded to take a Sabbath. If God rests, how much more should we? Home should be a place that fosters peace, not chaos.
With a little effort, we can make our homes a sanctuary—the place we come to be safe from the world—a place of peace, rest, and safety. Here are some ways to create the setting.
1. Fill your home with grace.
Everyone is going to make mistakes. Everyone needs to be treated better than he or she deserves. Let home be the place where you seek out the good in others. Psalm 34:14 says, “. . . Seek peace and pursue it.” Look for ways peace and grace can abound.
Work out problems that linger, and learn to let little things go. Yes, there are going to be punishments and discipline, but let the tone of your home be love first. Let it exude forgiveness, kindness, and mercy.
2. Filter what messages come into your home.
What are your children watching on television? What are the attitudes of the characters they admire? What are your children viewing on their computers? What kinds of kids do they associate with at school? These are the kinds of influences that can change the attitude of your family members. You can’t eliminate every bad influence, but you can keep aware and identify the problem areas.
One of my children was having outbursts of anger. I started evaluating his influences, and it became clear every time he was allowed to play video games on the smartphone, he was markedly more irritated and aggressive. There was nothing wrong with his video games. They weren’t violent or inappropriate in any way, but for his personality type, the games made him irritable.
So they had to go. After just a few days, he was like a new child. I’ve taken the games away permanently so that our family, including my son, can be at peace.
3. Don’t overload your schedule.
More and more studies are coming out about how busyness actually harms kids. They need time just to be kids—to build forts in the backyard, draw and create, and use their imaginations. Those things are much more important than being on sports teams all year long or signing up for every available church activity.
There’s nothing wrong with participating in local activities from time to time, but it shouldn’t be a way of life. Ecclesiastes 3:1 says, “For everything there is a season, and a time for every matter under heaven.” I’m not sure what causes the pressure that insists “good parents put their kids in as many activities as possible,” but that simply isn’t true.
Your kids need down time at home. I’m amazed at how much my kids want to be at home. They prefer to eat at home, play at home, and relax at home. When we have a free Saturday, I’m ready to go somewhere, but the kids want to do nothing but enjoy being at home.
4. Emphasize prayer and give permission to talk about fears and anxieties.
Sometimes the battle in your home can be in the hearts of its occupants. Internal strife can affect the entire household, and conversely, when kids and spouses feel the freedom to communicate their hurts and fears, they are set free. They know someone cares; someone is willing to shoulder their burdens and be there for them.
Then those burdens should be taken to the Lord. Jesus said, “In the world you will have tribulation. But take heart; I have overcome the world” (John 16:33). Through prayer, your kids will know how they can live in peace even in the midst of turmoil.
In my house, I spend time with the little ones every night and ask them to tell me their best and worst parts of the day. Then I ask them if there’s anything they need to talk about. Sometimes I know they’ve had a bad day, and I ask about the situations specifically, even the hard questions. Then we pray about it. The kids have learned where to go with their troubled hearts, even when Mom can’t fix it.
Don’t make it complicated
Making your home a sanctuary shouldn’t be complicated. It doesn’t take special Bible studies, highlighters, group activities, or calendars. Throw away all the thoughts in your head that say, “Good parents take their kids to . . .” or “My neighbor’s kids are so cultured. Maybe I should . . .”
Your kids do have needs, but they look more like this: grace, unplanned time, space to grow, guidance, and unconditional love. It’s not complicated, but in this world, it’s also not easy. Let me challenge you to make your home a place of peace—a sanctuary. Then add time to your calendar to enjoy that safe space with your family and friends.
Copyright © 2019 by Sabrina McDonald.