What Makes A Happy Home?
The question was asked in a class of eager preschoolers, “What makes a happy home?” “A cat,” answered one four-year old. “Brownies,” answered a blue-eyed blond with cute pig tails. “Lots of love,” stated another. Finally the teacher’s eyes fell on a hand in the back corner of the room. “Yes, Dennis,” she said. “What makes a happy home?” “Lots of peanut butter and ants in the kitchen!” came the reply.
You don’t have to be a psychologist to imagine what must have recently happened at his house. Along with peanut butter and ants, the question remains, “What makes a happy home?” It’s not as simple as it might seem. We are not perpetuating happy homes in our country.
Little Suzie came home from first grade and excitedly said, “Mom, today our teacher told us the story of Snow White.” For the next five minutes, she then recounted the fairy tale including the arrival of Prince Charming and his rescue of Snow White. “Then do you know what happened, Mom?” Suzie asked. “They lived happily ever after?” “No, Mom, they got married.”
Someone said, “All marriages are happy. It is the living together afterwards which causes all the trouble.” Even if a marriage is made in heaven, we are responsible to maintain it and that’s not an easy task. Lots of marriages break down and seem beyond repair. In our country, roughly half of the marriages end in divorce. There are also many which are intact, but not healthy or happy ones. Unfortunately, marriage problems are not just statistics. They involve real people. Not only do many marriages have problems, but out of these marriages children are brought into the world who do not have the privilege of experiencing a happy home.
In the many years of ministry I have obviously known many families both in the church and some not. All too often the yardstick by which happiness is measured or accomplished has to do with material possessions and worldly accomplishments. It is a little like the way sports has become in our time. We have lost the joy of seeing children participate and replaced it with a sense that if a team doesn’t win a championship, then they are a bunch of losers. Such a philosophy of life makes it difficult to accurately measure what makes a home happy. The truth is some of the happiest families are not always blessed with much of this world’s goods and some of the least happy have the most. But we should, in the same breath, be careful not to condemn or assume that possessions rob people of happiness.
So I come back to the question. Let me suggest three timeless principles which will fit any generation in any culture and at any economic level as we think of homes and families in the month of May.
First, the happy home realizes its divine origin. The crowning feature of creation was the point when God brought us into being. The Bible says we are created in the image of God. Furthermore, the family is God’s idea. Only humans were given the ability to choose who to live with and to make the choices of bringing children into the world. The first step in having a happy home is to realize where you came from. The Christian home must be God-centered because it is God-originated. When parents remember and acknowledge to their children our place not at the center of the universe, but as creations of God who are responsible for our lives to Him, a home will be a happier place. When faith is lived out in the home, each person begins to live out the image of God in which he or she were created.
Second, in a happy home we realize that we were given the capability to fellowship with God and with the capacity to know God’s love. Our likeness to God can be summarized in one word, love. The scriptures tell us very simply, “God is love.” God’s love is unconditional and sacrificial. That kind of love is practiced in a happy home. Just as God put us first because He loved us, so members of a happy home work at putting the needs of the other first. It seems to me that the best practical definition of love could be “doing everything possible to meet the needs of the other.” Imagine how different many marriages and families would be if each practiced that principle.
This principle began in creation when God created both male and female reminding us that each was made for the other. God saw that man was incomplete without a mate. He made woman as a complement to man, not a slave or servant. When each sees incompleteness without the other, the basis of love has begun. The happy home sees itself as a divine partnership in which parents and children, husbands and wives, accept each other, support each other and love each other.
Third, the happy home possesses a sense of purpose. We are reminded that from the beginning God gave the home purpose. The happy home realizes its purpose is not only to be “fruitful and multiply,” but also to share itself in ministry with others. Jesus said, “The Son of Man came not to be ministered unto, but to minister.”
Have you ever thought about your family as a ministering unit or as a family on mission? Last year one of my daughters and her family went on a family mission trip from their church. Not only did they help others in a city far away, it helped them become more of a ministering unit to their neighborhood upon returning. Think about families in your neighborhood. How many are Christians and have a church home? How many children in your neighborhood or on your children’s ball team come from a broken home? How many receive no spiritual guidance? Aren’t there some things you could do to share your faith and bring encouragement to these? In the process you very well might discover that happiness has come to your home as you focused on helping others. The happy home is a sharing home fulfilling a sense of purpose.
Little Dorothy in the “Wizard of Oz” said, “There’s no place like home.” And she was right. And there’s no better place than home when it is healthy and happy. But happy homes don’t just happen. It takes a bit of work. We don’t need to treat our families like the proverbial dad who can fix anything. If all else fails, read the directions. It works best if we pay attention from the beginning by realizing the family’s divine origin, recognizing its spiritual potential and having a sense of purpose.