The Household: A School of Love

In Habits of the Household: Practicing the Story of God in Everyday Family Rhythms, Justin Whitmel Earley states, “The most Christian way to think about our households is that they are little ‘schools of love,’ places where we have one vocation, one calling: to form all who live here into lovers of God and neighbor.”

The everyday habits Earley explores include waking, mealtimes, discipline, screen time, and family devotions, marriage, work, and play, and conversation and bedtime. His comments on waking and marriage focus on the parents. The explorations of mealtimes, work, play, and conversation are shown to be crucially formative for the family, and family devotions, discipline, screen time, and bedtime are shown to be of heightened importance in the formation of children.

Think of the things that happen in each of these spaces. How are each of these areas, as mundane as they can be, pregnant with possibility for formation in love? If you are a parent, how many of your habits around waking, sleeping, and meals are derived from your inherited family rhythms? How many of them have been recast as part of your new family? How many of these habits are shaped by faith commitments, even if in subtle ways?

I’m certainly a believer in the importance of making clear commitments, developing systems that work, and establishing habits as avenues for transformation and change. I also believe in the importance of family formation, building a strong marriage, and choosing to have children. I understand why many today are delaying marriage, and some are opting to forego having kids. But I also want to challenge those trends. Having a family, and building a good one, takes a lot of work. But so does anything else worth doing.

Earley’s book provides a helpful frame for thinking about the family and the formative nature of the rhythms and habits of family life. If you possess a clear vision for establishing your household as a little school where those within it can learn how better to love God and love neighbor, you can also build in the practices, ways of speaking, and value commitments that move those within the household toward that end.

A clear vision of the kind of household one wants to be part of also makes it plain when that standard is not met. Our family has said that we want our household to be filled with the love of God, and that this is evidenced when we have peace at home, when everyone is encouraged to pursue their unique callings, when we celebrate victories large and small, when we serve others, and when each of us are good stewards of the life God has given us.

Habits of the Household is one of those books I will recommend to young married couples and those who are on their way toward or who have welcomed children into the world. While it is possible to figure it out as you go, adopt habits that work along the way, a book like this helps you think deliberately about the choices you are making, raising good questions about the desired outcomes parents have for their children, their marriages, and the overall constitution of the household.

Children are formed by their parents. Parents, at their best, are being formed by God. And all, together and with God’s help, can be schooled in love everlasting.