Long days are draining. You need rest, but you’re not actually expecting it. You’re preparing yourself for children’s excited voices greeting you. You’re ramping up to mediate disputes between them, hopefully about who gets to hug you first. You also might greet a relieved spouse, fatigued from a long day of either being with the children or being at a long day of work. You’d think the daily re-assimilation into home would be seamless. But it isn’t, is it? Sometimes we are not spiritually or mentally prepared for it. Sometimes we are exhausted and our guard is down against pride and selfishness, resulting in ruinous family patterns.
Knowing this, practicing a routine that prepares the heart, soul, and mind for re-assimilation into family life is essential. It is an intentional discipline not just for your spiritual formation, but also for your wife’s and your children’s. It’s a small step taken as you lead and disciple them. In turn, you and they will duplicate the mindset in all other discipleship environments: school, work, extra-curricular environments, and third places. When we approach every place with this mindset, we are better prepared disciple multipliers.
Obviously, the mindset shift into a new environment is not always successfully executed. This is the case particularly for fathers or mothers re-entering home environments after a long day of work. That’s why I picked this one to discuss. It’s easy to re-engage home with work-brain. But when we shift to home-brain, much discipleship fruit is cultivated. And so is the model for your children to duplicate as they multiply disciples in other contexts (2 Tim. 2:2).
It takes only a few minutes each day to prepare our mindset. We can do this in our car before departing from work, or as we are driving home, or sitting in the driveway. It’s a really simple and classic process: shift your mindset, read Scripture, and pray.
1. Shift Your Mindset
Shifting our mindset is not some rote process. It is an intentional plan of engagement where we earnestly decide that what is ahead is more important than what is left behind. Thus, we plan to lay aside our pocket screens, ignore notifications, and push back any residual work until after little ones are tucked in bed. This is also when we place work cares upon Christ; anger, fear, anxiety are relinquished in him (1 Pet. 5:7).
We prepare our minds for inquiry. We want to be quizzical of how the day went: the joys, trials, conflicts, surprises—all that took place during our absence. And quite honestly, a stay-at-home spouse will crave adult conversation, so we must be prepared to listen.
We also want to enter with the posture of service. Typically, I am in the practice of swooping into the home and whisking all three children away for a walk or playtime at the community playground while my wife, who is the one staying at home in our case, gets 15-30 minutes of quiet solitude.
Most working dads—if they are honest—have a Ward Cleaver or George Banks expectation for home arrival: immaculate home, hot dinner, spotless and perfectly behaved tykes, and wife in a dress and pearls. My mindset is a little different. I’m hoping for no fire, flood, or other acts of God to have occurred. But most of the time, I’m certain a tornado hit our kid’s room.
However, we should have realistic expectations rather than idealistic expectations. God, fully anticipating our fallen condition, has been long in suffering with all our short failings. We, likewise, should follow in his step, not expecting a picture of Eden when we arrive home.
2. Read Scripture
Thomas Watson said, “The Scripture is the compass by which the rudder of our will is to be steered.” My will is prone to drift off a God-glorifying course due to the desires of my flesh. Scripture is what holds the course of the mindset.
It’s not enough to think on Scripture; we must share Scripture, too. We should be primary feeders of Scripture to our children. What if we had a Scripture to share with our children every time we returned home from work? How glorious would that be for our family? Not only would our will be set on the right course, but it sets a pattern for our children to be set on the right course with the right instrument to aid them: Scripture. When our mindset is built off Scripture, then it will be that much easier to mold our children’s minds towards the same end. In many ways, this will be effectively caught more than taught, as long as we are contagiously and earnestly conversant with our children about what the Lord is teaching us.
In Taking God at His Word, Kevin DeYoung says, “The word of God is more than enough for the people of God to live their lives to the glory of God” (55). He’s not just talking about Scripture’s sufficiency to tackle the tough question of apologetics, theology, and our wrestling with doubt. DeYoung is saying Scripture is sufficient for everyday people to live everyday lives to the glory of an extraordinary God. Scripture dishes up helpings of truths that sufficiently ground us in the fruit of the Spirit and armor us to wage war against our enemy.
Thus, we’re prepared to enter the foray of a potentially chaotic household. God’s Word serves as a sufficient implement of peace in our hearts and homes. That peace is the peace of Christ. For Ephesians 2:17 says, “And he came and preached peace to you who were far off and peace to those who were near.” That peace will then be spread afar by those whom we are training in our household to bear that peace to others. They will see us bring it, and they will long to share it with others.
You will regret watching too much TV, playing too much Candy Crush, and reading too many tweets. You will never regret praying too much. You can’t pray enough. Prayer is this incomprehensibly extraordinary gift where we have direct and full access to the God of the cosmos. He instructs us to ask for wisdom (Jas. 1:5) and to petition him with our requests (Phil. 4:6). Yet, we treat prayer like someone who picks a particular mobile carrier with unlimited talk minutes with a particular person, but who never actually called that person. That’s precisely what we have—full access; and that’s precisely what we do—full neglect.
Prayer doesn’t produce a desired outcome as much as it transforms our current outlook. When we earnestly pray for our family before arriving home, it reorients our family around God rather than our children or ourselves. Helplessly bringing every concern, fear, or potential conflict to the Lord sets us up for entire dependence upon him for resolution. So often we rack our brains on how we can provide solutions and fix problems. Perhaps those tensions or problems exist not to give us something to troubleshoot, but to direct us to shoot the message of our troubles up to heaven. They become a grappling hook that draws us up to God.
If we’re always praying about how we want things to change in our family, then it might just be us that require change. If nothing else, we need to open our eyes to the gift our spouse and children already are. They are a gift to steward, so we should ask God to show us how to steward, lead, and equip this gift as we prepare to commission them for gospel ministry.
So we shouldn’t just deliver requests to God, we should express thanks and praise to him for our family as well. Before you head home is a great time to do this. It will—just like reading Scripture—facilitate that right mindset you wish to have when you return home each day.
I know what Scripture says about praying in our closet, but there is something valuable about praising God’s answer to prayers before our spouse and children. If they never know that we’ve been praying for them, they will never have appreciation for God’s answered prayer. They will also not share the same value and import prayer into their mission contexts. So don’t just secretly pray for your family, openly discuss what you pray. Not only this, but solicit their prayer needs. That way, you can pray specifically for them as you are about to re-engage in your family context.
Multiplication in Mind
Our society is programmed to pull families further and further apart over time. This is not healthy; it is actually potentially harmful. The more families are apart, the more false doctrine and false teachers may slyly slink into the family and corrupt convictions. This could slay souls.
Those few hours that exist after work and before bedtime are critical. They are the hours that we have to build into our family the stronghold of a Christian worldview. We’re not just constructing a stronghold; we are training emissaries of our King. Our family will be sent out to herald good news to others. This means they must have first heard it from us, seen it demonstrated by us, tasted the fruit of it, and felt a stirring to multiply the process. Ones who have tasted the nectar of the gospel will naturally share it on to others.
Joey Cochran served as an Associate Pastor at Fellowship Bible Church in Tulsa, Oklahoma for four years before transitioning to be the Church Planting Intern at Redeemer Fellowship in St. Charles, Illinois under the supervision of Pastor Joe Thorn. Joey is a graduate of Dallas Seminary. Joey blogs at jtcochran.com and you can follow him on Twitter at @joeycochran.