This is a call for familial strengthening and emotional, spiritual and mental reconstruction. This is a call to repair childhood ruins, to build up the devastation from generations past in order to bring life and hope to the generations that come after us.
It’s no secret there are countless people in our churches whose backgrounds are all stained with the same permanent spot: the pain of parental abandonment.
The thing is, the spot will never disappear completely. There’s no proverbial Tide Pen strong enough to alleviate 100 percent of the family spill that’s etched on the hearts of the abandoned. But that shouldn’t keep us on the sidelines.
Most certainly, it’s a task that only the Spirit is capable of. It’s God through His Spirit who mends hearts, heals the broken and restores.
But as Isaiah 61 shows, God has anointed us—His church—and given us the mission and the power to bind up the broken-hearted, restore the ancient ruins and build up the former places of devastation.
That includes the families within our church family.
This is the call for the church. And as a recipient of such care, I believe the church can do this most efficiently by opening up their homes and using their resources to build up these ruins.
With the Spirit’s help, this is a do-it-yourself project that happens within the home. This is where true discipleship happens and one of the greatest ways to accomplish this is by using your spare bedroom or apartment over your garage for a young adult or young married couple.
Over the years, I’ve lived with several families in the church and I can say that every time I moved out, I left with spiritual wisdom and life understanding that I didn’t have before moving in.
Presently, as my wife and I wait to move in to our home, we currently live with a dear family in our church with two young boys.
After reflecting on the blessing this situation has truly been, I think the church embodies Isaiah 61 most beautifully when it welcomes others in as temporary roommates and sometimes even temporary children.
Here are three massive implications in my life and my wife’s life that have manifested as a result of experiencing several extended-stay sleepovers with families within the Body.
Parenting You Didn’t See
In my opinion, my mom knocked it out of the park parenting me and my siblings.
She was literally a superwoman. I don’t know how she did it all.
I think back on things that happened and continue to wonder how she had the strength to keep moving and keep trusting. Her faith is nothing short of miraculous; a true picture of steadfastness.
But now, as my wife and I think about when we will have children, there are a lot of things I am nervous about. Things I think I will fail at. Things I know I will fail at. Things I think won’t come naturally to me.
And I know everyone has those fears. But it’s different. It’s different when you have fears of parenting but have the option to look back and say,
“Wait, let’s stop. How did mom and dad do this?”
I don’t have that memory bank of mental YouTube clips of childhood that I can easily access for emergency viewing. While that remains true, what I do have now at 31 is a mental shelf full of images and experiences from living with parents of small children.
This is what the church can do for those who’ve experience abandonment. The church has the ability to stock the shelves of the minds and hearts of young adults with images and memories of godly parenting that for those who are only out of stock, but never shipped and never arrived.
Marital Interaction You Didn’t See
Marriage is hard. It’s not pretty all the time. There are endless stressors and daily real-life moments that don’t seem to make their way into our favorite sitcoms and movies.
For the children of divorce, it might not be best to return to a childhood memory of mom and dad working through conflict.
Words might have been said. Voices might have been raised. Hands might have been used.
That isn’t the way Christ calls us to treat one another in marriage. But for some children—children who are now adults who want to get married and some who might be already, they don’t know another way.
They don’t know the better way. They see it in the Scripture but might not know how to connect this to real life.
Again, this is what happens when the church opens its homes. The church gives these children new eyes to see old situations. It gives them the chance to see healthy conflict.
It gives them the chance to see healthy ways to handle stress and unexpected occurrences. It gives them the chance to see Christ in a marriage, where before He was nowhere to be found.
I’ve gotten to see marriages that I didn’t see growing up.
How they love. How they serve. But also, how they argue and settle disputes.
It has served me greatly in my marriage in ways I cannot begin to articulate. The church must model this. Sure, you might have more people in your home and it might be weird because schedules might be different and someone might drink all the milk.
But that’s OK.
More people in your home and less milk for now for the ultimate purpose of daily discipleship is better than more people in your home later, needing somewhere to stay after a marriage is on the rocks and in triage.
Parenting You Didn’t Get
Opening your home to college students or young adults has the ability to disciple them and grow them into godly adults. You never know what someone wishes they could do or wishes someone would’ve asked them or taught them.
Living with a family has given me the chance to learn things that I didn’t know, things I wish I did in my late 20s, early 30s. This is where the chance to open your home can become immensely practical to the lives of so many.
It’s an incubator for life on life discipleship. And it’s the best kind. It’s quick learning. It’s hard. It’s at times inconvenient.
But it’s a blessing that will pay out with so much interest down the road in the lives of those you impact while they are in your home.
Invite someone into your home and play a part in Christ’s call for us to help bind the broken-hearted and restore the ruins that have been long devastated.
Be Christ to the hurting and the abandoned.
Open your spare room.
Unfold your couch.
Start the sleepover that could change someone’s life forever and greatly serve their children in generations to come.
May Christ be glorified.
May restoration come.