You are the totality of your habits. The invisible, overlooked, and often insignificant moments of your day are where your identity is being fashioned. This is why the family you grew up in is the single greatest variable when it comes to the trajectory of your adult life. And families are habit-forming factories, either to our flourishing or our detriment.
In every season, you have an opportunity to evaluate and initiate new rhythms as families. But with this opportunity comes a temptation. In a culture obsessed with fast, famous, and large, Christian families tend to craft elaborate plans for formation instead of implementing simple pathways to see change in their context. Tish Harrison Warren says, “The crucible of our formation is in the monotony of our daily routines.”1 This article desires to give you a menu of five simple ways to reimagine everyday routines as arenas where disciples of Jesus are cultivated.
You are the totality of your habits. The invisible, overlooked, and often insignificant moments of your day are where your identity is being fashioned
In the West, Americans rarely skip a meal, which means there are 21 weekly opportunities to make mealtime a formative experience. Sadly, the practice of families eating meals together is dwindling because of the pace of American life, the efficiency of fast food, and involvement in youth sports and activities. Yet meals are crucial for forming households. Here are two ideas from my own family’s mealtime practices that could shape your meals throughout the year.
For the past several years, my household has practiced a ritual called “Popsicle Stick Prayer.” Basically, we have a jar in the middle of the table that is full of large popsicle sticks. Each stick has the name of a neighbor, relative, or church family member written on it. Each time we sit to eat, the kids get to grab one stick from the jar, and then we spend a few moments praying for that person or family. Sometimes, the prayers are silly and distracted. But at other moments, they are sacred and significant. Regardless, as parents we keep providing opportunities for our kids to enter into dialogue with God.
As a family, we are part of a church tradition that practices the taking of communion every week during the Sunday gathering. In light of this, we have made an intentional practice of seeing the communion “meal” as the first meal of each week that nourishes us for the journey ahead. In our tradition, children of believing parents are invited to partake in communion, which is a tangible weekly reminder for our kids to “taste and see” that the Lord is good. Regardless of your church setting, could this be a year where, as a family, you see communion as a crucial mealtime practice for your household?
The first five minutes and the last five minutes of every day are vitally important in a child’s life and your own as a parent. Typically every family, especially those with little children, has a bedtime routine. What about your routine could be re-imagined as a space for shaping your children with the gospel this year?
As a family, we have found choosing a repeated prayer for an extended season to be a powerful way to shape the ending of each day. In the past, there have been two consistent prayers that our kids memorized over time because of it being repeated each night. The first prayer was reciting Psalm 23 over our kids. The second was a prayer from the Book of Common Prayer called Compline:
Keep watch, dear Lord,
with those who work, or watch, or weep this night,
and give your angels charge over those who sleep.
Tend the sick, Lord Christ;
give rest to the weary,
bless the dying,
soothe the suffering,
pity the afflicted,
shield the joyous;
and all for your love’s sake. Amen.2
This prayer has brought an unbelievable sense of comfort and presence into our family life as we end each day.
There is a peculiar passage in 1 Kings 4:29,32-33, that reads:
God gave Solomon wisdom and very great insight, and a breadth of understanding as measureless as the sand on the seashore… He spoke three thousand proverbs and his songs numbered a thousand and five. He spoke about plant life, from the cedar of Lebanon to the hyssop that grows out of walls. He also spoke about animals and birds, reptiles and fish”
What? Traditionally when we think of biblical wisdom, we associate it with the ability to discern between right and wrong. Although moral discernment is a core ingredient of wisdom, 1 Kings reveals that biblical wisdom is also about understanding the order and breadth of God’s good creation.
In a technological age, we are a disconnected and detached people from the physical space God has placed us in. However, if we are to develop a household of wisdom, understanding and noticing creation will be a primary task for every family.
Biblical wisdom is also about understanding the order and breadth of God’s good creation
As you spend ordinary moments outside this year, could you develop a habit of helping your family appreciate and experience the goodness of God through his creation? Could you celebrate in the small moments of your child’s day their recognition of something God has made as they explore? In my family, that has happened primarily through helping our children identify and name the different species of birds that spend time in our yard throughout the year. As they notice different birds and name them, they are growing in biblical wisdom according to 1 Kings.
It happens in conversation every couple of weeks, whether at home or in the car. I find myself explaining to my kids that their parents experienced something called “boredom” in their childhood. As my kids complain about there being “nothing to do” or “nothing to watch,” we remind them of what previous generations experienced: the ability to look out the window during a long drive.
For parents and children, every nook and cranny of our lives in the West has been commodified by the market as a moment to scroll, shop, or be endlessly entertained by the latest reel. Boredom, or in other words, silence, stillness, and solitude, has been largely eliminated.
Could a daily habit this year be embracing pockets of boredom as a family? Whether it’s sitting outside, driving in the car, or lounging on a couch, boredom and the space to think and process are crucial for the rhythm of every family. However, this practice will need to start with parents since children are keen to notice the modeled behavior of adults to relieve boredom by reaching for a glowing titanium device.
Lastly, a regular habit that has the potential to deeply shape every family is the practice of Sabbath. Sabbath is an extended amount of time where families or individuals choose to pause, rest, and enjoy both God, creation, and one another without the tyranny of the most urgent. Traditionally, Sabbath begins during dinner on one day and ends during dinner on the following day. In my family, we practice what many Jewish households have done throughout church history, which is to begin Sabbath with the lighting of two candles. The candles represent two words: “remember and observe,” which are the opening words from the two versions of the Sabbath commandment found in Exodus 20:8-11 and Deuteronomy 5:12-15. Usually, I will ask my five- and seven-year-olds if they remember the words each candle represents. After they say the words (remember and observe), I respond with: “Remember what?” or “Observe what?” Then they repeat in summary, “We remember the Sabbath because God created the world in six days and rested on the seventh,” and “We observe the Sabbath because God’s people were once slaves to Pharaoh in Egypt and God has rescued us.”
Sabbath is an extended amount of time where families or individuals choose to pause, rest, and enjoy both God, creation, and one another without the tyranny of the most urgent
It’s this simple practice with candles and a meal that has had a profound effect in shaping the way my family tells time according to how God has shaped the world.
You might be feeling overwhelmed as a parent reading this article. You might feel a sense of shame or a desire to truly shape your family but not know where to begin. Regardless of where you are at, here is my encouragement: start simple and small. Like seeds planted in a garden, growth will take time, and often it will come as a surprise. But like a gardener, the faithful tending to the crops day after day will create an environment where growth becomes possible. Sow seeds, tend faithfully, and let God reap a harvest in your family this year and beyond.
Charlie Meo serves as a pastor with Missio Dei Communities and as the curriculum director for the Surge Network in Phoenix, Arizona. He also contributes as a curriculum creator for City to City North America. He is married to his wife Keaton and together they are raising three kids.