An excerpt from the chapter “The Art of Home School Opera: The Blessing of Family Eccentricities,” from The Little Boy Down the Road: Short Stories and Essays on the Beauty of Family Life, by Douglas W. Phillips, to be released from Vision Forum, October, 2008:
Every day there are thousands of sounds competing for the attention of fathers.
There is the sound of the television set. This is the intoxicating call of the ancient siren, lulling men to slumber, urging them to check their brains at the door of their homes and float into a sea of passivity until they crash upon the rocks of life. There is the sound of the city and the business world. These sounds sometimes give men the false assurance that corporate success is the true test of manhood.
Then there are the diverse sounds of the world in general — a never-ending barrage of sound coming from the hum of machines, the chatter of people, and the background music that follows modern man from elevators to his car to the local coffee shop. These sounds remind us that we are not alone. But they also train us to be incapable of sitting in silence and communing with our God. Like a drug that takes away the pain of life at the expense of the clarity of the mind, these sounds often fill our heads with unnecessary distraction, such that it is a struggle to focus on the most important things.
We live in a world of sound pollution — too much sound, all the time. We spend so much time listening to indiscriminate sounds that we often fail to hear the music of life. We need to reduce the pollution and start listening to the most important music — the sounds that make a Christian household a Christian household.
There is music in the sound of a family worshipping the Lord together. There is music in the sound of babies laughing, of children studying at the family table, of sisters preparing meals for their family, and of moms reading bedtime stories to little ones. When these sounds truly reflect hearts that long to please their Heavenly Father, they make up the aroma of a life well-lived before the Lord.
Of course, the most beautiful music to a father’s ear are any sounds which allow him to experience the blessing of watching his children walking in truth. On this point, Jesus Christ, the author of Holy Scripture, wrote, “I have no greater joy than to hear that my children walk in truth” (3 John 1:4).
I am persuaded that the sounds of a household are a window into the soul of the family.
For most American families today, the sounds being projected are filled with the noise pollution of the television or even with the discordant shouts of family turmoil. In other cases, the modern household is an empty tomb — a shadow of what family life was meant to be. In these households, there is little sound because there are no children. Or perhaps the silence stems from years of family fragmentation in which mother, father, and children each have their own individualized lives largely lived out far from home.
The Christian household is meant to be different. It is a place of love and living.
And that means noise. It means houses filled with the glorious echoes of babies crying, of children playing, of mothers teaching, of fathers training, and even a few animals chirping, meowing, or woofing. It means life — with all of its glory, sadness, and joy. It means happy homes of highly eccentric families, each with their own unique vision, style, personality traits, and expressions.
These homes are not museums. That means they are rarely immaculate. Gloriously organized chaos is sometimes a more apt description. They are homes made up of grateful and forgiven sinners who recognize that there is no greater joy than to daily experience the nobility of the commonplace, from the simple disciplines of Christian life — prayer, studies, work — to the thrill of watching fathers eating the fruit of their labors, of moms who radiate the glory of being fruitful vines, and of brothers and sisters who gather around the family table like precious olive plants (Psalm 128).
Look for these households. For their number is growing. They are part of a great spiritual work where the hearts of parents are turning to their children and children to their parents (Malachi 4:6). And when you find them, listen.