The Home: Fortress or Monastery?

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It's focus number 5 in our January Renewal series, and this was not the direction I originally intended to go.  All along I had planned to talk about organizing, decluttering, establishing habits and routines for keeping a neat and tidy home, etc, etc.  Then I went to the CiRCE Institute Winter Regional Conference and my heart was stirred to address the idea of "Home" from a different perspective.  And honestly, there are others who have addressed the issues of home organization and habits much better than I could.  If you're interested in those resources, I have included a few of them at the end of this post.

What I want to ponder with you this week is whether we view our homes as fortresses, or monasteries.  My thoughts here are really a synthesis of two talks given at the conference, one by Dr. Christopher Perrin, and another by Andrew Pudewa.  So I did not come up with these ideas on my own!  Hopefully CiRCE gets the conference recordings up for sale soon so you can listen to them in their entirety as well!

I think it's helpful, when we are trying to be intentional about the atmosphere we are creating in our homes, to have an analogy to help us build our framework.  And for a long time I have used the "fortress" analogy - often unconsciously - as my own framework.  Keep what's inside safe and pure, keep the evil out.  

Andrew Pudewa described the "evil outside" as a noxious poisonous gas constantly trying to creep into our homes.  We can keep up for a while, but no matter how hard we try, that poison gas seeps in under the cracks in the doors; through the drafty places in the attic.  We can run around stuffing the cracks with our rags and installing more insulation in the attic, but we will find it impossible in the end to ever completely seal off our homes from the poison outside.

When you think of a fortress, what comes to mind?  What is its purpose?  Building a fortress means putting up walls, keeping the enemy out at any cost.  It means constantly being on the defensive, fighting back every attempt of the enemy to storm the ramparts.  And, it involves giving hard labels to friend and foe, citizen and alien, neighbor and enemy.  Now, compare this to a monastery.  Monasteries serve many purposes; among them are worship, hospitality, education, preservation of culture, and the arts.  For over a thousand years monasteries carried the light of faith and culture through intensely dark times.  As an institution inhabited by sinful men, they have not always fulfilled their role perfectly, but it cannot be denied that, in the midst of war, famine, and despotism, monasteries preserved and cultivated the True, the Good, and the Beautiful.

Now, let me ask you: which one is more appealing?  Which one has the greater opportunity for influencing the world with the Gospel?  I propose that, instead of viewing our homes as little fortresses built to keep the world out, we view them as little monasteries, built to welcome all who enter its doors and overwhelm the darkness by the light inside.  Instead of focusing on lists of what we can't do, can't watch, can't listen to, let's fill our homes with the most lovely, most beautiful, most praiseworthy.  

"Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things." -Philippians 4:8
"If possible, so far as it depends on you, live peaceably with all.  Beloved, never avenge yourselves, but leave it to the wrath of God, for it is written, 'Vengeance is mine, I will repay, says the Lord.'  To the contrary, 'if your enemy is hungry, feed him; if he is thirsty, give him something to drink; for by so doing you will heap burning coals on his head.'  Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good." -Romans 12:18-21

It is helpful for me to think of this in terms of "filling up" as opposed to "keeping out."  If our homes are filled with beautiful images, true words, inspiring music, and loving relationships, there will be no room for the darkness and lies to creep in.  And when they do, it will be easy to spot them for what they are because they stand in such stark contrast to the light.  This kind of environment is warm, inviting, and contagious.  It is my personal hope that anyone who enters our home will sense there is something special; that the Spirit of peace and joy will always be present; and that they will want to return - even if they can't exactly say why.  

There is a place for the rhetoric of battle.  We do have an enemy - I am not denying that.  But do we really want our homes to be the scene of the fight?  There will come a time when we send out our children as grown adults into the world, and I pray that they will be fully prepared to do battle when their time arises.  But here and now, in my home, what I yearn for for my family is a haven of peace and rest, a place where Truth, Goodness, and Beauty flourish to such an extent that lies, evil, and ugliness have no place.  Then when the day comes for my children - the "arrows in my quiver" - to go out and do battle, they will know the enemy when they see it, because they intimately know the voice of the Lord; the Way, the Truth, and the Life. 

Other posts in this series:

A Fresh Perspective on New Year's Resolutions

5 Simple Spiritual Practices for Homeschool Moms

Why Feeding Your Mind is Important For Homeschool Moms

The Big 3: Nutrition, Exercise, and Sleep For Busy Moms

Strengthen Your Marriage With a Planning Retreat

Need help getting organized?  Check out these great resources:

Simplified Organization

Simplified Pantry

FlyLady

What do you think?  Fortress or monastery?  Are they mutually exclusive?  Do you tend to view your home as one or the other?  Leave your thoughts in the comments.