Although I tell this story in only a handful of words, this was no quick or straight-forward process. It was messy, slow, confusing at times, heart-wrenching, embarrassing, and humbling.
It left me emptied, with no desire nor grounds left for boasting.
I didn’t know it, but for many years I had been held firmly under the strong delusion of self. Once the Lord opened my eyes, I could then see self had permeated everywhere and it needed to be stripped away, along with all the layers of a man-centered religion, until only His firm foundation remained.
I couldn’t see it, until I could. And then it was everywhere.
Prior to this, I didn’t realize how much of an elevation of self had found its way into my practice of Christianity. To sum up the implications of this fact - As I worshipped Him, I was able to still worship myself.
Again, without realizing it, and slowly, not all at once, I’d made the focus of my Christianity all about more, most, and fame.
Which I now saw was in direct and utter contrast to the new commands I was getting - least, lower, and last. This is the story you’ve been reading about over the last two weeks.
If you haven’t already, I encourage you to go back and read the first two parts before starting this one, where I speak more about my repentance of the sin of self:
Part two - Wake up hungry, go to bed satisfied
This week we continue with part three of the story, “The sanctity of home.”
As a newly broken man who had just been shown that all his foundations needed to be shaken, I was left with more questions than answers.
First, the Lord led me with this phrase, “Something old made new instead of something new made famous.”
Previously I’d been so sure, now I hesitated to speak. I used to long for the spotlight, now I knew I couldn’t touch it.
Rather than seeing my own voice as important, I knew I needed to search out the ancient paths, the words of those who had come before and this led me to old books, catechisms, and revival history.
I threw out many of the books that once filled my shelves and ordered dozens more to replace them. As I read I learned about things like doctrine, sovereignty, depravity, atonement, justification, sanctification, glorification, and what is truly meant when we say the Gospel.
Then it was, “I build the house.” A reference to Psalm 127, “Unless the Lord builds the house, they labor in vain who build it.”
I found old poems to hit home on the concept, such as this one by Reginald Heber, “No workmen’s steel, no ponderous axes rung; Like some tall palm the noiseless fabric sprung.”
And in the study of Scripture I started to see often the Lord spoke against tools of iron and the sound of tools of iron in the building of the altars or the temple. I’ve written about this in the past:
We seek not His word, nor do we submit to it, but instead we fashion for ourselves tools of iron, idols in our image, and adopt the practices of the day in order to make things happen, make room for everyone and cover all the bases.
What if we can no longer build for ourselves? We have to put down our own tools, methods, machinery - then what is left? It is only Him and complete dependence on Him, and if He doesn’t come through then we will look absolutely foolish. This is the posture, I believe, He demands.
It just so happened at the time that the house we were living in was at the number 127.
Next it was, “What if it’s just you and me?” A probing question that pokes right to the heart of our satisfaction in Christ. With no human applause, no visible impact of our work, no ability to see this or that changed as a result of our efforts, would He still be enough? It is a question that gets immediately to the root.
This question eventually leads to one of two places. Either we abort, covering up the question with busyness, activity and a sense of purpose. Or we come to this beautiful, quiet, still place of the soul, able to say, “Even if I were to be hidden away forever, as long as I have You, I have enough.”
And then, “You’ve lost your reverence of Me.”
Few know what to do with the fear of the Lord. Most excuse it away with a cursory label of awe or wonder, but when the Lord spoke these words to us, I knew it meant something deeper.
The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom. It turns us away from evil and keeps us from stumbling. When we approach casually, carelessly, and in whatever manner we deem fit, we have lost the fear of the Lord. We no longer feel a need to wait, to be still, or to tremble before we speak. We go on with much talking, wearying God and others with our words that are spoken without knowledge.
This is no easy topic to digest, and even my own words here won’t do it justice, but it has been an essential part of our story and one that we cannot ignore.
Finally, the most dramatic and confrontational of all the words came one night in a dream.
It’s not a regular thing for the Lord to speak to me through dreams, but it happened this night and it came as a graphic and pointed rebuke of my neglect as a husband and father.
I share this part of the story just so you know how bad of a position I was in and that even in this place (and whatever place you find yourself in) the Lord can reach us.
I was woken up twice in the night by the same dream replaying in my mind. It was our home, not our exact house, but our home together — the home of my wife and me. It was clear that I had been in and out of the home for some time, not dwelling there permanently, but coming and going as it suited me. This was normal behavior in the dream.
My wife always lived there, but I came and went. There was no emotion, no sadness or anger about this fact — instead, it was clear this was the conscious choice I had made. It was not the desire of my wife for things to be this way, she was simply following my lead.
When I came home this time, it was clear that another man had been staying there. And at first, I thought not much of it. My wife wasn’t hiding anything from me, I just hadn’t been around for her to talk to me about it. As I walked through the home I made it to the bedroom. It was in this room I saw a mattress on the ground with blankets and pillows set up for two. It was obvious that the two of them were sleeping (comforting each other) in the same bed while I was away.
This realization was gut-wrenching and emotion overtook me. How could I have let things go so far? I confronted my wife, not from a place of anger, but in sorrow — and again, she was honest about it, with nothing to hide. It was in this moment that I realized all of this was my doing. I had made the conscious choice to leave my home unattended. It was not the desire of my wife for it to be this way. She was simply following my lead.
An overwhelming wave of emotions hit me as I came to terms with what my lack of at-home, being-present, full-attention had opened the door for. It felt like a terror gripping me, shaking my world to the core, wondering if I could get back what was lost, and eventually it shook me awake.
The second time I woke I could not go back to sleep and so I went downstairs to pray. The dream was vivid, extremely real, and a part of me was shaking as I asked God what it meant. Was it a warning? Was it a torment from the devil? What was I supposed to do with this? I heard Him bring these words to my mind: “The sanctity of home. You need to defend the sanctity of home.”
This phrase, “The sanctity of home,” is actually the exact title of an old book written by Islay Burns back in 1853. When I Googled, “the sanctity of home,” this book was the first result that popped up. (available for free online) I downloaded the book and knew I needed to read it. The book covers the role of the father and the mother in the family unit and admonishes us as fathers to lead and command our households well.
Genesis 18:19 contains God’s description of Abraham, and Islay Burns contests this was a primary qualification for Abraham to be the man God chose to be the seed to future generations, “For I know him, that he will command his children and his household after him, and they shall keep the way of the LORD, to do justice and judgment; that the LORD may bring upon Abraham that which he hath spoken of him.”
Not only this passage, but Ephesians chapter 5 — the passage which famously talks about the interaction between a wife, the husband, and Christ as the example — contains this statement: “Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ also loved the church and gave Himself for her, that He might sanctify and cleanse her with the washing of water by the word, that He might present her to Himself a glorious church, not having spot or wrinkle or any such thing, but that she should be holy and without blemish.”
I was so concerned about loving, leading, commanding and pastoring outside the home, I had neglected my primary role as the one who needed to love, lead, command, sanctify and pastor inside my home. I’d previously looked with scorn and contempt on something so small, so inconsequential, and thus I had not defended the sanctity of home. In my absence, all manner of things had entered. This was going to stop.
From that point forward I started to truly pastor the home - leading family worship and devotions, praying with my wife and kids and praying over them, being present and attentive, opening the Bible and teaching them, and demonstrating a lifestyle fully submitted, surrendered and in obedience to the word and will of God.
This is the final part of our story that I’ll be sharing. I hope you’ve found it to be an encouragement. If you have more questions or want to share some of your own story with me, send me an email: firstname.lastname@example.org