“Nothing is normal until it is” (7).
Habits are actions we can do without having to think about how to do them, and this frees us up for more complicated thinking. However, bad habits tend to slip in without us either noticing or caring. You practiced getting in to them, and you will have to practice getting out of them in order to get good habits and to think good thoughts.
“[Habits] are liturgies that form our family’s hearts” (11). There are the things we think and say, but our households follow what we live out and do. You want to be patient with your kids, but your default habit “is to reprimand them for every spill,” until you make a new habit where you instead respond, “That’s alright, buddy. Let’s clean it up,” You feel more patient because you’ve practiced speaking patiently. “The heart always follows the habit” (10).
The author, Justin Whitmel Earley, has not written a book of easy life hacks. In fact, he wrote, “Nothing important is easy” (13). Rather, he presses the importance that we parents carefully choose wise habits and rhythms for our lives, or else we will fall “back on rhythms that are forming us in all of the usual patterns of unceasing screentime, unending busyness, unrivaled consumerism, unrelenting loneliness, unmitigated addictions, and unparalleled distraction” (16). Our habits lead our hearts, so new habits lead our hearts in new directions.
The Liturgical Lens
Earley writes about how parents need to put on the “liturgical lens,” which is when we have the eyes to see the spiritual worship in a habit we didn’t think was so spiritual (56). For example, in his chapter on mealtimes, Earley looks at one of his family’s dinner times through a practical lens. This is a story of survival. The kids might have eaten their food. He and his wife had three minutes of chatting with each other. All the other kids interrupted them and each other. Food is on the floor. So is the water. Someone is scolded. The table and kitchen need to be cleaned up. Again. Just like every night.
Yet putting on the liturgical lens allows them to see how reaching out to each other in prayers brings unity. Waiting their turn to take food practices delayed gratification. They practice encouragement and, in withholding criticism, they practice the virtue of silence—remembering that some things are better left unsaid. They practice forgiveness over spills and interruptions and loyalty by staying at the table even when they’re finished.
Day-to-day routines seem so normal that it’s easy to forget how important they are. But they are not a “neutral” part of our life. They are extremely important! This liturgical lens helps us to look at the “neutral” parts of our day as moments of worship. This leads us to ask, “What exactly are we worshiping when we suppose we’re not worshiping anything at all?” (60).
Spiritual formation requires there to be a mess. It is in the mess that we both teach others and learn ourselves how to act and react in a way that is honorable to God.
Lives Filled Full
Earley looks at our mealtimes, how we wake up, how we discipline our children (and how we show that we are disciplined), how we use our screentime, family devotions, marriage, work, play, conversation, and how we finish the day when we go to bed. All of these things bleed into the other. We can’t really be good fathers or mothers if we aren’t good spouses. I know we live in an imperfect world, but both spouses working hard to love one another consistently is better for the family than when only one spouse is trying to do it.
Every chapter ends with a section on habits that will form either children, the family, or the parents, specifically. There is a main idea, tips on expectations and conversations to have, things to pray about or memorize, and resources to consider reading. These are very helpful.
This book is written specifically “to parents in the thick of it” (20). You can certainly read this as a single person or a married couple pre-children as a way to prepare how you want your house to be run and why you want it to look that way. One main theme is that “we become our habits, and our kids become us” (21). Our habits lead our hearts, so new habits lead our hearts in new directions. This is a great book that Mari and I have really enjoyed reading together. Earley provides a helpful, nuanced, and gracious—not to mention realistic—view on parenting children. This is no easy task, but God has provided a path for us to walk on, and wisdom that we can hold on to. This is a great resource for parents to begin thinking about daily liturgy.
- Author: Justin Whitmel Earley
- Paperback: 240 pages
- Publisher: Zondervan (November 9, 2021)
- Website: Habits of the Household
Disclosure: I received this book free from Zondervan. The opinions I have expressed are my own, and I was not required to write a positive review. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255 http://www.access.gpo.gov/nara/cfr/waisidx_03/16cfr255_03.html.