In the 1970’s and 80’s the church produced a series of commercials collectively referred to as “The Homefront Series”. If you haven’t seen any of these, you can click on this link to enjoy some of them: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CUJRPStarbM&t=926s
There are some treasures! In one of the commercials, the story is told of a man who was trying without success to put together a map of the world. In frustration, he left his den and took a phone call. As he began to return to the room, from a distance he could see the puzzle. It was complete. His young son called out: “I finished your puzzle, Dad!”
“How did you do that, son?”
“It was easy, Dad. There was a picture of a family on the other side. I just put the family together and the world fell into place.” What a gift it is to have the opportunity to put, and keep families together. When we do this, we are, by extension, blessing the whole world.
In the bible, we read about Esther, who saves the world of the Jewish people around her at the time. She didn’t think she was up to such a challenging task. But her cousin counseled her, “Perhaps you have come to the kingdom for such a time as this.” Have we also come to earth “for such a time as this?”
Why were we born during this time in history? Perhaps there were a lot of other historical “time slots” into which we could have fit. Why did we come now, when the family unit is under such strategic and concentrated adversarial fire? Did we help choose the timing of our earthly sojourn? I don’t know. I do know we were prepared to be here now. I love this quote from President Nelson:
“You were taught in the spirit world to prepare you for anything and everything you would encounter during this latter part of these latter days. The teaching endures within you!”
We knew. We knew that “the family” would be facing all kinds of dangers now. We knew, and we were prepared for this battle. We have come pre-wired to fight the forces of evil, calmly wielding the strongest weapon ever forged: love. We are like “ninjas”, brandishing patience, kindness, purity, integrity, and longsuffering. We’ve got this.
The influence of our homes will extend through generations. We may not be remembered by strangers, but if we try, our families and their families will be impacted forever.
As one man said about his mother: “I don’t remember much about her views of voting nor her social prestige…The main thing that sifts back to me now through the thick undergrowth of the years is that she loved me. She was always hugging me. And I liked it. She had a sunny face. To me, it was like God, and all the beatitudes saints tell of Him. And sing! Of all the sensations pleasurable to my life nothing can compare with the rapture of going to sleep while she swung to and fro in her rocking chair and sang.”
The mother is the heart of the home. Sometimes she feels like the liver of the home: filtering societal toxins. Or she may feel like the pancreas of the home, trying to deal with all the sticky, sugary stuff trying to enter. But usually, she’s the heart. And she’s aware of the heart of everyone who lives there.
Fathers too are irreplaceable. As L. Tom Perry has said “Satan, in his carefully devised plan to destroy the family, seeks to diminish the role of fathers. Increased youth violence, youth crime, greater poverty and economic insecurity, and the failure of increasing numbers of children in our schools offer clear evidence of lack of a positive influence of fathers in the homes. A family needs a father to anchor it.” I love that mental visual of the anchor. Fathers help ground families.
A peaceful home may not appear at first glance to be that way. Some homes, as you know, are noisy. You may be living in one of them. You may have babies that cry often and/or toddlers that “re-purpose” things in ways that might drive the “zen-iest” monk a little crazy on occasion.
Still, you are creating memories that are beyond measure! For example, please consider this blog comment from Susan Prillman: “My mom raised 11 children who turned into responsible adults…. We were poor and our “treat” each week, if we were lucky enough to be the designated helper, was to go in the kitchen with her, close the door, and wrap up broken pretzels and marshmallows and whatever else we could find in little napkins for our siblings’ ‘Friday Night Treat.’ Then we’d take turns sitting on my dad’s backside while he laid on the couch after work to give him back scratches and rubs. Oh yea. No money but lots of love.”
Eleven children! Can you imagine? Can you feel the peace and security in her words? It’s not a surprise that her comment immediately got 484 “likes.” Many commenters said things like “I wish I had grown up in a home-like this.”
In a calm home, not everything is always put away or resolved. There is, however, a consistent feeling of love, peace, and safety. Homes like these generally produce loving, peaceful, and safe adults. As author David Code said: “My goal with my own kids is not to tell them I love them every six minutes of the day and helicopter-parent them so they know I’m present. It’s to create calm around them so that they feel no sense of threat.”
We can bring more these heavenly feelings to our homes more often. For me, this process has involved a surprising amount of punching temptation (to be discouraged, lazy, resentful, distracted, to yell) in the metaphorical gut. Sometimes I’m really good at this, like a prizefighter practicing punch throwing in a meat locker. Other times, it’s like the frozen ham swings back and whacks me in the head. Oh well! I can try again, and again! I get stronger little by little.
Allowing myself to be fun—with a layer of calm, ordered steadiness just under the surface—is ever my goal. I make mistakes about every twenty minutes. But I try to remind myself to go for the daily net average. If I have helped to move the “family progress ball” even a micro-inch forward, the day was a success.
God wants us to progress and has given parents the cutest, fluffiest tools to do it: children. Parenthood may be God’s kindest way of wrangling impatience, inconsistency, etc., right out of us. We keep trying because, dang it, they are darling and can talk with those adorable lisps. They’re so helpless, and they think we’re some kind of superheroes when maybe all we really did was make them a slightly burnt grilled cheese sandwich and for gosh sakes we were wearing a beat-up bathrobe and no make-up when we did it.
With this kind of unconditional love swirling around us, we, as parents, tend to grow in all the best ways. My husband and I have often wondered, “Who grew up more?” as we have raised our children: them or us? It may have been us.
Maybe we’ll all find ourselves thanking our offspring in the next life, with tears in our eyes, because they really were our little life coaches. They were watching us and holding us to higher standards. They were mirrors for our more unpleasant behaviors. Children can be the greatest teachers. We know we’re not all that and a bag of (ideally low fat, organic, locally sourced, not fried;) chips. That’s not the point. When they are small, children think we are. And how can we resist that kind of love? We can’t. That’s God’s point. He knows there’s a good chance we’ll get our acts together to try to live up to what they think we are.
In the process, we’ll be closer to what He is.
Family members can be like rocks in a rock tumbler. We bump into each other, and as we do, we polish and refine one another. As we help one another, we can become our best selves and then live as families forever together in heaven. As we reach for “peace on earth” and “goodwill towards men” we can embrace peace on our little piece of earth, where we practice goodwill with the tiny future adults around us.
Strength comes from restraint. We are tempted to yell, but deep down we don’t really want to yell. We want to be calm, focused, firm when necessary, and filled with love.
As Neal A. Maxwell has said:
“When the real history of mankind is fully disclosed, will it feature the echoes of gunfire or the shaping sound of lullabies? The great armistices made by military men or the peacemaking of women in homes and in neighborhoods? Will what happened in cradles and kitchens prove to be more controlling than what happened in congresses? When the surf of the centuries has made the great pyramids so much sand, the everlasting family will still be standing because it is a celestial institution, formed outside telestial time.”
Keep going young parents. Your calm voices may not always be heralded in the way they deserve right now. Still, know that they will echo through the eternities…you and your strong families are our best hope for mankind.