The greatest gift we can give to our families is to live out our faith the same in the privacy of our homes just as we would in the public limelight. Home is the place where everyone sees the reality of who we really are. It is a great place to reveal more of who Jesus is!
In 1967 on a cold and wintry night, I was ten years old and had completed the outside farm chores for the day (i.e.: pigs were fed, fresh bedding was laid, and the dog had water and food); my family and I were settled into our evening routines. I did my homework, cleaned up the supper table, wrestled with my brothers, and cared for the needs of Nancy, my mentally and physically handicapped sister.
A knock on the outside door was heard, along with a troubled voice in the background saying, “Can I come in for a while?” Everyone rushed to the kitchen to find our neighbor lady, who lived a mile across the field, leaning over a chair sobbing, chilled down to the bones, and bloodied. The air was filled with the stench of alcohol and a loud drunken voice. Our neighbor cried out, “My husband beat me and I had to run away. I thought that I should come to your house because I knew that you cared about me and my family.” Weaving back and forth leaning on the back of a kitchen chair, she sobbed and sobbed. Mom placed a chair behind her and helped her to sit down. Dad wrapped a blanket around her while mom made up a pot of fresh hot coffee. After a two hour conversation, she had sobered up enough to feel comfortable to return home. When my parents walked her into her house, they saw her husband passed out with his head resting on the kitchen table. On the open porch entrance laid an uncooked, 20 lb. turkey, a gift from their landlord for Christmas; it was half eaten by their cats.
Besides her husband she also had three daughters, all under the age of seven. The three little girls often cared for themselves as their mom and a dad were often drunk on wine. The parents drank a gallon or more per person each weekend. The dad drank hard liquor during the week. There was an empty, run-down chicken coop on their property. Replacing the laying hens were gallon wine jugs filling each nest area–30 in all! For the three little girls, the chicken coop was also their playhouse year-round. The wine jugs, two naked dolls and a few small sticks, collected from a grove, were their toys.
The older girls attended school; each were diagnosed with learning disabilities and enrolled in special education. All three girls had difficulties talking with clear speech. I rode the same school bus and often saw them run out to the bus with uncombed hair, dirty dresses, and coats open to harsh winter winds. Sometimes I saw dried blood on their cheeks. They smiled to everyone on the bus and sat right behind the bus driver.
Starting long before our family was aware of the domestic violence and alcoholism problems of our neighbors, my parents were building a loving and caring relationship with them. Drop in visits, friendly waves, and goodies to share were common occurrences. This relational warmth created the atmosphere that told the mom that it was alright to stagger across the snow covered fields, knowing in her heart that the Giese family loved and cared for her family.
We started to take the three neighbor girls to Sunday School and church each week. My mom brought a warm washcloth along in the car to wipe the girls’ faces clean as we drove down the road to church. These little girls were in charge of their own lives for their parents couldn’t even take proper care of themselves. My mom would make sure that there was plenty of food in their refrigerator.
Our relationship with Jesus directly affects how we treat those who are closest to us, even our next door neighbors. As I watched the example set by my parents, I saw more of who Jesus is. I also started to understand what truly matters in life.
If your children were asked to evaluate your life and your relationship with Jesus, what would they say?
Ephesian 5:1-2 (The Message) “Watch what God does, and then you do it, like children who learn proper behavior from their parents. Mostly what God does is love you. Keep company with him and learn a life of love. Observe how Christ loved us. His love was not cautious but extravagant. He didn’t love in order to get something from us but to give everything of himself to us. Love like that.”