[Note from Bill: Even though I’m still struggling to find the right words for my post I had intended for Monday, I don’t want that to stall the blog. So, Court’s going to rock it out with some stuff about Bell Family Nights.]
I’m sure most of you have very busy schedules. We do, too. So one thing we have been setting aside for a few years is a family night during the week. Here’s how I see this night going: We’re all sitting around the table, laughing and enjoying each other. The fun little activity I had planned and prepped is a huge success and is completed by all the kids saying, “Oh Mommy, all others must be so sad to not have a mommy like you. Your love for us is amazing.” At the night’s conclusion, we all sleep well knowing there is peace, joy, and much bonding that has happened.
More often, though, at least one of the following scenarios take place: A fussy child who screams so loudly for who knows what reason that we can’t hear each other talk, fighting among siblings, an exploding diaper that must be taken care of before poop becomes the new play object, complaining, one or both parents being so tired that the whole time we’re simply looking at the clock eagerly anticipating bed time, etc. I remember one night I had a fun activity planned. The evening actually went much like I described in the first paragraph. I was happy. When we were wrapping up, one child looked at me and asked, “Are we going to play a board game?” I said, “No, Sweetie. We did a craft instead. Wasn’t it fun?” to which the child responded, full grump face in place, “Well then it’s not really family night.”
Many times I use things like family night to try to foster a gospel-centered, joyful home, and many times when the night ends I end up frustrated and angry that it didn’t feel like a success. What’s truly going on is that I wasn’t a success. Instead of keeping my eyes on Jesus, I began to naval gaze. Instead of admiring the work on the cross and naturally imitating what I admire, I tried to force that admiration, making the tool the priority instead of the one to whom the tool was supposed to point. I stopped parenting in Jesus and once again tried to parent like Jesus.
You won’t find family night anywhere in the Bible. Someone in our culture made it up, and now many parents feel like it’s an obligation. It’s not. The Bells, however, have chosen to do this activity. We do it because much like spending time with Jesus helps us know him better and prayerfully leads to an increase in our admiration of him, spending time with our children should in theory lead to an increase in our love for them. So even in the midst of the grumbling, crying, dirty diapers, and fatigue—and oftentimes laughter—we are still getting glimpses into our children’s hearts, the sweet and sinful parts, along with understanding our own hearts better. And if we do family nights in Jesus, we do them in faith, understanding they probably won’t go the way we imagined but giggling the whole time, waiting to see what curve balls are going to be thrown and loving Jesus all the more with each strike out.
Though adding family night to your routine won’t solve any problems in and of itself, it might be something you decide to set aside for your family as a tool to help them look at Jesus. So each time we do some little activity together as a family, we’ll post what we did on here to maybe help spark some ideas. Take ‘em or leave ‘em. If you take ‘em, though, and if your night of softball turns into poopball, just laugh. Jesus is in there somewhere.