Evening. The ‘after’ hours. After work. After school. After dinner. It’s quite common to greet someone with a friendly “good morning”, but do we ever consider what it would take to have a “good evening”?
“The days are so full of occupation for most of us, from early morning till nightfall, that whatever the real home-life we make, we must make in the evenings.” says Rev. J.R.Miller, D.D. You mean between 6pm and 9pm? Real home-life should be our focus in the ‘after’ hours? But there’s so much left to do! Homework. Practice. Dinner. Sort the mail. Check his planner. Go to my meeting. Return phone calls. Laundry. Internet. Favorite sitcom. Bath time.
Originally published in 1882, Miller goes on to say that “It is one of the misfortunes of our time that the home is being so robbed of its evenings by business, by pleasure, and by society.” Did he say ‘robbed’? The home is in a hold up? It is being stolen from? Have the noble, charitable, even religious things that we’ve signed up for, gotten involved in, helped out at, actually ‘robbed’ us? He asserts in his book Home-Making that “It were better that we should neglect some social attraction, or miss some political meeting, or be absent from some lodge or society, than that we should neglect the culture of our own homes and let our children slip away from us forever.”
That seems quite severe. The neglecting our homes and letting “our children slip away from us forever” part, I mean. Seriously, most of us are just doing the best we can with what we have. And if we’re honest, we were (until a few minutes ago) feeling as if we were doing a better job at it than some other people. So let’s
try to keep things in perspective. Is he actually saying that by being overly committed, over involved outside of home, that we may lose what, in fact, is most important to us? Our family?
“How will those who go out of our doors be affected in later life by what they remember of their early home?” he asks. How many nights each week are we running the roads? Going to games? Attending meetings? How many nights are you just “home” together? What would your kids say about your evening schedule? How about your spouse? If life was “so full of occupation”130 years ago that families needed to be encouraged not to “neglect the culture” of their own homes but to instead focus on the hours they had together in the evening, how much more should we heed that advice in the hustle-bustle of today!
“When we think of the importance of the evenings at home it certainly seems worthwhile to plan to save as many as possible of them from outside demands for the sacred work within.” Okay. Let’s go over that again. A purpose was just stated for that time set aside at home in the evenings. Plan to save, he advocates, for the sacred work within. Yes, there it is again. That need to be intentional! To not just let life happen to you. To PLAN. What sacred work is Miller speaking of? The work of interacting as a family in a way that will have an influence in eternity. The work of tying heart strings to home so that the stronger influence is there, not in the world outside your front door. “Of course it will take time.” he says. “Something must be left out of life if this is to be done. But is there anything else in all the round of life’s calls, and even its seeming duties, that might not well be left out for the sake of anchoring our children to their homes?”
Memories are intangible and yet most valuable. They are what we carry with us from times past. “We are fast moving on through this world.” Miller continues. “Soon all that will remain of us will be the memories of our lives… No other work that God gives any of us to do is so important, so sacred, so far-reaching in its influence, so delicate and easily marred as our home-making.” What a humbling thought. The role we have been given is significant and sobering.
With that weighty reflection, I’ll leave you. Good evening, I say. Let’s do what we can to have a real good evening… at home, with family, being intentional, making memories that can be cherished for years to come. “Whatever else we slight, let it never be our home-making. If we do nothing else well in this world, let us at least build well within our own doors.”
Good books read aloud,
times of play and laughter,
games around the kitchen table,
music to fill the rafter.
Memories shared as a family,
cheerful conversing with kin,
that’s what’ll be remembered
when your life is at the end.