Oikouros: Keeper of the home

Keeper of the home 1It’s not that I’m ungrateful. It’s not that I want anything to change. It’s just that this is a different life than I expected.

It’s noon and so far I have sorted two loads of clean laundry, tidied rooms, done dishes, changed a pee diaper, changed a poop diaper, vacuumed, made breakfast, cleaned the kitchen, put in more laundry, tended to a crying pox-covered child, disciplined the non-poxed one, hovered over the poxed one to get her to pick up her toys, processed medical paperwork, worked on our August budget, angrily picked up my husband’s socks and assorted other abandoned clothes of his, turned a blind eye to the bathrooms that have needed cleaning for far too long, worked out a meal plan for the week using only what we have on hand because this month’s budget is $500 short, researched MRSA because the doctor’s office called with positive culture results from the pox (“We are running additional tests”), and felt frustrated at every turn.  Mad, even.  Except I’m too tired to maintain being mad.

Today I feel like a tattered remnant of myself.  This is the weirdest job I’ve ever had. And it’s not a job. It’s what I am: mother of small children.

Mothers of small children are a people group unto themselves.  This season of motherhood shapes a female human in very specific ways.  And regardless of occupational circumstances, whether she be full-time at-home or full-time work-and-home, mothers of small children are stretched thin.

Oh so thin.

A few years ago my friend, who at the time was pregnant with their first-born, said she was worried that she’d feel stuck at home after baby was born.  My response, as a mother of one toddler, had been so confident: “The answer is easy. If you feel that way, let’s get in the car and go somewhere fun!”

Nothing wrong with positive thinking. Right?  But today I’m feeling so deeply what my friend had feared.  It’s as she described: stuck. Stuck at home. Stuck in my heart. Stuck in a rut. Stuck in the hamster wheel of day after day sameness.  Like I’m living in my own version of the movie “Groundhog Day.” I’m desperate to find a way out of this loop.  Today the thinly stretched me is asking:  Am I living in the fullness of God’s creation of me?

Today I felt led to Titus 2.  And by “led” I mean… it came to mind and it made me angry.  And I see His familiar presence in the stirring of my heart.  The Holy Spirit is taking me to a passage to mentor me.  He whispered, “keeper of the home” to my heart to get my attention.  And, as He knew I would, my reaction was to rise up and revolt.  Those words, “keeper of the home,” feel like a cage.  Like a punishment.  Like I’ve been benched from real life.  And put in a place of bland resignation.  Yes, Holy Spirit, you have my attention.

Ok friends, please… hear me.  Of course I know the call of our Faith is to sacrifice.  Yes, there is a beautiful blessing in laying down our gifts, skills, education, passions, and dreams before the cross of Jesus.  There is a much-needed dying to self in our walk with Yahweh.  Yes. And amen.

But I have a hiccup in my heart.  And, thank God, it’s not my job to sanctify myself.  It’s the work of the Holy Spirit to transform me.  And today He’s exposing a fear and a feeling of rebellion in my heart:  I feel pressed into a cookie-cutter that demands I become a laundry-loving, seasonal-décor-using, smiling-always, sweet as sugar, house-cleaning aficionado.  Not that there’s anything wrong with that.  I have a friend who fits that description.  She’s great.  But what brings her joy, brings me depression.  Sure, I hear you.  It could be that she simply has a better attitude and heart than I do.  And that I just need to fix my attitude.  Yes, I agree.  But I can’t do that on my own.  Or rather, I refuse to do that on my own.  Because a few weeks ago I taught about the temptation to be the source of our own solutions (Luke 4:1-4.)  And I do not want to make my own bread.  And so, I’m glad the Holy Spirit is drawing me to Titus today.  As we work through this together, He will change me and I will be changed.

Older women likewise are to live in a way that is appropriate for someone serving the Lord, not malicious gossips nor drunkards (enslaved to much wine) but models of goodness. They are to give good counsel and be teachers of what is right and noble. By looking at them, the younger women will know to be sane and sober of mind (temperate, disciplined), to love their husbands, to love their children, to be virtuous (sensible, self-controlled), pure, keepers of the home, good-natured (kindhearted), being subject (adapting and subordinating themselves) to their own husbands, so that the word of God may not be exposed to reproach (blasphemed, discredited, dishonored). Likewise urge the young men to… (Titus 2:3-6a NAS, AMP, NLT, ESV, MSG)

There is a LOT of amazing stuff in this passage.  So many good and wise words.  We could sit in this passage for weeks… or possibly our whole lives.  This is a good path: walking out these things with the power of the Holy Spirit.

But today I’m solely captivated by the words that are irritating my heart: “Keepers of the home.”  These words seem so different from the others in the list.  A seemingly highly practical item in a list of quests of ministry and heart.  Or is it?

Oikouros is the Greek word translated to the phrase “keeper of the home.”  The definition given by the NAS New Testament Greek Lexicon are:
1.
caring for the house, working at home
2. the (watch or) keeper of the house
3. keeping at home and taking care of household affairs
4. a domestic

Yes, as I expected.  “At home.”  “A domestic.” “Household affairs.” But there is something else in that list.  “The (watch or) keeper of the house.”  The watch?  What?

The root words that form Oikouros are “Oikos” and “Ouros.”  And in these root words my heart has felt the whisper reminder of God’s vision for my season as a mother of little ones.

Ouros: A guard, Be “ware”
– Guard: to protect, to shield, to watch over, to maintain control over, to determine and supervise entry and exit to.
– Be “ware”: to watch, be wary, be aware, be wise.

Oikos: a house, home, a palace, the house of God, the tabernacle, a dwelling place, a human body, one’s settled abode, a household, all the persons forming one family, the family of God, the Christian Church.

As I read these words today, I felt my vision adjust.  Like a chiropractor for my heart.  And things clicked back to a good and right place.  Stepping back from my tree, and now able to see the forest again.

My call as keeper of our home has very little to do with laundry and housework and all the required mundane details.  Yet, I have allowed them to become a tyrant in my life.  I have let them consume my energy.  I have let them become a god.  Because there is always so much of that stuff to do!  But “keeping my home” is NOT keeping my home clean, or keeping my home tidy, or keeping my home orderly, or keeping my kids orderly, or keeping my family clean and “appropriate.”  Or whatever oppressive ideal I inflict on myself.  Or the enemy tricks me with.

My call as keeper of our home is about being a watcher.  A guard.  A defender of these people of this household.  A defender of the entryway to our family.  A shield.  A wise overseer.  For all of these things I would be utterly dependent on the empowerment of the Holy Spirit.  I would have to empty myself and be full of His Truth.  Sacrifice my fears and weaknesses and self-sufficiency. And throw myself on Him for direction, strength, and wisdom.

Regardless of a mother of small children’s unique circumstances, God has invited her to be the spiritual, emotional, and relational Keeper of the home.  This role isn’t affected by her passions or abilities for housework.  Or her occupation.  Or culinary skills.  Or time for Pinterest.  This role isn’t defined by culture, or generation, or clever marketing.  This role is given to us from Yahweh.  It’s an invitation from Him to be part of something so much bigger than ourselves.  To become more like Him, our King and Guard.

Keeper of the home is an invitation to rise above the concerns of our days and to step into a role that transcends all the culturally defined gender-roles of a woman.  Getting to be a Keeper of the home is a position of high honor and deep service.  It’s a place of prayer, of wisdom, of life with Him.

How could we ever have made it about clean carpets, meal planning, and having our households in order?  Oh God.  What a ditch we have fallen in.  Restore to me Your beautiful design for womanhood.  Lift my eyes up from the temporal and keep me fixed on the eternal.

Today I am a Keeper of the home for my man and our children.  But I am sensing a much wider concept that stretches into my lifelong womanhood.  The word Oikos also means the family of God, the Christian Church.  I feel the Holy Spirit rekindling my heart for my role as a woman in His Kingdom: a Keeper of His household.  A watcher, a guard, a shield, a defender, a minister to, a servant of His household: the Church.  For His family: the Body of Christ.  To stand for her.  To cover her.  To shield her.

As a mother of young children, I’ve been struggling to find my place to serve and invest in our church.  I’ve felt frustrated about my lack of time, and lack of energy.  I’ve felt torn between my passions for ministry and my passions for my family.  Today I feel like my heart has been stitched back together.  Of course I have some more praying and meditating on the Word to do, but I can see a beautiful hope growing in my heart.  Just as a mother’s role as Keeper is unaltered by her unique circumstances, a woman’s role as Keeper in God’s family is unaltered by her unique circumstances… like time and energy constraints when you’re a mother of small children. 😉

Keeper of the home is a role that happens amidst life.  It’s a role that unfolds in each moment of life.  It is like the others in that list in Titus 2.  A quest of ministry and heart.

Selah.

3 thoughts on “Oikouros: Keeper of the home

  1. Amy Iwasaki says:

    So right here, Justine! We fall into such error when we think our worth is in what we do, as opposed to who we are. God has placed you into your position to be the wife, and mother. Not do wifely and motherly duties. He takes away what seems easy and feeds our self so that we can go after something deeper and better. Thank you God! We still have a choice to make, be bitter, angry and frustrated or humble ourselves (so hard!) and seek God for His plan here, not ours. But the journey means dying to self and it’s often painful. It’s definitely has no immediate gratification – but the end result can be something more beautiful, more real, than could ever be imagined.

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