By Jason Yeatts
My view of theology changed two years ago. For most of my life, I considered theology an academic discipline, reserved mainly for those smart enough to handle it. But two years ago, I realized something was missing.
My kids were getting older, and I was discovering that the theological information locked in my brain was quite powerless when I brought it into my living room, kitchen, and bedroom—the intimate places of my home. Theology seemed disconnected from my real life, and I struggled to understand how it could, and should, affect my day-to-day comings and goings.
I found help from C.S. Lewis and Dallas Willard. Like Jesus, they pointed me to the ordinariness of theology. This was my first step toward understanding how theology could touch every aspect of my everyday life—even something as mundane as my attitude toward my kids’ rooms.
In The Screwtape Letters, Lewis explains—speaking through the demon Screwtape—that to make virtue ineffective it must be pushed beyond reality, keeping it away from concrete situations and real relationships.
Lewis describes something I had long done with theology. I had shoved it into the realm of fantasy. What I now realized was that my theology needed to return to reality.
This is where Willard brought it home (quite literally) for me. In The Divine Conspiracy, he says Jesus matters “because of what he brought and what he still brings to ordinary human beings, living their ordinary lives and coping daily with their surroundings. . . . [For] God has yet to bless anyone except where they actually are, and if we faithlessly discard situation after situation, moment after moment, as not being ‘right,’ we will simply have no place to receive his kingdom into our life. For those situations and moments are our life.”1 Willard helped me see that theology only matters when I live it out moment by moment.
I eventually started rescuing my theology from fantasyland and applying it in the intimate places of my home. As I did this, Psalm 1 became an essential theological text for me.
Psalm 1 teaches two fundamental truths. The first is that God is ultimately concerned with the kind of people we become. A godly person is “like a tree planted by streams of water, which yields its fruit in season” (Psalm 1:3). The second truth is that the Bible gives us knowledge about reality. It explains the way things really are in ordinary life. This is why the blessed person delights in the law of the Lord and meditates on it day and night (Psalm 1:2).
Among other things, this truth has important implications for how we talk. The Bible is quite literal when it says, “The mouth of the righteous is a fountain of life, but the mouth of the wicked conceals violence” (Proverbs 10:11). This is knowledge about ordinary life.
So how does this relate to my attitude toward my kids’ rooms? In the past, there were few places that frustrated me more than my kids’ messy rooms. To control this, I would walk in their rooms, raise my voice, criticize them, call them messy kids, and bark commands to clean up immediately.
But my theology, informed by Psalm 1, has changed all of this. God is concerned about the kind of people my kids become, and my words have a big influence on this reality. Whereas I used to be daily concerned with the cleanliness of their rooms, I am now much more at ease with some chaos. As my theology has moved deeper into my ordinary life, I am much more concerned with who they are becoming.
I now spend more time hanging out with them (even in their dirty rooms), rather than barking commands. I now give more hugs and kisses than harsh words when I go into their rooms. I now listen more than complain. I tell them they are worth being loved rather than telling them they are messy. I am now more interested in them as individuals than I am the cleanliness of their rooms.
Is a clean room important? Sure. But thanks to God, I now notice that the most important thing is for Ryland, Ethan, and Ava to become the kind of people who naturally delight in the law of the Lord and meditate on it day and night, becoming like trees planted by streams of water that produce fruit in season. For this to happen, they will need more than clean rooms. They will need parents who show them the way of Jesus in their ordinary lives.
1 Dallas Willard, The Divine Conspiracy: Rediscovering Our Hidden Life in God (New York: HarperSanFrancisco, 1998), 13, 348, 349.
Jason Yeatts serves as executive minister of adult ministry with The Creek, Indianapolis, Indiana.