There are two important and influential devices in every home. Whoever controls these devices wields great power and influence. They have the potential to bring great joy and excitement as well as tension and discord.
The second important and influential device in the home is the thermostat. In contrast to the remote control, no one can have the thermostat—it’s attached to the wall. Results of the thermostat being changed aren’t realized until later. Are you cold? A quick fix is to grab a blanket or put some warm socks or cozy slippers on. It’s interesting, though, just grabbing a blanket or slippers for yourself will not help anyone else in the house (who might be cold) get warm. The thermostat has the ability to warm everyone up in the home.
I live in the Upper Midwest so it’s more appropriate for me to talk about getting heat into our homes. For those of you who live in the south, it would be more appropriate to speak in terms of cooling and taking clothes off (although you can only take so many clothes off)!
By implication, whoever sets the thermostat is setting the temperature for the environment of the home. In other words, whatever the temperature is set at, the environment adjusts to the temperature of the room.
I am speaking in obvious terms, but think in relation to setting the tone of your family. What does the environment of your home feel like? Is it positive (warm) or negative (cold)? Is there tension or freedom? Do your children walk on eggshells around you (parents) or do they have the freedom to make a mistake and be gently guided to understand how NOT to make those mistakes again? Does your home exude love and laughter? Or does your home environment radiate judgment and apathy? Do your kids smile because they have something to smile about? Or do your kids mope around the house because their families don’t do many activities or play with them?
What does the spiritual environment of your home look like? Do you read your Bible and pray? Or does the word of God collect dust on a shelf and petitions to God remain unasked?
Who sets the tone of your home? Who adjusts the temperature as needed? Or does no one care about the thermostat, leaving each individual to work out their own environmental conditions?
While most of us as human beings care about the remote control (usually because it’s of more immediate concern), we should equally care about the type of environment or culture we are raising our children in. We don’t realize environmental issues until it’s too late: why does my teenager want nothing to do with me? Well, it may be the fact that they are a teenager and don’t want anything to do with adults, but perhaps it has more to do with the fact that you as a Mom or Dad (Uncle, Aunt, or even Grandparent) did not take time to develop and nurture a relationship with them when they were younger. At least make the fact that they don’t want anything to do with you not about your lack of relationship, rather your continual pursuit of an active relationship with them.
Don’t let environment issues surprise you. Adjust and care for your environment right now.
Setting the tone of your home is one way to use the thermostat principle well. Perhaps thinking in terms of a community of homes (a city, town, or suburb) or a community of faith (churches and small groups) is an appropriate application of caring for the thermostat. What does the culture of community feel like? Are people supportive and encouraging or are people individualistic and rude? Are you welcoming? Or do you slam the door in people’s faces? Do we welcome tourists in Hayward, WI because they need a break from their hectic, city-based lives? Or do we want to “shoot them because it’s tourist season”? Are we open to new people visiting our faith community? Or are we a closed group?
What is the temperature of your community? And, more importantly, who are you (as community members) letting control the temperature of your community?
Thanks to Steve DeNeff for the inspiration for these two metaphors!