Joe and Viola Byler live on a farm in Lancaster County, Pennsylvania. On the first floor of their two-story Amish home is a kitchen-family room combination, warmed by wood stoves. Author Suzanne Woods Fisher shares a story about the importance of the kitchen-family room in her book Amish Peace:
“‘It’s the only room that’s heated,’ Viola explains. ‘At night, the entire family gathers here. Everyone is together. The kids do their homework, Dad reads, I’ll be finishing up something in the kitchen.’
“Wouldn’t it be simple to heat the other rooms? Granted, the Amish don’t have central heating, but it couldn’t be that hard to lug a kerosene heater upstairs so the kids could study quietly. Would it?
“The answer comes swiftly.
“‘No!’ Viola says, eyes wide. ‘We love being together. It’s our way. Why, if other rooms were heated, everyone would . . . well, they would scatter!’ She says it as if it were a sin.”1 Suzanne Woods Fisher tells this story to illustrate the Amish emphasis on community and belonging. Research, she says, indicates that Old Order Amish suffer far lower rates of major depression and heart disease than the general population. Perhaps, she says, it is this emphasis on togetherness that contributes to their emotional and physical strength.
The point of this story is not to get you to turn off the heat to all but the kitchen and family room but to say that when it comes to experiencing good health—an aspect of shalom—we have important choices to make. How can we keep our families from becoming fragmented and scattered? How can we connect to others in vital Christian community? Ask God today to help you to make wise choices so you can experience the peace that comes from belonging to those who love him.
1. Suzanne Woods Fisher, Amish Peace (Grand Rapids, MI: Revell, 2009), 42.
(Image courtesy of debsch at freeimages.com)