The Real Meaning of Home

26 Jun

Since our lives for the past 4-5 months have revolved around houses, I’ve been thinking a lot about the idea of what it means to be “home”. Not having our own house for 3 months has shown me how much of my comfort and ease in life is derived from having a place to call home – and it makes me more appreciative for how Jesus not only gave up His earthly home during His ministry, but also gave up His heavenly home to come to earth for us. Having a home is a precious thing.

But for us Christians, our home is not here on earth. Second Corinthians 5:1-10 are some of my favorite verses, and I have thought about them a lot lately. “We know that while we are at home in the body we are away from the Lord, for we walk by faith, not by sight. Yes, we are of good courage, and we would rather be away from the body and at home with the Lord.” Jesus has promised us a heavenly home with Him: “In my Father’s house are many rooms. If it were not so, would I have told you that I go to prepare a place for you? And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and will take you to myself, that where I am you may be also.” (John 14:2-3)

So our ultimate hope for a home is in heaven. But here on earth, a lot of us are also called to have earthly homes. If everyone were nomads or missionaries, society would not function! For those of us called to stay (in our current season at least), what should we do with our earthly homes?

This is what God has been teaching me lately: A house is a tool. It’s a means, not an end. It’s meant to be used to rejuvenate those who live there, to entertain and host friends and family, and to make memories in. It is fun to decorate and paint, but those also are just a means of creating an inviting and relaxing atmosphere, not an end in itself.

So what does this mean for me in practical terms? It means having people over and not worrying about tracking dirt on the carpet. It means hosting play dates and not overreacting if something gets broken or colored on. It means letting God lead us to use our house in the ways He sees fit, and not staking our claim to our “own territory”.

It also means keeping practicality and functionality in mind. With 2 dogs and young kids running around, a brown couch is much more practical than a white one. I plan to decorate and organize in a way that allows Emma to reach the stuff she can have and nothing more, so I don’t have to be constantly telling her no. If we can find something that fits the bill of what we would like for a certain use in a thrift store or on Craigslist, we buy that instead of something brand-new or name-brand.

For me, it also means valuing gifts and things with sentimental value. That’s the problem with trying to make a room look like the ones in a catalog: it would often require getting rid of things I’ve been given, because they don’t “go with the decor” or “aren’t my style.” This is something I’ve learned from my paternal grandmother: Cherish gifts. A home is more about memories than picture-perfect decorating. And soon, Emma will be painting “beautiful” pictures for us to hang on the walls!

I read Luke 12:23 yesterday – “For life is more than food, and the body more than clothing” – and it made me think, “For life is more than decorating, and a home more than furnishing.”

It’s easy for me to get so focused on decorating and re-creating Pinterest rooms that I forget: A home is a means, not an end. It’s not a competition to have the cutest house. Beautiful decorating means nothing to kids.

I’ll close with this excerpt from one of my previous blog entries:

When I admire people in movies (like J. Lo in The Wedding Planner) who have every piece of their life in place with predictable schedules and unvaried routines, I fail to realize that they’re paying for that perfection – with human relationships. I mean, how often do those same perfect people have an intimate marriage, loving kids, and open their homes to others?

To truly embrace the presence of others in my life, I have to let go of perfection. Because a life filled with relationships is messy. As Emily Walker wrote in her post The Messy Table:

My table is not perfect, but it has done the job it was meant to do very well. Life has been lived at it. Lessons have been learned at it. Memories have been made for decades, right there at that table. It tells the story of lives being lived, not life missed out on in the name of perfection.

That. Exactly.

When I think about what kind of mother I want to be someday, do I want my kids to remember how well-kept our house was, elaborate our dinners were, and how we were always running around doing stuff?  Or do I want them to remember how I played with them in our backyard, dropped whatever I was doing to listen or laugh, and didn’t get mad when they trampled little dirty footprints all over the carpet? Obviously, I want to be the latter.

And here’s what I’m learning: I don’t become the peaceful, patient, loving woman I want to be by being perfect and on top of things. Rather, I grow to be that woman as I learn to let things go. If I expect the house to always be orderly, I get frustrated when something is out of place. If I map out my schedule for the day and a wrench gets thrown in, I’m mad.

People who exhibit the fruit of the Spirit aren’t isolated from problems and frustrations. They have just learned to embrace the messiness of life. Be content in chaos. See each moment for what it’s really worth – not a time for getting things done, but a time to connect with and serve others, and to be filled with the joy of knowing Christ. Instead of running around checking off my own to-do list, I need to walk through each day with God, trusting that His grace is sufficient – He will provide the energy and wisdom to work when I need to, and to rest when I need to.

I am praying that God uses our new house for His purposes, and that we embrace those purposes whole-heartedly.

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