Home. It is the place we look forward to returning after work, and with greater longing after vacation. Even when I am not quite ready to leave the freedom a rambling road trip, home still tugs at my heart. And I love that moment when we first open the front door after a long trip and a musty, closed up scent seasoned with the smells of the life we live here envelopes me with a comforting welcome. I am at peace embraced by our space and reassured everything is OK. There is something for each of us, whether it be good or not so good, that triggers memories of home.
Kenneth Graham describes this so well in The Wind in the Willows. Ratty and Mole are trudging through winter weather to return to Rat’s home by the river. As they pass through a village, cozy scenes seen through windows increase their longing and they are spurred onward. Outside the village in the open field, Mole’s senses are jolted, “Suddenly the summons reached him, and took him like an electric shock. . . . It was one of these mysterious fairy calls from out the void that suddenly reached Mole in the darkness, making him tingle through and through with its very familiar appeal . . . Home! . . . Now, with a rush of old memories, how clearly it stood up before him . . . the home he had made for himself, the home he had been so happy to get back to after his day’s work. And the home had been happy with him, too, evidently, and was missing him, and wanted him back . . .”
Mole’s home is described as, “Shabby indeed, and small and poorly furnished.” Yet Mole wept with longing to return to his home. I find it intriguing that Graham gives it such a dowdy, but desirable description. Those of us fortunate to have a place to call home, particularly if we feel welcome there, experience a longing to be home whether humble or grand. I am inclined to believe the thing that makes a home homey is different for each one of us even if some things may be the same for all of us.
The study of homes has been a pleasurable past-time for me since I was a teen. I am most intrigued by the various ways people bring their own personalities into their home environment. Creating home is really more about creating an environment, isn’t it? Decorating is an art form, but a home can seem sterile if the kind of environment we hope to create isn’t considered. When I married Jim, a fifty-five-year old bachelor, it was a special challenge to create home together. We had both accumulated a lot of stuff. When I first moved into our home I went antiquing and found a Linotype drawer made into a coffee table. Jim’s years of working for the newspaper instilled an appreciation for this unique piece. And I had longed for a Linotype drawer for years. This little table has become a place to gather together scraps of individual histories, as well as memorabilia collected on hikes and road trips we have done together. Though just a table, it is an endearing expression of us within our home.
One of my favorite books on homemaking was written by Edith Schaeffer, The Hidden Art of Homemaking. She had a lot of wonderful things to say about the value of being creative when making home. “I am sure that there is no place in the world where your message would not be enhanced by your making the place (whether tiny or large, a hut or a palace) orderly, artistic and beautiful with some form of creativity, some form of ‘art.’”
The house is just a shell; it is the transformation of the people and the environment inside the shell fashioning a home. The hermit crab comes to my mind. Hermit crabs have a large, soft, curvy abdominal area and so they carry their home, a seashell, on their backs for protection. As the crab outgrows its shell it must move out and quickly find another one. Without consideration of the unique personalities and needs of each family member as they grow and change our homes are more like shells – easily left, forgotten and quickly replaced. Making home is an important consideration, and for the Christian it can be taken into a more personal space – your own person.
How is it that I as a person can be considered a home in and of myself? Here is what John and Paul have to say about my being a home:
John 14: 23 (NIV)
“Jesus replied, ‘If anyone loves me, he will obey my teaching. My Father will love him, and we will come to him and make our home with him.’”
Ephesians 3:17 (NIV) Paul’s intent as he prays:
“so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith. . . .”
Footnote in (NIV) Reflecting God Study Bible:
3:17 dwell. Be completely at home. Christ was already present in the Ephesian believers’ lives. (cf. Ro 8:9). hearts. The whole inner being.
John says when I love Christ and obey Him, He and the Father, responding in great love, will move in and make home within my very being. I love the footnote from the Reflecting God Study Bible on the Ephesians passage. The idea that Christ could be completely at home in me is astounding. And yet God created us in His image – we are meant to be bearers of His image – and it is Christ in me reflecting the Father to those around me when invited to make this shabby vessel into His home. And He isn’t just moving into a corner or a room; He is transforming my entire inner being into His home.
My willingness to allow Him to rearrange everything and make my inner being His own impacts other people. I am a home environment – a dwelling place for God – and in turn God in me ignites a longing in others for Him to dwell in them. No matter where our eternal home will be, we are responsible for the environment we create for those around us by our attitudes, words and actions. Edith Schaeffer, The Hidden Art of Homemaking, addresses the self as an environment and the affect we have on one another.
“There are various art forms we may or may not have talent for, may or may not have time for, and we may or may not be able to express ourselves in, but we ought to consider this fact-that whether we choose to be an environment or not, we are. We produce an environment other people have to live in. We should be conscious of the fact that this environment which we produce by our very 'being' can affect the people who live with us or work with us.”
Author Emily P. Freeman fans to life the excitement of the glorious task stamped on our hearts to be image bearers of our Creator God. “Every moment is packed with artistic possibility because, as an image bearer with a job to do, there is potential to reveal the glory of God in every circumstance, no matter how I feel, who I’m with, what my hands hold, or what’s gone wrong. God with us lives within us. And he will come out through us in a million little ways.”
Home! It is a place we are drawn to physically and spiritually. So many layers of living go into making home the kind of place to stir the senses into an emotional frenzy of longing and to awaken forgotten memories worth sifting through. But it is my inner being filled with my Father who dwells within and shines forth that triggers within and beyond a profound longing for all things eternal.