As a diehard introvert and perfectionist, sharing my daily space with someone who really, really likes to know what I’m writing, what I’m reading, where I’m going is a drag. Especially when that person is not the neatnik I hoped for. And marriage usually leads to kids, who are some of my favorite people, but more work than you’ll ever know until you have them and by then it’s too late.
Sharing space also means sharing decisions. Decisions about daily tasks, future careers, about how that space is used, or not used, and if the latter, what space will replace it.
To wit, someday you might just give up your $250,000 law degree from one of the nation’s top law schools to stay home and clean someone else’s pee off the toilet. And on yet another day, you might move your household of six + one dog 3000 miles away, single-handedly no less, so your spouse can pursue what he or she wants to do, even though it’s pretty much dead last on your list of desires and it means you can probably never practice law again, or eat a monthly meal at your favorite restaurant, and even causes you to lose all your editing clients and go without publishing an article for five months while you recover from the agony of a solo parent move while your husband—I mean spouse—stays at a friend’s place across the country, watching late night TV and reading Grantland. You know. For example.
After two years of sharing that 3000-miles-away space, you may realize that your two years of anger and resentment have melted into the realization that the new home, the home you were forced to have, is something that you’ve come to love. Because in this home, this giant monstrosity of a home, your new community has been built.
Parties have been thrown, pizza eaten, baseball watched, cake sliced, and children loved more times than you can count.
No doubt: our homes are our own. They are our places of privacy and pajamas and make-up free days with coffee dribbled down our shirts.
Home is sanctuary.
But home is also an invitation to community. A place to which you can open the doors and say, “Come on in. I will make my safe space vulnerable for you, because you are someone I want to know, and because I love you already, even without knowing you.” It’s an invitation to have monthly dinners, at the first of which you try to channel Jesus, serving what you know is too-little soup, but just knowing God will make it stretch. But then God won’t and everyone will leave hungry, but come back the next month anyway, by which time you’ll have realized no one can channel Jesus and so you’d better plan for contingencies.
And then later, maybe even while retelling the soup-shortage-story, you’ll realize that it was in the repeat customers to the monthly meal that God’s provision came. You should have known.
But let’s face it: home is nothing more than a material object. A treasure to cling to too tightly when it should be held loosely. An opportunity to show off airs, obsess over throw pillows, spend money that really should have gone to charity. But how we use our homes … that makes all the difference.
Home is a ministry.
A place for teaching babies, both yours and those of others, to grow into adults. To cry over coffee with a friend who just “stopped by,” but ended up staying for two hours when her heart broke wide over something you must have said but you can’t even imagine what. A place where material objects can be used to set a beautiful table that brings joy into guests’ heart because someone cared enough to make things special. A place where it’s okay to serve friends on paper plates and out of bags and Tupperware.
How ridiculous I was, those two long years ago, when I thought home was based on location and decoration and remodeling efforts. My broken heart and lingering resentment were nothing more than a hard but necessary lesson learned: home is not where our hearts are. Instead it is a place where the heart of community first learns to beat.