sharper focus ” House or home”
By Kelly Pontsler, Major
When does a house become a home? It’s an interesting question and one I ask as a person who has just made her 25th change of residence. I suspect that no two of us accomplish the task of relocating in exactly the same way.
How we pack, what we pack, when we pack, or if we even bother to pack at all says a ton (I suspect) about how our minds cope with change. In my case, the pictures on the wall and the books are usually the first items to go into boxes. Clean walls and clean bookcases say ‘this is it’ and seem to set all the rest in motion.
Although this move was only a short distance down the road and in town, it still required packing up an apartment full of personal items and furniture, which have now been delivered to the new house and off-loaded into a heap. Actually, many heaps. Big, mountainous heaps. And as I’ve been stepping over and around those heaps in the last few days, I couldn’t help but wonder, how long will it take for this place to feel like home?
English is an extraordinary language for expressing nuance and distinction. A house is a physical structure, a place to reside, a location with an address. But a home? That’s different, right? True, to call a place “home” is to also refer to a physical structure, a place to reside, a location with an address. But home is more— much more. It seems perhaps obvious to us English speakers, but I know from experience that not every language has the words to distinguish the two. House or home?
I realized today that what is true of our place of residence can equally be said of our church. How do you refer to the place you attend for spiritual nourishment? House of worship? Church home? House or home?
What’s the difference? I think it’s a matter of heart connection and settledness. Home is where my stuff is. Home is where my family is. Home is a place where I really settle in and dwell awhile. That may seem hard to believe, given the fact that I’ve relocated about every other year of my life (averaging it out). But it is, perhaps exactly that which convinces me that feeling at home is something more than just the duration of the stay. It is connectedness.
This last week we enjoyed a fabulous week of vacation Bible school in Salem. Nearly 100 children and some 50 volunteer helpers showed up each day to learn that no matter where they are, no matter what happens, trust God. We concluded with a recap of the week during our Sunday service, with many of those children in attendance with their parents. (How cool is that?)
So many new faces, so many opportunities to share the Good News, and even now I wonder, as they walked through our doors, did it feel like just another house or did it feel like home? I have no doubt that the coming weeks will tell. Our hope and prayer is that they will want to settle in and dwell awhile.
I love these lines from the writer of Psalm 84: How lovely is your dwelling place, O LORD of hosts!…Even the sparrow finds a home, and the swallow a nest for herself, where she may lay her young at your altars, O LORD of hosts, my King and my God. Blessed are those who dwell in your house, ever singing your praise! House and home!
Well, it’s going to take me a couple of weeks to get those mountainous heaps under control. But I promise you this, when the books get on the shelves and the pictures get up on the wall, I’ll be home!