What is the difference between a house and a home? To some, the words are synonymous; to me, they represent the tangible brick-and-mortar vs. the theoretical, almost spiritual space a family resides. That is to say, we can make a home in our house. Or not. We could simply use it for its walls, roof, address, shelter. Is your house the place you live or the place you dwell?
“The Lord is my rock, my fortress and my deliverer; my God is my rock, in whom I take refuge. He is my shield and the horn of my salvation, my stronghold.”
My husband and I have resided in our house for fourteen years this February. Aside from my childhood home, this is the longest I have lived in one place. I’m not sure that was the intent when we purchased it. A newly married couple with two large dogs we treated like children, we found “a yard with a house attached,” perfect for starting our lives together. Purchased in the height of a real estate boom, we probably planned to build equity fast then buy bigger. Then we had a baby, the recession of 2008 hit hard, we spent years regrouping, we had another baby and another, and came to realize this too-small space was full of love and laughter and so many memories.
Somewhere along the way, God got ahold of our hearts and allowed us to fall in love with a hundred orphans in Honduras. The press to have a larger house became far less important in light of their humble one. And as our own children became more aware of all we have in comparison with others, we knew we needed to teach them by example the priorities we can make for the good of others. As much as we all want more space, a gourmet kitchen, and room to entertain, God was calling us to funnel our resources differently for a time.
But now that house where we began our marriage is falling apart. Just the house, not our home. Despite severe structural weaknesses that recently came to light in our 63-year old house, our family unit has remained sound. When we zone in on one another or leave our house to travel, our sense of home is always present. It even feels stronger when the distractions of the house and the pull of friends are eliminated. At times we have had to patch or mend our home, usually in the form of apologies and forgiveness, but those repairs, the attention we give our home only serve to make it stronger. As if infusing grace shores up the foundation a little more each time.
Our physical house has not benefitted the same. After too many years of settling, perhaps a bit of neglect while we were distracted with the work of raising a young family, and recent historic rains, an irreparable crack is separating the foundation, tearing the house apart from one end to the other. With a lot of elbow grease, some God-inspired MacGuyver-esque ingenuity, and answers to many prayers of help, we have been able to hold back the flood waters, figuratively if not literally, for now. The time has come to sell this house, to move our home, to find the next place God would have us set our foundation. But first, reality: find that new house, sell this old house, pack, move, etc.
In the midst of this trial by fire, I have found myself blessed immeasurably. Just before the latest water damage was discovered, a woman at church, a mentor of my heart, asked how she could pray for our family during the holidays. Peace, I said, peace to cover our home, our family, and our hearts as we headed into the Christmas season. Neither of us knew that only days later, my husband would pull back carpet to discover a puddle from one long end of the house to end of the other. Neither of us knew the work that would follow – ripping out of padding, dry wall, and insulation – all in an effort to remove dampness and the smell of mold. We didn’t know the sense of security for my family would be shaken, or that my husband would face his year-end workload with an urgent family project. But what we did know was this: when any of us asks God to provide, He has promised to do so in abundance. We asked for peace. He met that need.
“Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice! Let your gentleness be evident to all. The Lord is near. Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.”
As I type those words now, I am overwhelmed again at His faithfulness in answering that prayer for peace. God keeps His promises. His very Word tells us He will and reminds us that God cannot, does not lie (Numbers 23:19, I Sam. 15:29, Heb. 6:18, Titus 1:2). He answered just as His Word said He would: as I rejoiced in His presence, even in this trial, He overwhelmed me with peace and joy. Truly I cannot explain it. This is not like me, probably not like any parent who seeks comfort and security for her children. My natural instinct is to take control of this situation NOW and get my family to dry ground. But I have released it. I know without a shadow of a doubt God is at work, in our hearts and in our dwelling place.
For several years, I have prayed Psalm 5:11-12 over my family. Although we do not yet feel secure in the structure of our house, we are secure in our sense of home. God is answering this petition and I lay claim to the promise He will continue as we seek a firm foundation in Him.
“But let all who take refuge in you be glad; let them ever sing for joy.
Spread your protection over them, that those who love your name may rejoice in you.
For surely, O Lord, you bless the righteous; you surround them with your favor as a shield.”
I encourage you, dear reader, to seek God in all you do. Seek Him first in your home, your house, your heart. No, I am not perfect or righteous or even good. You’ll still hear me complain and occasionally swear about our circumstances. I am still frustrated and overwhelmed. BUT I know that God is good and present and desires for us to find our firm foundation in Him. These are some verses I have found to encourage me in this pursuit; I hope they encourage you, too.
“For no one can lay any foundation other than the one already laid, which is Jesus Christ.”
I Cor. 3:11
Matthew 7:24-27 is a parable of two builders: one who built a lasting foundation on rock, another who built his house on sand. Jesus called us in this story to hear His words and put them into practice with wisdom rather than ignore His teaching as fools. After watching our home literally sink into soft earth, we have been faced with a physical reminder to set our hearts on the Rock of our salvation rather than the temporary pleasures of this world.
“Consequently, you are no longer foreigners and aliens, but fellow citizens with God’s people and members of God’s household, built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, with Christ Jesus himself as the chief cornerstone. In him the whole building is joined together and rises to become a holy temple in the Lord. And in him you too are being built together to become a dwelling in which God lives by his Spirit.”
Seriously?! With a promise like that, who needs to worry about the size of their house? We are a dwelling place for the creator of the world, made in His image to bring His love to all.
“The stone the builders rejected has become the cornerstone; the Lord has done this and it is marvelous in our eyes.”
If so inclined, you should read (or re-read) all of Psalm 118. Full of praise to the One who loves us, protects us, chastens us, and even came to save us, this Psalm should be the foundation of our hearts’ prayer every day.
“Give thanks to the Lord, for he is good;
his love endures forever.”