When my children were all small I wrote an article called, “My Mother The House”. It was never published anywhere and I think the only purpose it served was as a space for me to vent some frustrations and register some feelings which I thought might sound a little bizarre if expressed in public.
Because my body had housed the last two of three babies in less than two years, it took little imagination to visualize myself as their first home. Eventually they progressed into mobile human beings who passed in and out of our actual house multiple times a day. But even then I sometimes felt that rather than passing in and out of the house they were actually passing in and out of ME. Often they would come in from play and want a snack, sometimes they would come seeking comfort from an accident or with excitement over some discovery they had made. Then they would be off to a new adventure but at the end of the day would return to the house for the warmth and protection that were associated with home.
As the doors opened and closed I could almost feel myself opening to embrace each child that entered and when my husband returned from work the doors would swing open wide with a welcoming “I’m so glad to see another adult” bit of fanfare.
The windows were for watching, of course. I watched the children play while I cooked supper. I watched my husband leave for work in the mornings. I watched to see that the neighbor’s children arrived home safely following an afternoon of play. Those windows were my ever vigilant eyes attempting to patrol, protect and observe all that was happening under my roof. My job was to “house” this family to be best of my ability.
And because I was the official cleaner, sorter and organizer, I not only housed the PEOPLE I loved, but all of their BELONGINGS as well. “Mom, where are my tennis shoes?” “Have you seen my backpack?” “Honey, where did you put my briefcase?” Somehow my body, the house, had managed to absorb not only the people living there, but all of their assorted paraphernalia too. They deposited things at random which I was expected to guard in safe keeping until they needed them again at which time I was expected to produce said item on a moment’s notice. And usually I could.
Sometimes the belongings deposited were much more valuable than those which can be bought in a store. Things like feelings. Thoughts. Ambitions. Desires. I tried to guard these with a special degree of care.
And if the people I sheltered in my house disregarded and disrespected that space, I genuinely felt disrespected myself. I remember coming home from a weekend trip with my husband to find that our college son, who had entertained some of his friends while we were away, had left the house in disarray. Pizza boxes everywhere, empty glasses sitting on the floor and food on the kitchen counter were not what I had expected to see! Upset and hurt, I tried to explain how in disrespecting the HOUSE, he had disrespected ME. I’m not sure he ever understood the concept and in fact according to my recollection it was the worst disagreement my son and I have ever had.
I don’t know at what point I ceased to feel like “the house”, most likely not until my last child left home. My life these days feels more like a vacation condo where three grown children, their spouses and our five grandchildren come to visit and play. I like being the vacation condo. It is no longer my responsibility where you left your jacket, your ink pen, your wallet or your keys. After all, you are only visiting the condo, you don’t actually LIVE there and if your lost items are found, management will be happy to return them to you.
Life as a condo is easier, freer and has less restraint. The windows can stay open or the shades can stay pulled. The doors don’t have as much constant motion but still remain open for the ones we love. Less maintenance is required and the dwelling feels more portable and less permanent than being a house. Maybe that’s a natural progression to when the soul leaves the body and transitions to its forever home? I’m not sure but I believe the answer could be yes.
I do remember watching my elderly mother in the last stages of her dying, thinking that she seemed to be laboring to shed what was left of the weak and fragile body that encased her spirit. The Apostle Paul’s words, recorded in 2 Corinthians chapter 5, came to my mind. “Now we know that if the earthly tent we live in is destroyed, we have a building from God, an eternal house in heaven, not built by human hands. Meanwhile we groan, longing to be clothed with our heavenly dwelling…” She was fleshing out those words right before my eyes as she strained to leave the “tent dwelling” behind.
A strong and sturdy house. A relaxed and carefree condo. A vulnerable and thin tent. If I live long enough I expect to assimilate the experience of all three. God has put eternity in the heart of man and while we are housed in a temporary dwelling while on earth, our spirits sense there is something more, something greater, something grander by far.
The last sound I heard my mother make came from somewhere deep inside herself. It reminded me of the sound accompanying the last push from a mother who is laboring to birth her child. Indeed my mother had been laboring to birth her spirit into its new home for several days. With that one last push, I knew she had arrived.
“Now it is God who has made us for this very purpose and has given us the Spirit as a deposit, guaranteeing what is to come.” (2 Cor. 5:5). My theology is lacking in knowledge of exactly what and how my new house will look like and perform but of one thing I feel certain. When I enter THAT dwelling, I will know I AM HOME.