A Theology of Home

Rootedness was always the thing that both repelled and intrigued me.  I left my parents’ home at the age of seventeen and pictured a life unleashed — no commitments.  I copied all my record albums onto small and portable cassette tapes (dinosaur alert!) and prepared for the unencumbered life.  With that resolve in my rear view mirror, no one is more surprised than I am to have lived (happily) at the same address for 23 years, making a home and being re-made by the challenges and joys of home.

In Keeping Place, Jen Pollock Michel examines her own history of home and the continual need to cherish change which her life circumstances have fostered.  She ponders the beauty of place, emphasizing that Scripture is “a home story” and that the truth of the gospel is best understood in terms of our yearning to belong, our struggle with homesickness, and the ache of all our longings.

History and literature attest to humanity’s desire for rootedness, and even the biblical narrative opens in a garden paradise and ends with the permanence, rest, and refuge of The New Jerusalem.  The journey from Genesis to Revelation is a story of wandering, of nostalgia for a settled place . . . until God enters history at a particular time in a particular place so that He could “seek and save the lost.”

“According to Scripture, home is shared human work.”

Church leaders, then, become the managers of God’s household.  Both male and female parents are given a role in the hard work of child rearing.  Routine chores become an offering and a valued means to the greater end of fostering a sense of security and belonging.

God’s work in creation and in redemption is clearly housekeeping.  He finds lost things, He prepares tables of abundance and blessing in hard places, He kills the fatted calf and invites the neighborhood to a party.  Therefore, engineering the comforts of home, taking on the mess in the bottom of the refrigerator, performing the domestic routines that preserve order and hold chaos at bay create a feeling of home wherever they are performed with love, and they pre-figure God in His role as Homemaker.

Homemaking is a work of welcoming and provision.

Just as the incarnation brought dignity to the mortal body and to the notion of occupying a particular time and space, God’s compassionate homemaking sets the standard for the work of His women and men who long to create safe and welcoming spaces for His glory.

“Stability” is a term that occurs early and often in Keeping Place.  Presenting as a spiritual discipline and as an opposite to rootlessness, it signifies a commitment to make a difference in a specific place and time.  The paradox of the Christian life is this need for full investment, wherever we are, whatever our calling — in stark contrast to the need to also hold it all loosely.

“There is no controlling what we keep or for how long, and an earthly home is no measure of stability and safety, not really — not when lurking in the background of every day is the possibility that the phone will ring and life will lurch toward death.”

To be human is to long for home.
To be mortal is to be plagued by the impermanence of all that we hold dear.

The truth of resurrection, expressed in the language of Home,  is that all the perished things will one day be restored, our need for belonging will be fulfilled at long last, and, in the meantime, the Word of God speaks truth into all of our longings and our losses, into all of our dreams of Home.

//

This book was provided by InterVarsity Press in exchange for my review.  I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255 : “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

Jen goes on to explore in more depth the shared labor of housekeeping and the truth that God’s welcome inspires our work.  Next Tuesday, I will be reviewing Part II of Keeping Place — The Work of Home.  I’ve so enjoyed Jen’s robust theology and elegant prose that I’m going to linger in this place for another week.

If you are interested in hearing Jen’s voice and more of her story, check out this Q+A with Ashley Hales or this twenty-minute interview.

Photo credit:  Gina Butz

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Michele Morin

Michele Morin is a teacher, blogger, reader, and gardener who finds joy in sitting at a table surrounded by women with open Bibles. She has been married to an unreasonably patient husband for over 25 years, and their four children are growing up at an alarming rate. Michele loves hot tea and well-crafted sentences, poems that stop her in her tracks and days at the ocean with the whole family. She laments biblical illiteracy and advocates for the prudent use of “little minutes.” She blogs at Living Our Days, and you can connect with her on Facebook or Twitter.

78 thoughts on “A Theology of Home”

  1. Michele,
    Love this…”Homemaking is a work of welcoming and provision.” I am challenged lately on the “welcoming” part. I am more of a one on one person and easily welcome people into my less than perfectly kept home. It’s been awhile, however, since I’ve welcomed a larger group. I stepped out on a limb – signing up to host an (in)courage simulcast and it excites and scares me at the same time. God calls us continually to step outside our comfort zones….right?
    Blessings,
    Bev xx

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  2. This sounds like a wonderful book…anything about home is so endearing. Until God led us to move, I thought we would live where we lived forever. Sometimes, He has other plans, and we have to be willing to follow where He leads. Thank you for this review, sweet friend and for your continued prayers for my dear niece. It truly means so much. 🙂

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  3. Sounds like a lovely read! Reminded me of this Winston Churchill quote, “We shape our dwellings and afterwards our dwellings shape us.” I have never thought of the context of the bible in relation to home like you talked about but definitely makes sense! Can’t wait to hear more and maybe pick up a copy from the library. And I know all about records to cassettes… I spent one whole summer perusing my mom’s record collection and making my own mix tapes so no judging here! 🙂

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  4. What another amazing book and review. I love how she puts everything in the context of home. It is relatable and perfect for how I think. This right here spoke volumes to me —-> She ponders the beauty of place, emphasizing that Scripture is “a home story” and that the truth of the gospel is best understood in terms of our yearning to belong, our struggle with homesickness, and the ache of all our longings.

    I am looking forward to part 2 next week.

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    1. You would love that particular chapter, Mary, because so often, our presentation of the gospel to unbelievers goes careening out into left field as far as they’re concerned. People are just not pondering the “four spiritual laws” much anymore if they have no church background. People are materialists — but . . . we ‘ve not managed to shake that longing for home and for a place to belong. The entire Bible is a story of rescue from wandering and a Heavenly Father who welcomes and provides. So beautiful.

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  5. I see that longing for home in my own life. Growing up I can remember living in 11 different homes by the time I was 17. (I left home at 17, too.) After my husband and I married and bought our first home, I would have been content to stay there for the rest of my life. But along the way, God has had other plans. I hope I’ve made my final move, but I know enough not to make any declarations. LOL. I look forward to your next “installment.”

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  6. I never thought about the “homemaking” God has done and still does. There is so much poignant truth in your post, and presumably in the book, Keeping Place. As a military wife, I moved 3 times in the first 2 1/2 years of marriage. In one way it was hard, but in another, I learned to find my belonging in God and in my relationship with my husband. We’ve lived at our current address for over 9 years straight now (my husband is retired), and I like being here. I’ve learned to see the blessings God has offered in our home and in the life He’s helped us to build here. But, I know when we get to heaven, that’s when we will better understand all that goes into belonging and settledness. Beautiful post, Michele.

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    1. I have so much respect for military families. Thanks for the years of sacrifice and commitment to your husband’s career. So glad that you are now enjoying rootedness. Thanks for your always encouraging words!

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  7. Sounds like a good book, especially since you will be discussing it in two parts. I love books that are so good that I delay reading the last chapter because then I know it will end. God involved in housekeeping! Now that is an interesting thought, but one that makes sense. He is of course always welcoming us and giving us provision. Hard to look at housekeeping the same after reading this.

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  8. I enjoy cleaning my home most days so I guess this is one area where I delight and do my work as if I were working for the Lord himself! Amen and thanks for sharing.
    P.S. No dinosaur alert on the records to cassette. Technology has just shifted so quickly it’s insane. I am in my thirties and I had records, in fact I still own over 100 cassettes and almost 250 CD’s. I can still play them on my house stereo. My kids learn patients with the rewind on that and the VCR hahahaha!

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  9. This sounds like a fascinating read! My husband and I have struggled with the concept of “home” because we live so far from both of our families and the places where we grew up. I think viewing Scripture as “a home story” really provides a useful perspective.
    Our youngest daughter turns one later this month. Her name (Nitara) means “deeply rooted.” We gave her this name because we felt like the Lord was encouraging us to dig our roots deep, both in our physical location and in our faith and our commitments to each other. It seems like this would be perfect for us to read as we celebrate her birthday!

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    1. What a gift you have given your daughter in that name and that heritage. Honestly, I’m still turning the thoughts from Keeping Place over in my mind, which is why I decided to give it two separate posts.

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  10. Adding this to my book list – I’ve never thought about the deeper theology of home despite being a homemaker! Very neat insights about how our God uses the concept of “home” and the paradox of waiting for our true home in heaven.

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  11. Visiting from Coffee and Conversation. I’m always looking for books on the home. I don’t have one centered on a Christian home. Can’t wait to get my hands on it. Thank you sharing.

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  12. This sounds like a really great read and I’ll be looking forward to hearing more about it. I am better now than I’ve ever been at really paying attention to my home. By that I don’t mean that I clean more or decorate more, but I attend more to the “feel” of my home. I want to make it a haven for hubby to come home to after a long work week, a place where my kids can come when they need a bit of healing from hurts, a fun place for friends to gather, and a place of welcome for travelers. I also want my home to be a place where people sense God’s spirit when they walk in the door. I love that, at this stage of life, with career far behind me, I can now make my home my “real” workplace.
    Blessings friend.

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    1. And you do that so beautifully! And, Patti, what you said about the “feel” of your home is also the “feel” of your writing home. I always come away encouraged by words or inspired by beauty.

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  13. Michele,
    Thank you for your words of encouragement today. I read every word. I write about creating a nourishing life at home, so your message struck a cord.

    When is the (in)courage simulcast? I ‘d love to know. -Sally

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  14. Girl, you’re tempting to spend too much on new books!! Do you ever read a bad one? There is just always a great review on your site! This one sounds like such a sweet summer read! I feel the need for new life to be breathed into my homemaking!

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    1. There are so many good books out there that I refuse to review books that I can’t recommend. Jen’s writing is so rewarding, and her thinking is so deep that Keeping Place is well worth the read.

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  15. I am such a home person – I love “home.” Want to tell you something. My Grandma’s maiden name was Krautman – so I come by ‘stubborn’ naturally. It’s in my genetic makeup!!!

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  16. Since I’m on the Journey Home, reading about Home is always something I am drawn to do. I agree with your statement, “To be human is to long for home.” I don’t think I’m the only one!

    ” Therefore, engineering the comforts of home, taking on the mess in the bottom of the refrigerator, performing the domestic routines that preserve order and hold chaos at bay create a feeling of home wherever they are performed with love, and they pre-figure God in His role as Homemaker.” You mean, I’m not the only one that has to wrestle with a mess in the bottom of the refrigerator? Love the thought of a “homemaker God!” I’m not sure I would have ever come up with that idea on my own! I know God is a God of order, and I also know I’m to do my work as if I’m doing it for Him, but it’s a brand new thought to think of Him in the role of Homemaker.

    Hey, now that I think of it, He created the first home – in the Garden …

    Looking forward to the next post on this subject!

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    1. So good to hear your thinking on all these ideas, Jerralea. As you could probably tell from my post, I was really impacted by the book, and I’m looking forward to spending some more time with it. Thanks for sharing the parts that spoke to you.

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  17. Keeping Place sounds like a wonderful book, Michele, and I so enjoyed reading your review of it, and the perspective you have on it. I will definitely need to add it to my reading list. Thank you so much for sharing, and for being a part of Hearth and Soul.

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  18. I definitely need to improve my homemaking skills! Rather than the mass clean up operation that ensues just before the other half comes home from work! Love that you ended up staying in the one house 🙂 Thanks for linking up with #TwinklyTuesday

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  19. Hi there! I am stopping by from Counting My Blessings. I really enjoyed your review of this book, and think it may be one that will have to go on my reading list!
    Our lives at mothers, wives, and caretakers can, at times, be so very overwhelming. But what a blessing it is to serve them and God in this way. They are precious gifts given to us by our loving Father. There are many days when I am in the middle of the 15th mess that I have to stop and remind myself of that blessing, and how I serve Him when I serve them.
    It is a process!
    Blessings,
    Amy

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    1. I love your emphasis on serving and giving, for this is what God has done, and continues to do. And yes. My oldest son is 23, and I’m still in process, and I find myself learning some of the same lessons with his son that I was working on when he was a little boy. Thanks be to God that He is patient.

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    1. Glad you enjoyed the review and hope you get to read the whole book. I’m going to take another swipe at it this Tuesday because it just seemed to need two weeks in order to do it justice.

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  20. This is what gets me every time: “The paradox of the Christian life is this need for full investment, wherever we are, whatever our calling — in stark contrast to the need to also hold it all loosely.” I want to hold it loosely…but also do it really really well (oxymoron in the making).

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    1. For sure. I can recall saying to one of my boys (when he accused me of being controlling . . . me?) that I CHALLENGED him to care about something as much as I cared about him and to totally take a hands off approach. Phew. I challenge me, too.

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  21. Michele, I’ve heard this subject approached in so many different ways, but I find this author’s insights so extremely encouraging and God-focused. Truly getting to the heart of what it means to be “Keeping Place”.

    Thank you for always sharing reviews of such extremely edifying books.

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  22. Sounds like much food for thought with this one. Sometimes when I get so frustrated that something that I just cleaned is messy again, I rejoice in God’s longsuffering with the messes we His children make.

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    1. My pet peeve is the repetitive tasks. Have you ever thought about how many times you actually touch your groceries by the time they are in your house? If you haven’t — don’t. Big picture, I should be thanking God that I have access to nutritious food and the means to acquire it, a place to store it, and on and on. So I try to stay in that place of thankfulness. It truly is a discipline.

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  23. Michele, you continually amaze me with your book reviews – just the sheer number, let alone that you manage to make me want to read every single one! 🙂 Nicely done and I look forward to part II.

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  24. Michele- you always share such inspiring books.
    Rootedness is something I’ve longed for but haven’t found quite yet.
    You hit the nail on the head… I’m longing for my heavenly home. Nothing else will do;)
    Glad I stopped By from #InspireMeMonday

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  25. Michele,
    This book sounds healing. As I read your words I just kept thinking, I’m so thankful that this world is not our home!
    Praying you have a Blessed & Refreshed Day!
    ~Shery Stahl
    xoxo

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  26. I’ve had to learn to “cherish change” over the years. I’m the type who would have loved living in the same place my whole life. At least I think that’s more my style. But God has definitely had a different plan for me. The only thing constant is change, right?!

    Thanks for sharing your review at the #LMMLinkup!

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