catapult magazine

catapult magazine

Vol 10, Num 15 :: 2011.09.02 — 2011.09.15


When a house is not a home

Brow wrinkled, face tight, fists clenched, she spit out the words, “I may live in a house, but it’s no home. My parents come and go. My brothers and sisters come and go, but let me tell you,” and she took a breath. “Nobody really cares about anyone else. It’s a house full of strangers.” And sadly, the young woman so filled with anger came from what we might call an “exemplary” Christian home — intact and always involved with church.

When we think of community, one of the first metaphors that come to mind is family, but not all families are communities. So how do they get that way? I would suggest that once our children become teenagers, and possibly before, they all have day-timers, whether electronic or a simple calendar.  And those day-timers fill up rapidly, overlapping or decimating much of what used to be family or community-building times. Even after our nest empties, this can be true: two people sharing a living space, but not sharing their hearts.

Families no longer sit down for breakfast or dinner seven or even five days a week with all present. Oh, we say that technology — like text messaging or Facebook  — means we are more connected than ever, but I wonder how deep that connectedness goes. We may know where people are physically, but as my student said so emphatically, we sure have no idea where they are emotionally, spiritually or physically.

Consider also the families who faithfully follow their kids’ sporting or performing activities.  They sit in the bleachers or on the grass or in the auditorium, but attendance at a function does not necessarily mean there is deep community.  That parable about the seed falling on rocky or thorny or good ground might be relevant here. For true community or fellowship, a meeting together of people with the common goal of loving each other to form good soil must be present. By good soil, I mean a place where people care enough to give time and attention to the shared words, experiences and relationships with the people around them.

It is more than seeing people and making sure their physical needs are met, but looking into their eyes with the goal of learning how they really are and what you can do to demonstrate that you really do love them.

This year I am facing a new challenge to my desire for community in my house; two of my college-age grandchildren have moved in while they work and attend college. I really don’t want to be just a landlord, providing a place for them to sleep or entertain their friends. I used to say I wish I had a set of kids to practice on before I got the real ones. Well, I have three adult children, and two of them have entrusted a son and daughter to me. Can I apply what I learned the first time around to these two?

The challenge now is to build a new community of four people who say they love each other, who have blood relationships.  However, I have learned those things do not guarantee community. Somehow we must learn, in the busyness of four adult lives, to come together in meaningful ways so that we continue to be a real family living in a real home.

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