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 Wednesday, 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