There’s something about ‘home’ that feels precious. Home is the place where you can just relax; home is where you can simply be; home is where you can lay down your burdens and be known, heard and loved. But home is a foreign idea to so many of us. Home can bring on memories of stones being thrown in glass houses to make walls and roofs shatter. Home can be a place of hurt.
But lately Paul’s words to Titus have been ringing in my mind. It’s a simple instruction he gives, asking that Titus instruct older women to teach younger women to be busy at home. It’s a notion that causes many to cringe these days and with all the implications of oppression and shame and duty without choice, but perhaps there’s more to what Paul is saying there that warrants more of our attention. These are the important ministries to family, to brothers & sisters, and to strangers.
Since marrying and moving into an apartment one of the realities and rhythms of life has been to make home the sort of place I longed for my own to be when I was younger. We’ve got pictures to remind us of precious moments with friends and family and each other, books to read, and we work as a team to make home a place that’s tidy and clean enough that you don’t feel as though you’re forever doing housework. Sometimes it’s an effort. But the act of homemaking helps create a space for The James and I in which we truly can switch off, enjoy time with each other, alone or with God, and simply be without the anxieties of life chasing us all the time. It’s not about perfection, it’s about a space that facilitates moments and relationship.
Homemaking has bearing on the way we care for our friends and family. The two ways we do that are with a spare bedroom, and with a dining table. The spare bedroom was a point of contention with some people because the choice to have one meant more rent for us, and the room becomes a place that people use, and occasionally… that’s really inconvenient. But by opening up our home to those we love, our relationships deepen and the memories we’ve got within the walls of this apartment become so much richer as they’re added to again and again… and this place is slowly becoming a safe place for others, a sort of home for them, as we live life alongside each other. The food isn’t always fancy (I’ve got a Pinterest board of simple but tasty food that helps me with the food side!), and the rooms aren’t always clean… but that isn’t what it’s for.It isn’t always easy, but making a home is not about having food on the table at 5 o’clock. Paul was not concerned with women doing that. Paul’s concern was that the love of others was engaged in with great devotion. It isn’t about perfection, though. It’s about love.
Strangers are affected by the way we make our homes too. I’ve got to confess that this is one I’ll be working on forever, because I’m not hugely comfortable letting people I don’t know well into space that I feel safe in, but we’re called to be hospitable – and that’s more than welcoming close friends to our tables. As we open our doors to those who need a home, whether through foster care or through helping someone in a rough spot, or adoption, or whatever it looks like… we share what God has blessed us with, with those who need it more than anyone else. See, I’ve known what it feels like to be without a home and I long to see this home that The James & I have made together be one that gives others space to be.
What Paul is wanting women to do here is not be at home all the time (though that is a noble pursuit) or doing all the housework whilst their partner does none, or that a woman must have a partner or she is less-than. Paul wants homes to be for the facilitation of love and hospitality. This is why home-making matters; this is why it is worthy or praise; it is there so that our lives are not based on pursuits that waste away but the love of God and others that shapes a Christ-centred life.