As I type these words I am sitting on one of the stairways in our new house, looking into a well-lighted but empty kitchen, a spacious but barren living room and a commodious but desolate entry area. I sit on the stairway because we have no furniture here yet. It is a cold, windy late March afternoon, and I hear the rapacious moans of the gusty breezes buffeting the exterior walls. Inside our home there is no sound, except for the clicking of my fingertips on my laptop’s keyboard. It is an emotionally vacuous sensation to be in such a large space all alone.
How soon all of this will change. This may very well be one of the final quiet days this house will see in the next ten or so years. Soon enough there will be a multitude of voices echoing from corner to corner. The still kitchen will soon become a center of household activity. Our dining room table will make it feel more like familiar space. The bedrooms will have our beds, our linens, our paint selections. The living room furniture will make comfortable guests and family members alike. I am looking forward to these changes.
But there are many uncertainties, too, both innocuous as well as more perplexing. What window will be the first to be broken, and who will be the culprit? Will our neighbors find us good additions to the area, or will they think us out of sync? Where will our dog choose to make his space, and how will he decide to make it his own? Whose will be the first health crisis, and what will that mean for our family? What will the remainder of my forties look like?
A moment ago I glanced at the first line and discovered an error. I had typed “in our new hope,” rather than in our new house. But the more I think about it, the more I like that error. There is a certain amount of new hope that emerges in situations like these. As much as we have loved living in our current community for the past seven years, there are things we would like to do differently here. Every community has its strengths, and we are looking forward to discovering those of our new city. Every community has its weaknesses, and we know we will come face-to-face with those all too soon. But in the midst of our transition there is a sense of hopefulness about the future. What new things will we discover, and how will we find God faithful in new ways in this experience?
I suppose our house is an apt metaphor for this transition. Right now it is a building with several rooms suitable for family habitation. It has been well cared for, and it is situated in a nice location. But it is simply a house. In weeks the boxes (well some of them, anyway) will be unpacked, the kitchen will be stocked with food, the living room will have places to sit, we will have internet access, and most important of all, humans will once again live here. We will inhabit this building and it will be a dwelling, a domicile, a place of security and renewal. There will be broken windows, muddy floors and moments of stress and tension, but we will be here together as a family, with the benefits and the challenges family living brings.
Today I am sitting in a house, but in a few short weeks we will be inhabiting a home.