Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Turning a Place into a Home

In December last year I got engaged, and in January my roommate got married and moved out. Since then I have had my apartment all to myself, which at the start of the semester wasn't much of an improvement. I'll be honest: I had papers all over the floor, practically no furniture, junk that I had nowhere to put--at least I normally managed to keep most of my dishes washed. This was not the end of the disarray that my apartment was in. It really wasn't much of a home--it wasn't really even much of a place. I really didn't have much to do with it (having no furniture) or much time to arrange it.

The funny thing is that it is really the closest thing my fiancĂ©e and I have to a home. For me it wasn't much more than a place to do work and sleep. For her it wasn't even that--just a place to visit me. Both of our parents lived abroad, and so we never really had much of a stationary place. Don't get me wrong; she and I both love the experience and insight we gained from living abroad, but any home that we had in the past was no longer our own. Her parents are now living in Georgia in the U.S. Mine are still abroad. The house in Georgia isn't her home: she doesn't even have a room there. Where she's living now is not her home--she's staying with another family until we get married. The room she's staying in is not hers, and she'll have to leave it in May.

So we found ourselves with this cluttered, unfurnished apartment that was the closest thing we really had to home. We still loved it. We were desperate for a home. I would ask her, "When are you coming home?" She would ask her co-workers, "Can you take me home?" We both meant the apartment. It just came naturally because it is really the closest thing we have to one.

However, it bothered me that the place we called home was not much more than a dump. Finally, within the last week, we've been able to bring in a couch and shelving. We've cleaned up and sorted out our stuff, and made the place look really neat. We still don't have a dining table, a desk, and some other things, but we suddenly had this great relief that the place was starting to look a lot more like a home.

I thought over this for a while, sure that it must be something besides just organized stuff that made it more home-like. Finally, I realized that I was right--it wasn't just putting in some furniture and cleaning things up that made it better. What is transforming it is that now it is a shared place of rest that we can invite other people into. It's not just having a couch; it's having a place for people to fellowship. It's not just having a shelf for TV and decorations; it's having a capacity to entertain. It's not just having our stuff together; it's having our interests together, mixed in a unique way that makes it our house. It's not just having things tidy; it's having a place to present to guests as a comfortable common area.

As we continue to get more furniture and unpack more of our stuff, it will gradually become even more home-like. Once we are married, it will be final. The sharing will be complete, and rest will be at hand. We will no longer have just a place; we will have a home. The best part is that it's not just this apartment; it will be wherever we move, wherever we take our combined culture and establish a place of rest.