Oh look! You came over for the next post and you’re just in time for Story Time! Grab a brew and a biscuit while I tell you about the home I grew up in.
I’ve lived in a few houses but the home I grew up in was usually an open one. From the time I was young I can’t remember living in a house with only my immediate family for very long. Our house was usually occupied by more than just us. Whether it was the 7 different international au pairs we had, church folks who needed a place to live, the friends and relatives coming over from abroad or the people who were invited over for Christmas and decided to stay until New Year (true story), life was usually…shared.
If this is sounding like it’s heading towards a fairytale about Christian community, let me do a quick course correction. This has not always been fun. On several occasions I’ve returned home to find that my bedroom and my bed were taken up by someone else and I’d be spending the night or several nights on the sofas. There have been many occasions where I’ve worn the carpet out pacing in front of the bathroom door pondering the potential long-term effects of a ruptured bladder.
It’s not a fairytale. That’s not the point.
We have a rule in our home. You’re only a guest once. The next time you visit the house, it’s your house and you’re to treat it accordingly. That means you have one chance at getting treated like a VIP and pampered but the moment you set foot out of the front door, it’s over. Next time, it’s your house. I sometimes like to trick first-time into forfeiting their benefits by bringing them inside and then offering to show them the front garden…
If you come round often enough, my mother will actually cut you a key! Seriously! I don’t know how many people are walking around this world with a key to our house! You are then expected to stop calling ahead when you’re coming round and to simply appear and let yourself in and just go about your business. But once you lose your guest pass you become responsible for cooking for yourself and others, cleaning up after yourself and others and taking care of the visitors.
If you ever come over, you’ve been warned!
As an iconic member of the boomerang generation, I moved away from my parents’ house a couple of times and swiftly returned. I still live with my folks but I found that when I left, I took my home with me. I think of home as the culture of family that you carry with you and so you can always feel at home wherever you have people you can build that culture with.
In my first year of uni I had a beautiful home. Uni flatmates are always a bit of a gamble but I hit the jackpot! We were definitely a Picasso of a jigsaw puzzle but we fit together just right although it looked a bit weird! We laughed a lot. We cried a little and we argued…whenever the rugby was on or Tom had a few too many! We shared what we knew about the city to help each other get around. We shared what we knew about the mysterious realm of the kitchen and how to get food out of the Fire Troll they call the Cooker. We shared the washing up because…well because SOMEONE wasn’t doing it!
With all of us being away from home for the first time it was amazing to see so many “homes” come together to make a brand new one we could all fit into. And then the flat parties started.
I don’t know why but of all the flats in our university halls we seemed to be a pretty good magnet for flat parties. Lucky for me my bedroom was right next to the kitchen where it all went down. So I always felt part of the party… Even if I was in bed… Trying to sleep… But through the flat parties I got to meet a lot of amazing people and it wasn’t long before our flat and by extension, my room started to operate on a revolving door policy.
Please understand, I definitely slide towards the introverted side of the scale so for me, this was a pretty big step, opening the door of my sanctuary to other people. But there was clearly something familiar about it. To me, this felt like home! People getting right into each other’s space, breathing each other’s air and stepping on each other’s toes! People rubbing each other up the wrong way and learning how to smooth things back down. This was where honest conversations were had, where hearts connected, where mindsets were challenged and where friendships were forged.
I say all that to say all this. I think that as Christians, the model we see in Scripture looks a lot more like my first year at uni than what most of us currently live in. In Acts 2:42-47 we see the culture of the early church. Having been born again with a new citizenship, they all found themselves now “away from home.” Taking what they each had, they built a new one together, centred around the presence of God and the truth of what Christ had done.
The doors of their hearts as well as their homes were open to people to taste and see the goodness of God and they were willing to share themselves and their stuff with any who were in need. As a result of their unity and love and the power of God on display, their community grew daily.
They didn’t move their community away from society to protect it or keep it pure but they remembered the words of Jesus. A little leaven leavens the whole lump. True leaven need never fear the dough!
A lot of us live fairly hospitable Christian lives. Despite our overly busy schedules we have people over for tea sometimes or we meet folks for lunch. That’s awesome. But I think that stuff is too simple. I didn’t say easy, I said simple. I’m learning that for community to be authentic, we have to let people into our hearts and lives, past the front door of politeness and past the communal kitchen of superficiality into the bedroom of vulnerability.
I don’t think you really know someone until you’ve talked to them in their pyjamas.We tend not to leave our bedrooms until we’ve put on our “face” for the outside world and everyone gets a diluted version of who we are. We need to talk more in our pyjamas. Not literally! Don’t make it weird! What I mean is, when you get to have a face to face conversation without putting on the fake smile or the #blessed hoodie to cover your insecurities or faith struggles. It’s not an easy place to live but I’m increasingly convinced that its the only way to live in true Christian community.
Most of us are probably miles away from this in our wider church communities but think about your own life for a moment. Are you like me, stuck in your room having flat parties outside and resenting the fact that you don’t get to spend all your time with your favourite people? Maybe opening the door will bring in some people you’ll realise you didn’t want to live without.
Are you resenting the people who seem to add to your dish pile instead of taking away from it? Sometimes people will come into our lives seemingly just to take from us. We have to consider the fact that not everyone has been taught how to give. I had a friend who didn’t know how to operate a washing machine when he came to uni and needed to be taught. I know that where I’m at now, I personally need to really ask myself “Are you willing to take the time to teach relational skills or would you rather just be offended that people don’t have them and protect yourself from them?”
Are you wondering why you’re surrounded by people but still feel the deep pains of being useless or lonely? Maybe opening yourself up to some deeper dialogue than the contents of the Infinity War trailer might do you good. Reach into other people’s hearts and let them reach into yours.
“True Christian community is not built on comfort or convenience but sacrifice.”
Anything else is a pale imitation.
Christ set the standard of love for us.
Thanks for reading, please share with your friends and get back to me with your thoughts!