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What Makes a House a Home?

Peyton Garland

Peyton Garland

iBelieve Editor
Published: Jul 18, 2022
What Makes a House a Home?

People are the ones we look to, whether we know it or not, for our hearts to find purpose, to find a home. 

I am currently taking a collegiate WWII history class—just for fun. WWII has always fascinated me. Perhaps it's because a former neighbor of mine (who passed away several years back) was one of the brave infantrymen who fought in the Battle of the Bulge, Germany's final but failed attempt to push their campaign forward. Or maybe I'm an odd Millennial who craves the nostalgia of pastel-green Frigidaires, going steady, and big wave curls matching bright red lipstick.  

Needless to say, I watch Pearl Harbor and Midway on repeat. The dashing, bold men in uniform mixed with Billie Holliday-type soundtracks, and I'm glued to the screen.  

Two weeks ago, I rewatched Midway (2019)a WWII film highlighting the most significant Pacific Fleet battle that snatched the upper hand from Japan and gave America naval favor. While the script centers on Dick Best, a bomber pilot who received the Navy Cross for selfless valor in aerial combat, one secondary plot in the movie always grips my heart:  

Following the devastation at Pearl Harbor, Sergeant Doolittle leads a raid of Army fighter pilots to bomb Tokyo. Unfortunately, low fuel forces him and his men to bail out of their planes after the successful bombing, where they wash up on free China's shores. There, Doolittle and his men meet Zhu Xuesan, a young Chinese primary school teacher, who leads the U.S. raiders to safety.  

At one point in the film, a few Japanese air bombers spray bullets over Doolittle, Xuesan, the raiders, and other Chinese men guiding the U.S. to safety; several Chinese people die, and Doolittle is confused. The Japanese pilots were too high above the ground to know that Doolittle and his men were there, and the pilots never turn turn around to finish the job. It feels like a not-so-strategic move by the Japanese, a waste of bullets.  

Doolittle asks Xuesan who the target was. 

Xuesan, in broken English, replies, "People are target."  

The Japanese didn't care if they were firing at the enemy or not; simply knowing they were flying over Chinese territory was morally numbing enough for them to shoot whomever they pleased.  

Knowingly or not, people are always our target—for life's good and bad. Whether we want to hurt, help, manipulate, or encourage, our decisions, both of body and soul, hinge on people.  

People are the ones we look to, whether we know it or not, for our hearts to find purpose, to find a home. 

If you think about it, this is why we fight with one another on social media. We show up to this digital space with pushy, loud convictions and hope somewhere amid the vicious back and forth, the other side throws a white flag that reads: wait, you were actually right. We want confirmation from others that our heads and hearts are in the right place, nestled safe and secure within the four walls of comfort and security.  

When we turn off the lights and crawl into bed, we want to drift to sleep in the peace that we have no enemies, that our house is a home to the most noble, just, praiseworthy, true human alive (i.e., ourselves).  

We want a home to be our safe haven, a place we cherish with people we love. Yet, when pride gets in the way and we target people for all the wrong reasons, home feels vacant, empty, and lifeless. Often, whether we know it or not, pride is our greatest sin concerning others. And until we recognize these three sneaky devices of pride, a house will never feel like a home on this side of heaven:  

The Need for Control 

We only attempt to control what we believe we can conquer, and just as we control when we cut the grass and which flowers to plant on the windowsill boxes, we believe we can cut away the parts of people that don't ease life and plant our own thoughts and feelings into their shredded hearts.  

We place a welcome mat at the front door so long as we know their political party, social affiliations, or religious beliefs. We invite only the routine, the expected, the comfortable into our houses and leave the rest of humanity out in the cold.  

It’s so easy to snatch away the warm welcome rug when we don’t know everything about a person or worse—when we know a person thinks or looks differently than we do. We never want our four walls shaken by disagreements, particularly when there’s a chance we can’t control that the other side just might be right.  

We target only those who pose no threat to our rhythms and routines and welcome no chance at personal refinement into our house. Thus, we stare at the same woman in the bathroom mirror, over and over, and wonder why we are victims to the same plots and snares over and over again.  

The Desire for Prestige 

If the neighbor has two sets of lights trimming their home for Christmas, well, we must double that! We like to be accepted by others, and we believe the way we are accepted is by outmatching each other’s abilities. It’s as if we seek worship rather than acceptance.   

Slyly seeking worship from others creates a prideful tunnel vision, allowing us only to see how we can improve our image, our career, our social status, and our house, all for the sake of others.  

But may I offer a bit of gut-punching wisdom: people don’t care about you near as much as they care about themselves and their own affairs.  

So long as you focus on pretty-ing up all the wrong things to target people’s approval, your heart and soul never receive the right attention. They are never presented the opportunity for refinement. And as a result, no matter how many social media followers you accrue or how many dinner parties your front lawn boasts, you’ll never feel worthy enough for finite people.  

The Longing for False Fulfillment 

We control our appearance and decorate prestigious homes, all so we can reach fulfillment. Of course, we were created to be communal creatures. After all, our souls were hand-fashioned to long for the Maker. So we can’t negate that it’s important to create healthy relationships with believers, and even non-believers.  

However, when we ignore the relational aspect of community and seek only to rule the community or be its poster child for success, we lose the fulfillment true community is meant to provide. Why have friends when we can have fans? Why have a home when we can boast a magazine-worthy house? Why have people when we can have power and pride?  

Well, to answer the original question, a house is only a home when people are valued as equals when we target people as those we should love, serve, and welcome into our lives. And while there is nothing wrong with a beautiful home and lots of friends, and though it’s wise to control what is reasonably asked of us in honorable responsibility, if we solely target people as pawns to boost our power and pride, we will never be satisfied with the false person we push in front of them.  

We will still return to our four walls at the end of the day. When the parties are over, and awards are passed out, we still must return to the bathroom mirror and face who we are.  

A house is only a home and a community only calms the soul when we target people as our chance to love well.  

That’s why heaven is our final home. It will be the one place that welcomes us in eternal, unwavering devotion, a forever party hosted by Love himself.  

Photo Credit: ©GettyImages/monkeybusinessimages

Peyton Garland headshotPeyton Garland is an author and coffee shop hopper who loves showcasing God's beauty from ash. Check out her latest book, Tired, Hungry, & Kinda Faithful, Where Exhaustion and Exile Meet God, to discover how your cup can overflow—even in dry seasons. Meanwhile, follow her on Instagram @peytonmgarland for more insight into her writing and the terrors of raising gremlin dogs.

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