“The homemaker has the ultimate career. All other careers exist for one purpose only–and that is to support the ultimate career.”
~ C.S. Lewis [Actually, this is misattributed to Lewis, but I’m certain he would have agreed.]
If the journey of human life, the journey of transformation, is most fully realized by the grace of God through the power of the Spirit in redeeming us to become who we were created to be, the Image of God, then what could possibly surpass the life that has found its deepest joy, peace, and fulfillment as a homemaker? What is the Bible if not a small library of books about the God who from the very beginning is a Homemaker, about the creatures who shortly after the beginning ran away from home, and finally about the God-become-Creature who came to rescue us from the pig sty of the distant country so he could bring us all Home, where there is a Homecoming celebration ongoing without end.
[If you read what follows as a statement for or against any any of the typical arguments regarding gender roles, you will miss the point.]
It is sad to me that in the late history of Western civilization “homemaker” became the “role” relegated to women, which complemented the “role” of “provider” relegated to men. [Prior to the Industrial Revolution, husbands and wives worked together as homemakers, though the word did not yet exist because the division of roles did not yet exist in the way it does today.] Sadder still, as these roles took root in our cultural idiom and eventually became mores, social values, that organized society, such that men had no clear purpose within the home and women had no clear purpose outside the home, the value of a man was reduced to utility–his value is commensurate with what he can provide, produce, possess–and the value of a woman was reduced to subservience to her “provider”–“your desire shall for your husband and he shall rule over you” (Gen. 3–God’s description of a fallen world, which always finds its truest expression in the home, which is why redemption always finds its truest expression in the home). Sadder still, men in our culture grew to love being less than men, making a virtue of their slavish pursuit of value, “providing” for their family at the cost of being present to their family. They were exiled from the home they lived to construct for the women who grew to hate being there.
Of course they did. They were never intended to fill the house with the spirit of home by themselves, worse, with men who had lost their spirit of home. Sadder still is it that when this subject is argued in that feminist or masculinist tone (sometimes called feminism and masculinism, other times progressive and conservative, sometimes democrat and republican, sometimes mainline and evangelical–all of which are meaningless if such descriptors find their meaning in aiding accuracy), such that women are fighting for liberation from the home and its warden and men are fighting to keep the women conjugally imprisoned, the argument invariably fails to take into consideration the possibility they’re both wrong. The reason it’s so sad is because they are both wrong. And the more they resist the truth, the more miserable they will be in their respective pursuits that aim the world toward homelessness.
We’re all created to be homemakers, which is both a practical job description of marriage and family but is also a way of life. It only takes walking into a house that has no spirit of home to know why this is so important. Home is a place where people are free to go and love to return. Even the most exotic trips find their culmination in the return home, where the memories can be gathered up and put in the family picture album, to be revisited along with the other explorations of the people who love to share the adventure of life together. But without the love of a place to return and a people to return with or to, the exploration of life is simply a quest for home. There is no ad-venture in life because there is nothing from which to venture forth. There is only wandering in a world without place, the lostness of Neverland, which is not a world of runaway children but a world of runaway parents.
There are far more homeless children in this world than can be quantified by counting houses and kids. [Besides, “homeless children” refers to people of all ages.] We should indeed fight to keep food in bellies and shelters over heads, but I believe that if one were to adopt the principle life goal that is most pleasing in the eyes of his Maker, it would first be to become a homemaker, and second to become a host. Because that is what our Maker is: an impossibly hospitable Father and an amazingly gracious Host.
Hospitality is a topic increasingly making its way into contemporary Christian idiom, but it is misguided if the quality of the host or the house is not prioritized above hospitality itself—the quality of the host/home determines the value of being welcomed in. Nobody likes the hospitality of a person whose house, whose life, does not feel like a home. Nobody wants Hitler to assume the role of host again.
So become a homemaker so you can become a host with something worth hosting. You don’t have to be married. You don’t have to have children. You don’t even necessarily have to have a house—neither did Jesus. But you do have to love the idea of home—Jesus did (cf. Gen. 1-2; Rev. 21-22; Jn. 1-21). If you don’t love home, then you don’t yet understand who God is. You have not entered into his presence if you have not felt at home in his presence. For many, there could be no greater disappointment than to feel “at home” in God’s presence, if home always felt like hell or prison or an interrogation room or a cockfight. But neither God nor Home will be found in our memory of home from childhood. What we will find in our memory of home is a certain kind of heartache. It’s not associated with anything in particular in or about our childhood home—it’s the residue on all the furniture. And the unique thing about it is it feels like a longing both for the home we grew up in and the home we never had. God uses our broken memories to point our desires toward and unbreakable hope, like he did with his temple a long time ago. But Hope aches, and sometimes we despair of it and give it up. It aches so deeply for many, no matter the particulars, some will refuse to ever revisit the memory of it—living a life running away from it. We, each of us, are indeed orphaned into adulthood.
But if there is any latent longing that could possibly direct our steps toward God–and perhaps that is a big ‘if’–it will be found in that ache. It is homesickness, and it has driven the world mad in restless runaway pursuits.
But Jesus has come to the distant country to bring us ‘to our senses’ (Lk. 15) and show us the way home, the way to the Father. Follow him.
- 1. This was the real point of the Peter Pan story and was actually captured quite well through Robin Williams character in ‘Hook’–the father who cared more for his job than his family, whose children were captured by a gaggle of childless men who live together on a drifting vessel fighting a perpetual war against fatherless children, the pirates (a society of male identity construed without reference to home or family). Peter wins the war not by returning to his boyhood and fighting to preserve the Lost Boys (which would be to preserve homelessness) but by returning to his fatherhood and fighting to bring his own boy home. It was a war against Neverland as such. Thus the battle could only be won by Peter killing the pirate he had become, which is obviously what every Lost Boy grows up to be, as Peter’s son Jack was becoming before his father came to rescue him, that is, before his father returned home. Homelessness begets homelessness.