Last week there was a death in my family, and I drove my parents back to our hometown for the funeral. We make this trip once a year, though usually for happier reasons—just to visit. Nearly all our relatives still live there, and we spend a few days making the rounds.
One of the things we always do is a “house tour.” No, we’re not looking to buy real estate, but we do drive by all the significant houses in our personal history. The house my father was born in. The house his parents moved their young family to and lived in until their deaths. The house where my mother’s parents moved with their three teen-aged children and also lived the rest of their days. The house my brother and I were raised in and where my parents lived for thirty years. The house I married into and where our daughters grew up.
Every year, we drive by each house, pull over to the side of the street, and just look for a few minutes before we’re all ready to drive on. Each house is still well cared for. Each looks the same, yet different. New colors, new plantings, old trees cut down, new fencing. My one grandmother’s garden is gone. At the other grandmother’s house there was a man training grape vines around a new stone pillar.
Sitting across the street from these houses, I experience a mixture of emotion and memory: holidays and Sunday dinners and cheese sandwiches; conversations; card games; football with cousins and arguments over the rules; parents helping with homework; campouts in the backyard; observing the grownups; learning; being.
Let love be genuine; hate what is evil, hold fast to what is good; love one another with mutual affection; outdo one another in showing honor. Do not lag in zeal, be ardent in spirit, serve the Lord. Rejoice in hope, be patient in suffering, persevere in prayer. Contribute to the needs of the saints; extend hospitality to strangers. Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse them. Rejoice with those who rejoice, weep with those who weep. Live in harmony with one another; do not be haughty, but associate with the lowly; do not claim to be wiser than you are. Do not repay anyone evil for evil, but take thought for what is noble in the sight of all. From Romans 12
Paul wrote these words to the house church at Rome. A church that met in a home. Homes are the locus of our life together, where we learn how to live with other people, how to relate in good times and bad. When to be patient and persevere. How to extend hospitality. Rejoicing and weeping with each other’s successes and losses.
Memories of our homes remain with us for a long time, if not forever. Those memories, those experiences, make us who we are. That’s exactly why we’re charged to make our homes (and churches and communities) places where the good outweigh the difficult. Where apologies and forgiveness are freely given and received, where harmony (Paul’s word) doesn’t mean perfection or uniformity, but different characters and voices blending together to nourish each other.
Every year when I do the house tour with my parents, I remember the harmony of all those different homes and lives. I’m always thankful for the harmonious life I’ve inherited.
No home, no faith community, no neighborhood is perfect, but we’re charged to live in harmony, and to let our love for each other be genuine. The music we make together reaches into our hearts and memories and pulls us together in peace and love.
© Melissa Bane Sevier, 2011