Recently, Will and I moved into a new house. It’s our first house together, and we’re just beginning to figure out this home ownership thing. Where we used to have maintenance help from the apartment owners, we now must research and fix it ourselves or hire someone. Where we once didn’t need to worry about the yard, now we have to make sure runoff doesn’t harm the lawn and mosquitoes are not taking over the landscape. Where we have never owned a lawnmower or leaf blower, we’re now pricing them at the hardware store.

Life’s a little different as a homeowner.

We have been here about a week and a half and have emptied most boxes so that at least we can walk easily through the house. The dogs are adjusting and figuring out a new routine with a fenced back yard. But as I sit in our half-finished house with all the wall art and mirrors leaning against the wall in the floor, and the closets still a mess and disorganized, I have had feelings about how this just doesn’t quite feel like home yet.

Part of these feelings is my own need for neatness and finished settings to work in – it is hard to focus on my doctoral reading or my writing in a pile of disorganized chaos when I am a recovering perfectionist. But more than that, I think sometimes I dwell too much on what makes a house a home.

Home is not about whether the drapes are hung and look good; it’s not about the closet neatness. It isn’t even about whether all the appliances work or the lawn needs re-landscaping or the driveway needs resurfacing. It is about the heart inside the home. What brings us together is not a new, fancy-looking house – it’s a young family of two humans and three dogs embarking on a new adventure together. It’s the experiences of unpacking and planning and dreaming about life.

I think we do these same things as a church – and not just River Road, but all church fellowships. We get caught up in the buildings, the programming, the upkeep, the exceptional nature of what we do in worship or concerts – and we forget that a church home is not primarily any of these things (though these are all good things). A church home is primarily a gathering of family members – in all their messiness and imperfection – dreaming with God and each other about what it means to be faithful believers in this world.

As we approach our faith journey together in the River Road Church, Baptist house this coming season, my prayer is that we continue to remember our primary identity as a family of God and make this home for all who would join us on this journey. No matter what we are trying (successfully or unsuccessfully) in programming or events, we are all children of God, siblings, and close family. We are called to love one another with the love God gave us first. That kind of love breeds a beautiful feeling of a safe and good home – one we can be excited about!