BY SCOTT KEITH
As every normal man desires a woman,
and children born of a woman,
every normal man desires a house to put them into. He does not merely want a roof above him and a chair below him;
he wants an objective and physical kingdom;
a re at which he can cook what food he likes; a door he can open to what friends he chooses. is is the normal appetite of men. —G. K. Chesterton, The Wildness of Domesticity
Chesterton’s idea of home is my idea of heaven. As I write this book, I find myself thinking about the state of the home. I am not referring to the ongoing maintenance tasks, which seem to be ever present when one owns a home. Neither do I refer to the endless list of chores with which every home, and every person in the home, must to some degree or another contend. Rather, I am contemplating the actual state of the home in our modern world. Why is home so sweet, as the old saying claims?
I think that in all my rumination, what I have realized is that the home is the primary place where one engages, interacts, and shares life with one’s family. Thus a home is a kingdom to every man in that for every good man and every good husband and father, the home is a psychological, physical, ethical, intellectual, and certainly spiritual habitat where they are unrestricted and therein free. It is in this freedom that one stands that they can truly sacrifice and truly give of themselves for the sake of the other, which in this case is their family. The home is unique in that it is that place where one can give of him- or herself without the risk of diminishing him or herself. In fact, in the home, to sacrifice is not to make weak, but it is in sacrifice that we are proving the old evangelical promise true. Our small and, to our eyes, open inconsequential earthly sacrifices given in the home point to that primary sacrifice that was won for us, not of coercion or derision, but from freedom for freedom.
Parroting the words of Chesterton, I think that the home is the only place where a man can truly be free. The home and the family, much like our life in Christ, not only is a paradox but also solves the paradox that it is. It is where to suffer is to have contentment. The home is that place where commanding is obeying. In the home, to be the head means to be a servant. The family defines the home. The family solves the paradox of what it means to be a man and woman. “Then the Lord God made a woman from the rib he had taken out of the man, and he brought her to the man. The man said: ‘this is now bone of my bones and flesh of my flesh; she shall be called woman, for she was taken out of man.’ That is why a man leaves his father and mother and is united to his wife, and they become one flesh. Adam and his wife were both naked, and they felt no shame.” The family and the home give us, male and female, a place to live out this calling to leave father and mother, be naked and unashamed, and become father and mother to our family of children. is should not occur from coercion but in love and vocational freedom.
A good home serves another apologetic purpose. A caring and warm home reminds us that our God does not lack warmth or care. God the Father is not a passive father. He is the one who has laid the foundation for all families and thus all homes. “For this reason I kneel before the Father, from whom every family in heaven and on earth derives its name.” God names a good home wherein a father and mother act freely to make and keep a family. He names them with His own name. He calls that family and that home to be a shadow of what He is: warm, caring, forgiving, and mostly free. The modern attack on home and family is an attack on Christianity in that it is an attack on God’s nature, His character, and His name. As we abide all the attacks in our culture on mother, father, house, home, and family, we watch that which God has set us “free to be” driving away from us. These are the great gifts that He has given us, and we should walk in them. These are the rewards with which He blesses during the season of glad tidings. Good families and good homes serve as pale reflections of God in His goodness.
The outside world is not free; the Law rules it. If the world can- not experience God’s goodness, how can we think it can experience God’s good news in Christ? If Chesterton is right, and I think he is, the only free place that a man has is his home. is is where a man is free to provide direct experiences of God’s goodness in many forms that pave the path to the Gospel. Again, fathers are an analogia entis (analogy of being) of God’s goodness, paving the road to the path of the Gospel for their children in the home.
An analogia entis is therefore—when a good father is present— also analogia relationis (analogy of relationship). It is therefore quite a difference to understand the father-child relationship as not only an analogy of being but even more dynamically an analogy of relation. Our relationship with dad is an analogy to our relationship with God the Father. This is an incredible contribution not only to an understanding of the father-child relationship but also to our understanding of reality.
It is not possible to separate the physical presence of a father from the emotional and existential need for a father’s presence or a relationship with that father; they are too intertwined. It is also not possible to separate the emotional need of a place called home where we are free to do just that. Home is that safe place where we first taste love. If you have tasted love, how much would you have to be paid in order to give it up? Would you give it up for anything in the world? The home then is not only the place of freedom; it is where we are permitted to love freely. Fathers are intuitively relevant then in a home. Home is where fathers become epistemically valid. A good father in a loving home causes the Faith to make sense in ways that offer clarity to their children. In this way, children can look forward to the mansion that Christ says He is preparing for them. They will look forward to being home with Christ because home is of freedom and love.
(This is an excerpt from Being Dad: Father As A picture of God's Grace. You can purchase the book here.)
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