Because home is not always good, we forget how good it should be. I know of no substitute for home. While home is not all-in-all, friendship is a must, home is a good that cannot be replaced with other goods. I love going to Mom and Dad’s and early in our marriage Hope and I lived with them. It was a good year! I still love being with them. This is the ideal, it is not always met, but that does not mean it should be forgotten. *
Home is based on blood ties or adoption.
One truth about home is that we do not pick it. That’s the strength and glory of the family circle: nobody is there by merit or because they were special. We love our kids and give them favor, because they are our children. Our parents do the same for us and grandparents (or even great-grandparents!) preside joyfully over the whole!
The seeming exception of adoption is not. The adoptive parents bring a child into the family circle and the rest of us must accept that choice. There is no difference, after adoption, between blood ties and adoptive ties.
We are together as family, in some manner or another, forever. Of course people sometimes need to cut bad family ties, but this is hard and only points the importance of family. Divorce is always bad. Even when necessary, breaking up the family circle is not to be celebrated. Christians have not (mostly) been in favor of remarriage, but when remarriage happens or is the best of all outcomes possible, we are glad for the good in it, but sorry for the brokeness.
We care for each other, the first and best social welfare, because it is our duty. Parents care for children and when they do not the law rightly chastises them. Children should care for aging parents best they can. We can count on family.
Marriage is a part of homelife, is based on family ties, secures the future, and always contains an openness to children.
One important part of forming a family is marriage. Family life does not need marriage to exist, but it needs marriage to continue. Marriage should not be over elevated or presented as the only way to happiness or as essential to a home circle. The maiden aunts, last of their line, sitting about a fire enjoying memories and plans are family. It may not even be particularly sad that they are the last of the family. In this life all good things, including homes, come to an end lest through frequent use something good is corrupted. *
A man and a woman come together and unite two families. The couple does not come alone, but as part of a long history, genetic, psychological, and spiritual. Marriage begins in consent or there is no marriage. A couple comes together with an openness to continuing the family through having and raising children. The couple who finds they cannot have children or who can no longer have children continue to model the love a two “others” that can be so wonderfully fecund as they come together.
Romantic love is a sweet thing that may come or go in marriage. It is not necessary to home.
Romantic love is a great sweetness, but is not the “point” of marriage or necessary to marriage. Nobody should marry against his or her will, but a good marriage can begin in a love that is not romantic. Marriage must begin in love, but obviously not all loves are romantic! As Jane Eyre discovered in the greatest of English novels Jane Eyre, liberty comes from finding family, even in singleness, and turning one’s back on romantic love to obey the laws of God is hard, but good.
A home can obviously exist without romantic love as can a consensual marriage. Two brothers who outlive all the rest, including children, who meet on Boxing Day for a Christmas punch are a home, united by blood and history in ways that cannot be matched. Romantic love is no longer part of the story of that home and the future will soon see that family exist no more, but it is sweet and good for today. The two brothers can take no thought for tomorrow.
Home should be multi-generational where possible.
The modern notion that folk should live far apart, putting work above family, is sad. I know is sometimes necessary. God forgive us for setting up such a culture. As much as possible, generations should hear each other and listen to each other. I always laugh when I hear people talking about “dealing” with older folk at Thanksgiving or other holidays. A good home will meet in multigenerational settings all the time. The chronological isolation that death causes, cutting us off from other perspectives, is bad enough. We should minimize it as we can.
Single life is better in many ways than married life and single people are a great good to a home.
Obviously somebody had better get married and produce the next generation, but that is not everybody’s job, calling, or opportunity. Just as necessary is what Saint Paul (in another context) called the higher calling of singleness. In a functioning home, there are many single people: children, single adults, older folk who have lost spouses. This is not a lesser state, but a state free to do much of the work of building a home without the distraction of childcare. Childless couples also do this work. This is not only meeting physical needs, though home often requires adequate housing, but spiritual needs. A single person can bring depth, perspective, and jollification from his or her own life.
A good home is a base from which to go on adventures, not a trap.
We all have problems. We need (ideally) a home base where we are secure, but this is not so we can be sucked into not doing. Home should be the indefectible fan base that cheers us on in our ventures. I have known two kinds of evil: the person swallowed up by home, thought this is rare today outside of tiny religious sects, and the person who lives their “real” life apart from home. This is false to self . . . as false as subordinated every action to some patriarchal or matriarchal tyrant.
If you are reading this and in a weird sect that cuts you off from all but home, get free. There are other goods: friends you choose, church, community.
If like most you put home second to career, then consider: is this necessary? Can’t we begin to build a community where all can flourish and family ties are not cut?
At The Saint Constantine School it has been my absolute priority to encourage every member of our community to bring older relatives and children to work. We want to be the family farm for them . . . a place where family is made strong. It can be done. We are doing it.
I hope others can join us.
I am speaking here it Christians and not arguing for the traditional Christian perspective. This is what I have learned, not an apologetic for what I have learned.
*See Tennyson in Idylls.
**Lord Jesus Christ, son of God, have mercy on me a sinner.