When is a house a home, and where is home, really?

By Curtis K. Shelburne

Lately I’ve been thinking more than usual about the venerable “father of the faithful,” old Abraham. More than ever, the great patriarch has my respect. God called Abraham to take a trip (God didn’t specify exactly where), to make his home in a country that would one day be his (God didn’t specify exactly when), and to make his house temporarily (God didn’t specify exactly how temporarily) a tent.

And Abraham did it.

By faith.

The writer of Hebrews says he did it by “keeping his eye on an unseen city with real, eternal foundations — the City designed and built by God” (11:10).

I’ve known for a long time that as for faith, I’m not even worthy to hold one of Abraham’s rusty tent pegs. And I know that now more than ever.

May I hasten to say that I am extremely thankful for the opportunity to have the experience we’re presently having.

Well, strike that.

I’m extremely thankful for the opportunity to one day before too long (I say by Thanksgiving, my wife says by Christmas, and a good friend prognosticates that it’ll be Easter) to have the opportunity to live in a home that is largely remodeled and includes a couch upon which its occupants might occasionally — at least in theory — sit.

We can’t do that right now — sit on a couch, I mean.

We’re under construction and have been since July. I didn’t think I sat on my couch all that much, but it was nice to know that I could if I wanted to. Now the couch is in storage and the house is morphing into something good but something I’ve never seen there before. The destruction phase is far behind us. Walls have been torn down, carpet ripped out (pretty easy since it was decaying), wires have been run and plumbing plumbed, and the construction phase is well underway.

It needed to happen. A quick look at the old wires and the exposed framing, and you don’t have to be a carpenter to see that the house needed some help. And while it’s getting that help, the bedroom is our living room, the utility room is the kitchen, the toaster oven is on the washer, snack stuff is on the dryer, the refrigerator is in the living room, the kitchen boasts no food but lots of precatalyzed lacquer, the TV in what was the living room has a 1/2-inch screen and won’t get the History Channel, and the closest thing to a couch is a foldout lawn chair.

Abraham lived in tents in a strange land because he was looking forward to the City with real foundations. Our foundation and framing are better now, but my fingers are swollen, hammer-bruised, and dyed with light golden oak cabinet stain. I’m a bit disoriented. Even the dog looks confused.

Hmm. The house my family and I have been squatting in for almost 20 years now isn’t even mine, though I’ve rebuilt most of it. But to us, it’s been home.

Yes, it has. But, then again, not really. The very finest house you ever saw is just a tent compared to the real home that God has waiting for his children.

Curtis Shelburne is pastor of 16th & Ave. D. Church of Christ in Muleshoe. Contact him at