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Do you think about your home as walls or as doors?

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Did the lockdowns work? Two years after they went into effect, it’s reasonable to expect an informed answer, and new meta-analysis from Johns Hopkins University provides one. It’s long and detailed, but boils down to a No. That is, close examination of data from 34 reliable studies could find no clear correlation between strict lockdowns and COVID-19 infection rates. The benefits of shutting down small businesses and large gatherings were questionable.

The harms were beyond question. Here’s one story: Early in the pandemic, a 99-year-old friend of mine died of natural causes, but his wife of 67 years was only allowed to be with him during the last few hours. “I kept telling him I loved him, but don’t know if he heard me,” she said through tears. His sons and grandchildren could only wave through the window. Countless other nursing home residents died absolutely alone. I remember thinking at the time that there might be factors to consider beyond choking off a virus. And if so, couldn’t people make their own decisions?

There were other factors: loneliness; joblessness; broken communities; canceled counseling sessions, elective surgeries, and church services. Things that make people more than just physical bodies. Diseases beyond data. The good news was that relatively stable families enjoyed the extra togetherness and even deepened their relationships. Home became a fortress of security fighting off outside threats with board games and baked goods.

“Home” itself meant a refuge or a sentence, a dichotomy that may have changed how most Americans view their personal space.

But homes that were not nests of harmony could become petri dishes of pathology. Robbed of any release valve, pressure built up, small problems ballooned to big ones, and big problems led to abuse, violence, overdose, and general despair. “Stay home” could mean a pleasant vacation or a jail term. “Home” itself meant a refuge or a sentence, a dichotomy that may have changed how most Americans think of their personal space.

Sanctuary or prison? What if “home” is intended to be neither?

Considering how large a concept home is for most of us, the Bible has little to say about it. Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob lacked a permanent residence, and their descendants suffered 430 years as outsiders in Egypt. Forty years of wandering followed the exodus, after which Moses promised them “houses full of all good things that you did not fill” (Deuteronomy 6:11).

They forfeited their home when they forgot the Lord who provided those good things, but while they languished in far-away Babylon, Jeremiah passed on God’s command to build houses, make families, and seek the city’s welfare. Some would return to their promised land, but others would create communities and seek the welfare of cities even farther from Babylon.

The most notable figures of the New Testament had no home: Jesus and Paul depended on hospitality. The Bethany sisters, Simon the Tanner, Lydia, and a multitude of others provided meals and rest. John Mark’s mother Mary, Nympha, Philemon, and many more hosted churches. Aquila and Priscilla tutored evangelists. Tabitha sat near her window and sewed garments for the poor. That was home: a launchpad for the gospel.

But private homes, even while housing the church, were never the church. Personal dwellings are both less and more than we tend to make them: neither castles nor showplaces, but gifts from a heavenly Father who fills them with good things and expects us to remember Him in how we use them.

I’ve written about how the pandemic forced me to rethink where I lived—how I had considered our five acres and century-old house a burden to get out from under as soon as possible. When circumstances made moving impractical (in other words, I was stuck), my attitude changed. I started to take responsibility, while giving up ownership. This place is ours to enhance and improve, but not just for the two of us. It’s home base for ministry, to my own family first, then to the church, and then to neighbors and even strangers, as the Lord leads.

Do we think of our homes as walls, or as doors? It matters.

Janie B. Cheaney

Janie is a senior writer who contributes commentary to WORLD and oversees WORLD’s annual Children’s Books of the Year awards. She also writes novels for young adults and authored the Wordsmith creative writing curriculum. Janie resides in rural Missouri.


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