Renting Space

There is a certain security that comes with the American way of life, an expectation that the future is predictable and controllable. For my family, home ownership has been a part of that security. It gives the appearance and expectation that what is ours is ours, under our control, and somewhat permanent – at least until we ourselves decide to make a change.

I am a planner by nature and thrive on that kind of predictability. When I feel overwhelmed my first impulse is to sit down and start making lists: things to do, stuff to get rid of, any way I can grasp to dig myself out of the mess I feel I am in.

Sometimes, however, that facade of control is lifted and we see our life here on earth as the temporary, wind blown thing that it is.

Eleven years ago, on a completely normal morning, I came to the realization that our house was on fire. Suddenly that normal, predictable morning became a pivot point into a time when our lack of control over our life was abundantly clear every moment of every day.

The insurance company moved us into a rental house, and suddenly everything we had was not our own. While we were well taken care of by our church community and our insurance, ownership and control were things we no longer had much access to. The house and everything in it were either items donated to us or rented by our insurance. Our furniture, sheets and towels, even our kitchenware were rented items as we waited for our house to be fixed. Suddenly the concept of stewardship became a glaring daily lesson of our lives.

With six children, we were living day by day on white carpet that didn’t even belong to us. White. Carpet. How on earth were we supposed to live with these belongings that weren’t even ours without damaging them? There was a clash between the need to live our daily lives using the tools given to us, and the need to be able to hand them back to their true owners without regret. The temporariness of our use of these things was never far from my mind. I was the steward, given use of these tools and trust of their care – but only for so long. These things were never meant to be mine to keep.

We eventually moved back to our home, replaced most of our belongings with new purchases and went on with life as normal. Ownership was again a comfortable existence. A few years later we moved to a new house, one that we meant to be our “forever home.” Again we settled in and filled all the corners, living our lives with the expectation that the situation was permanent and under control. But that is never how it works, is it?

Due to circumstances outside of our control we find ourselves again in a rental home, in a tangibly temporary situation. Each time I pass a wall that has a new scribble on it from the toddler (on flat paint, no less) I cringe and worry about the marks we are leaving here.

One day recently, as I was fussing to myself about not knowing how the next step of our living situation will pan out, I found myself remembering the days right after the fire. I was reminded that no matter how comfortable we are here, no matter how under control or permanent our situation feels, this is not our true home. We are only renting space here on earth. When I look toward my next home, I need to keep in mind that it is still not my permanent home, but only a working and resting place on the way to my true home. My home here is the school where I learn to love and serve God, and is not meant to be a place where I settle in and feel secure and comfortable and permanent. My belongings here are on loan, sometimes as blessings, sometimes as impediments and lessons on how to hold my own ideas for my life with a gentle grasp, ready to relinquish it for the next step towards heaven.

Ownership is a comfortable feeling. But when I remember that all this is temporary, then I can live better in the idea of God’s providence and a focus on my true home with Him, in Heaven.


  1. Margaret Chang says:

    How true your reflection is!! It speaks to my heart as I am helping my mother to clean their house which they have lived in the past 45 years. Your sharing reminds me what we own or have here on earth is all temporary. What you say about our home is a working and resting place on the way to our true home in heaven keeps my perspective right! Thank you for writing down your thought.

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