One of my good friends is an experienced realtor. She handles huge deals as effortlessly as I can toss a football or taste my way through the 39 flavors in an ice cream parlor. More important, she knows people and what they go through when committing their savings to deals that are sometimes for a lifetime.
Recently she was telling me that her clients invariably feel that her brokers are undervaluing the houses they have listed with them. No comparative study of the going prices will convince them that the projected sale price might be right for their home.
"You see," she explained, "to them, what they are selling is more than a house. More than a piece of real estate. It's a home - with a history. It includes all the deepest affections, richest experiences, happiest times, neighborhood friendships, and even the sense of security they have built up and cherished over the years. Sellers realize that they cannot automatically bequeath those treasures to the next owner, but they feel they are part of the package and worthy of consideration."
It was encouraging to hear how many people really do know the essential difference between a house and a home - and a home's real value.
It's a lesson my wife and I needed to learn when we had to vacate the apartment we were renting in a gracious Victorian building.
We were devastated at the thought of having to leave a part of the city that we had grown to love. Rentals in the neighborhood were scarce, and we wondered if buying an apartment in that area might present more options. But soaring real estate prices, and even the difficulty of finding a broker who would take our concerns to heart, only caused further frustration.
Then we challenged ourselves. Were we looking for a house or a home? And what were we valuing most in our quest for a place to live?
We thought about the places the prophet Isaiah identified as one of God's many promises to us: "My people will live in peaceful dwelling places, in secure homes, in undisturbed places of rest" (Isa. 32:18).
We took that as an assurance that the best place for us, no matter where it was located, would be quiet, peaceful, and secure. And that freed us to consider some other aspects of home.
We came to see that our real real estate is always spiritual, never consisting of bricks and mortar; never valued in dollars, rands, rubles, francs, pesos, or yen. Our true home is in the kingdom of God, and it cannot be lost or sold or bought or rented.
With this change of perspective, a new friend came into our lives. She was recently widowed and lived nearby. When she heard about our predicament, she confided that she was selling her apartment to move to the suburbs, and she just "knew" that her home would be perfect for us!
It was. At first visit, we fell in love with it. Instantly, we sensed that this had been a cozy gathering place for family and friends, a center for outreach to others.
"I knew you would like it," she said, with a note of triumph in her voice. Without discussing the matter with us, she took the apartment off the market and told us what she had been asking for it. It was more than twice what we could afford.
Undeterred, she said quietly, "I still believe this home is meant for you." We agreed that we would each pray about it and keep closely in touch.
Within days, her real estate attorney called to say he had been asked to draw up a contract he could never even have dreamed up. His client had asked him to sell the apartment to us at a price we could afford, while she remained a silent partner.
To us this was proof and promise that the spiritual dwelling God provides for each of us will appear practically as secure housing. We knew that money would never again be an issue in assessing the true worth of any house we lived in, and we understood that our true home could never be for sale.
(c) Copyright 2000. The Christian Science Publishing Society