A listener once suggested that for a podcast episode I should read from the book I wrote in 2016, THEM- The Richer Life Found in Caring for Others. It’s about relationships, which of course, is what this podcast is about. But I don’t know if reading from it would interest many of you. Maybe the first chapter might, I don’t know. It’s about how people are like houses when it comes to deepening our relationships with others.

But before we get into today’s episode, here’s what this podcast is all about. 

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If you find yourself wanting more from your relationships, you’ve come to the right place. Here you’ll discover practical principles you can use to experience the life-giving relationships you were made for.

I’m your host, John Certalic, award-winning author and relationship coach, here to help you find more joy in the relationships God designed for you.

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THEM – The Richer Life Found in Caring for Others

My book THEM has never sold well. Many of them sit on a shelf in our basement to prove it. Two of my relatives I know bought the book, and I offered it to the rest of the extended family as Christmas gifts after it came out. But no one wanted a free and signed copy. I was going to pay the postage, too. Yeah, that was my Charley Brown Christmas alright.

But I did get an award and a cash prize for the book. Writers Digest named it the “Best Inspirational Book of 2016.” However, there wasn’t much competition for inspiration in 2016. It was a lean year in the inspiration department, as you may recall.

Nevertheless, I’m going to take a chance and read from selected portions of chapter one of the book that I think you’ll enjoy hearing, and maybe even find inspiring. It’s about a useful principle that could help you in deepening the relationships in your life. It’s called, “People Are Like Houses.”

People are like houses

I’ll begin with this. Every house has multiple openings. All kinds of openings— windows, doors, chimneys, even clothes-dryer vents. Openings to bring the outside in, or openings to let the inside out. 

When you walk past some houses, the resident of the house will see you from inside through a window, open the door and come bounding out to greet you. 

“Why don’t you come in and I’ll get you something to drink. Please stay a while so we can chat and get caught up with each other’s lives. I’ve been thinking about you. I have so much to tell you since we last met. It is so good to see you.” 

This is how some people respond when we walk past their houses. Such people are wide-open houses with openings that invite you in. They are easy people to engage with—the low-hanging fruit of relationships. It doesn’t take a lot of work to relate with people like this. Me, I get along great with children and older ladies because they are houses with relational openings I can easily pick out. Younger than eight and older than eighty is my sweet spot. With everyone in between, not so much. 

Other people are houses with fewer openings. Walk past someone’s house like this and when she sees you from her front window, she closes the drapes, pulls the blinds, and turns off the lights. If you go to her front door and ring the doorbell, she’ll pretend she’s not home and leave you standing there like a rebuffed Jehovah’s Witness. 

Closed openings to this house

A number of years ago, the elders from a church in our area called me into a meeting to ask me how they could better care for their pastor, who was going through a rough time. Their question showed me they didn’t know him very well. The better we know someone, the easier it is to care for them. 

I responded to their question with, “I think you need to get to know him better.” 

“We’ve tried, but it’s hard because he plays it close to the vest. He doesn’t let anyone in,” replied one of the elders.” 

His house is full of closed doors and covered windows. The opening to his house is hard to find, but if you work at it long and hard enough, you’ll find it. 

“Maybe he plays it close to the vest because he’s been hurt in the past with being more open, and he doesn’t want to be hurt again. Maybe he plays it close to the vest because he doesn’t trust you.” 

A few heads nodded, but that’s as far as it went. Some people have closed houses like this. I’m like this myself at times. I play it close to the vest when I don’t trust people either. I close the openings to my house to protect myself, which Christian psychologist Larry Crabb calls the most common sin of us all—self-protection.

Delayed openings

Other people have houses whose openings will close up at first, but who wait to see if you come back, and then if the stars are properly aligned, and they’ve finished watching Dancing with the Stars, will crack open the door and whisper to you, “Now is not a good time, maybe next week. I’m not feeling well right now.” So you leave with a small opening for the future, a little hope. 

Still other people, when they see you come by, will call out from the window, “I’d really like to talk, but the baby is napping, and my husband thinks I spend too much time with my girlfriends, so could you please come back tomorrow? Come at night, though, and come to the back door. I really need to talk to you.”

Different houses, different openings

Get the picture? People are like houses with many different openings. Some are wide open, and others closed shut like a lake cottage in the dead of winter. The frustrating thing for me is that I often want to enter a person’s relational house through the opening I want, through an easy opening like the front door. I don’t want to have to come back again and again, or wait until spring. And I don’t want to go to the back door at night. Nor do I  want to talk through the screen of the kitchen window, or get on the ground and whisper through the basement window. 

But the fact is, if I want to relate well with someone, I have to go with the opening that person gives me, not the one I want. This principle is especially true in caring for others. We can’t care well for people if we don’t know them very well. To care well means at times we have to pursue people and look for openings to get to know a person at a heart level. It’s not always easy, for some people have closed up many of the openings to their house. We can’t give up, though. It’s important that we work at it. For in the end, it’s always worth it.

 The openings children give us

These grandsons of ours have also taught me much about how people, even children, are like houses. They open themselves up to us when they want in ways they want—not at the time or manner I prefer. 

On the occasions Janet and I have picked them up from school because their parents were away, I’ve wanted to understand how their day went. What did 

they learn in kindergarten today? What is going on in their little hearts. I want to know because I love them deeply and want to enter into their world. When I try to get into their “house,” they are often very closed. They pull the blinds and turn off the lights with their favorite response, “It’s classified.” 

It’s classified? Please, don’t they know who I am? I’ve changed their diapers, which should entitle me to more than, “It’s classified, Grandpa.” They closed one of the openings to their house I was trying to enter. 

I wondered if there is another opening they would give me. There was. 

I discovered the opening one night when Janet and I were babysitting and it came time to put them to bed. They got their pajamas on, brushed their teeth, and crawled into bed. I then read them a book. 

“Can you read another one? Please? Oh please!”

“I need a glass of water.”

“Where’s my Star Wars guy? I have to look for it. I can’t go to sleep without it! Really, I won’t fall asleep without it!”

Typical bed-time stall routines. I’ve been through all of this many times, but then one night, Grant, firmly tucked in bed with the covers up to his chin, pulled out from his arsenal of sleep-delaying tactics, this question

“Grandpa, are you going to die?”

I didn’t see this one coming

Has someone been talking to this boy? Does he know something I don’t know? 

Ironically, his question came eerily close to the question too frightening for all of our family just six years earlier, “Is Grant going to die?” More about that later. 

As I sat down on Grant’s bed and looked into his eyes, I could tell he had moved from stalling at bedtime, to a deep metaphysical issue people have pondered for centuries. I was not prepared for his question, nor for such an opportunity to see into his heart. Grant was giving me an opening to his house, and I wanted to take advantage of it. I can’t afford to miss this one, I thought, even though it came at night when I am least alert. But there he was, opening his house to me in a way that worked for him. 

As I sat on the bed, I told him, “Yes, I will die someday, but it most likely wouldn’t happen for a very long time.” I went on to tell him that when I did die, I would go to heaven to be with Jesus, where I would wait for him—to join me many years later. I told Grant we have nothing to worry about when it comes to dying if we know Jesus. For if we know Jesus, we will spend forever with Him and with all the other people who know Him. 

Grateful for this opening I was invited into

A smile broke out on his small lips that told me he was okay with my answer. He could now call it a day because his question about the destiny of humanity was settled and he could move on. He was comforted, as was I. 

“Good night, Grant. I love you.”
“I love you, too, Grandpa.”

I turned out his light, thankful for the opening he had given me to his house, to his heart. We connected at an unwelcome, unexpected time for me. I found with our grandkids some of the most significant conversations I’ve had with them happened at night sitting on their bed, because it is when it is most comfortable for them. It’s when they were the most reflective. I have to be on guard, to be aware, so I can take advantage of the openings they give me. 

*   *   *   *   *   *   *

Well there you have it, the “People Are Like Houses” principle from chapter one of my book, THEM. In addition to the two examples of this principle I’ve shared here, there are three more stories like it in chapter one of the book. But we’ve run out of time for today, as you’ve probably finished with folding laundry or picking up the kids from school.

I’ll leave you with two thoughts. I wonder if people you want to understand better are giving you “openings to their house” that you might be missing. 

And secondly, are you making it harder on people to relate to you because many of the openings to your house are closed?  Are your drapes closed and your porch light turned off? It might be worth the risk to switch the lights on and open a window are two.


As we close up shop for today, I’d love to hear any thoughts you have about today’s episode. I hope your thinking was stimulated by today’s show, to look a little more closely at the openings people may be giving you into their house.

Because when you do, it will help you experience the joy of relationships God desires for you. Because after all, You Were Made for This.

Well, that’s it for today. Don’t forget to spread a little relational sunshine around the people you meet this week. Spark some joy for them.  And I’ll see you again next time.

Other episodes or resources related to today’s shows

139: Why Should I Listen to This Podcast?

021: The Most Important Relationship of All

Prior recent episode

 213: Five Things to Watch for in Your Next Conversation

All past and future episodes    JohnCertalic.com

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