I sang the song over the hot skillet as tears ran down my cheeks. There’s nothing particularly emotional about grilled cheese sandwiches, but the song on loop in my mind—“My House” from Roald Dahl’s Matilda the Musical (watch on Netflix)—had captured my imagination. When my kids and I watched Matilda over Christmas break, Lashana Lynch’s gentle but emotive performance as Miss Honey, coupled with Tim Minchin’s thoughtful lyrics, pressed on a tender spot within me. For days I pondered why.
“That song makes me cry,” said my 8-year-old daughter. “Me too,” my 7-year-old son added. The kids were hungry for the grilled cheese sandwiches, but I suspected soul hunger too: a longing for home. As a character, Roald Dahl’s Miss Honey is a commentary on humanity’s ache for home; and if we’re paying attention, elements of her song point us to God’s story of home.
By This Lamp, I Can Read, and I Am Set Free
The Christian life has many parallels to Miss Honey’s plight. Consider, for example, the freedom that words offer both Miss Honey and the musical’s young protagonist, Matilda (Alisha Weir). As they long for their lives to be made new, books open their minds to the possibility and motivate them to take action.
Miss Honey had been delivered from the horrible hell of her childhood home with her abusive and vindictive aunt, Miss Trunchbull (Emma Thompson), and now she lives in a small cottage where she feels safe. As she sings, she helps the visiting Matilda discover what revives her: reading. “By this lamp, I can read, and I am set free.” Her small cottage with the lamp and the books doesn’t look like much to her young guest, but it’s a place of freedom and rebirth for Miss Honey.
Recently I witnessed the influence of Proverbs 3:5–6 on my daughter. Through the work of the Holy Spirit, my girl gained a new understanding of what it means to “trust in the LORD with all your heart,” and it set her free. “I want to follow Christ!” she told me with conviction in her eyes. Every Christ follower can tell similar stories—of times when God’s Word brought freedom, when it suddenly made sense that the psalmist called God’s Word a “lamp to my feet and a light to my path” (Ps. 119:105). Miss Honey is freed by words, and Christians are freed by the Word.
Small but Stubborn Fire
But even as Miss Honey sings with affection for the words that set her free and the home where she reads them, the listener senses a longing for something more. Outside Miss Honey’s cottage, Trunchbull continues to abuse. Though she doesn’t rule over Miss Honey’s life any longer, Miss Honey and the children she loves are still affected by her tyrannical reign.
Miss Honey is freed by words, and Christians are freed by the Word.
Paul’s words in 2 Corinthians 5 come to mind: “For while we are still in this tent, we groan, being burdened—not that we would be unclothed, but that we would be further clothed, so that what is mortal may be swallowed up by life” (v. 4). We’re made alive in Christ, but oh, how we long to be swallowed up by life! The world is full of Trunchbulls, and we hunger for a truer home.
How can Miss Honey—and how can we—press on when the world around us feels so dark and the longings within us so sharp?
Miss Honey sings, “And when it’s cold outside, I feel no fear / Even in the winter storms, I am warmed / By a small but stubborn fire.”
Christians too are warmed by a “stubborn fire.” Paul’s letter continues this way, “He who has prepared us for this very thing is God, who has given us the Spirit as a guarantee” (2 Cor. 5:5). The Holy Spirit within us is not small, and yet we experience only a flicker of the fullness that awaits us. Generations of God’s children have sung a similar tune to Miss Honey’s: “Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for you are with me” (Ps. 23:4).
Even as the Trunchbulls of the world exert their power, the flame within the Christian cannot be extinguished. Though the valley of the shadow of death tempts us to freeze in fear, God is with us and within us. As Paul put it, “We are afflicted in every way, but not crushed” (2 Cor. 4:8). In every storm we’re warmed by that stubborn fire: the Spirit, our guarantee.
Let Me Wipe Away Your Tears
The bridge of Miss Honey’s song is truly a bridge, helping the audience understand more about Miss Honey’s background. She’s a girl deeply loved by, but separated from, her father. Wrapping a years-younger Miss Honey in his embrace, her father briefly duets with her, “Let me wipe away your tears.” This is part of Miss Honey’s tragedy: her father loved her and longed to protect her from Trunchbull’s harm. But he was just a man. He could not. Though he promised to wipe away her tears, Miss Honey would cry many more in the years to come.
Even as the Trunchbulls of the world exert their power, the flame within the Christian cannot be extinguished.
Seeing the flashback of the young Miss Honey safe in her father’s loving arms, God’s sons and daughters recall our treasured promise. It’s why the song captured my heart, why I cried over the grilled cheese sandwiches weeks later. One day, our Father has promised: the tears will be wiped away (Rev. 21:4). Christ has come—he died and lives again—and Christ will come again. On that day, we will be fully and completely at home with him forever.
Miss Honey’s story was birthed in Roald Dahl’s imagination, but it echoes in every heart. In many ways, “My House” points to God’s story of home. It’s a story for all of God’s children, and it’s truer than true: As we wait for the promise ahead, we are made new by the promise written and warmed by the promise within. One day, we will dwell in the house of the Lord forever. Come, Lord Jesus.