I fell accidentally in love with a house on a lake.
It’s white with red shutters, and there’s a For Sale sign stuck in the yard. The grass is freshly mowed. Two months worth of grass, in fact, have been grown and cut; the sign, however, does not budge.
I found this house for sale, online. I’ve been inside exactly once.
This home is old, and it is small: 946 square feet with a crawl space basement. You could throw a stone from the front door, aiming for the road, and it would fly with ease to its destination. It is small indeed, both inside and out.
This home is quirky, full of imperfections, both snarky and disarming. It charms you from the start. In fact, when the front door flies open, you’ll find yourself staring straight at the stove. And to your left, sitting humbly across the kitchen sink, are the home’s washer and drier. They squat side by side, unabashedly, in a place they seem not to belong. There is no dishwasher, there is no fridge. And I pray the summer will be kind to the one who buys this home. There is no air conditioning.
To the world’s standards of stainless steel and white-trimmed windows, this house in no way measures up. It’s a far cry from glamour.
There’s something about the large back room, the living area that floods with natural light.
There’s something about the kitchen that leads me to believe it could all be re-done: gutted clean, torn out, rebuilt with careful hands. You could turn that kitchen into an oasis –make it more beautiful and functional– if only the tenacity and vision were there. But you’d need to get your hands dirty, to stoop low, to go to bed sore.
With a splash of white paint, those bedrooms could be revived. You could line the walls with potted plants and bookshelves, with things that give and grow.
You could make this place your own.
I stare at my hands.
I pray they’ll carry out the work.
It will take love, sacrifice, and a soul that sees past all offense. It will take money, and it will take work. It will cost something.
And yet. If you threw in your heart and your soul, if you spent what you had, to do all that you could, you could transform this place with love. If you saw the home both as it is and as it could be, you’d transform this place with love. If you intervened to restore what’s broken, if you rolled up your sleeves to enter the mess, you’d transform this place with love.
Of course, I am referring to houses.
That’s also what God does for us, to us, in us: he sees us in sin, our hearts caught in offense, and he sends his Son to save. He transforms this place with love.
Do you know that you’re a broken house? Your faucet leaks, and your windows crack. Your washer and drier are sitting, sorely out of place, in the middle of your kitchen. Like my little white house on the lake, you can never measure up to God’s standards by your hands alone. You can’t measure up to his beauty or power, his perfection or prestige. You are incompatible with God.
But God has thrown in all he has to restore all that’s lost. God stooped low. He sent his very Son for us, in flesh and full divinity, a curious mingling. A price so heavy was paid on the cross. It’s a transaction we owed but could not pay; God demands a kingdom and we are but a cottage. Do you understand that you cannot do this on your own?
But God has flung open the door and ripped the curtain. By his wounds you have been healed (Isa 53:5). This is grace. You’ve been bought with a price, purchased and sealed (1 Cor 6:20, Eph 1:13-14). If Christ has knocked on your door and you have opened it, your house is saved from foreclosure. Yet, there’s still work to do. There’s carpet that needs removing, and there’s electric that needs re-wiring. If you are to be a home where the Holy Spirit dwells, you are going to need a carpenter. C.S. Lewis writes:
“Imagine yourself as a living house. God comes in to rebuild that house. At first, perhaps, you can understand what He is doing. He is getting the drains right and stopping the leaks in the roof and so on; you knew that those jobs needed doing and so you are not surprised. But presently He starts knocking the house about in a way that hurts abominably and does not seem to make any sense. What on earth is He up to? The explanation is that He is building quite a different house from the one you thought of – throwing out a new wing here, putting on an extra floor there, running up towers, making courtyards. You thought you were being made into a decent little cottage: but He is building a palace. He intends to come and live in it Himself.”
God buys all the broken houses. He purchased them with Christ. And he re-builds them from the inside out.
Wherever we dwell, we tend to make our own. We hang photos and plant gardens; we rip out stoves and add back splashes. Bookshelf here, table there. We redesign the space we occupy.
God, too, redesigns the space he occupies. But instead of flowers, he plants patience; and instead of shutters, he hangs self-control. He paints with love. He adorns with joy. He gazes at the wreckage of our lives, unhindered, resolute. God sees us for what we could be, and when we accept his Son, he goes to work, repairing.
I’m in the process of buying that little white house. I hope to spend my mornings in the back room, full of sunshine and hope; I hope to spend my afternoons on the lake and my nights on the deck. What this house is now, it will not be in one month, one year, or five years. I’ll remodel it from the inside out: small, incremental improvements over time. I know that in the end, this home will be better off for having me in it. I’ll love it and invest in it. It will be beautiful and I will be proud.
I can think this way about a house, but I know God thinks of me in the same way. I’ve accepted his Son, and he has come to dwell within my soul: small, incremental improvements over time. I know that in the end, I’ll be better off for having him. He loves me and invests in me. Someday, I will be beautiful and he will be proud.
God buys broken houses. He redeems them from the inside out.
His are the hands that mold us.