This is our house when we bought it in 1999:
This is it when we sold it 16 years later:
And the changes inside the house are just as drastic.
I could say, ok Millennials, I know you love funky old cottages done up to the nines, but that’s not how it starts. So put down your smashed avocado, stop whining and start saving! No one hands you this kind of house on a plate these days, you’ve got to put in the yards and do it tough.
But I won’t say that. I will say this instead: I bought a house without any prior building or renovating skills that required a lot of building and renovating. I learned to do a lot of stuff, and I had skilled help for the stuff I could not do. In fact I bought this house with my heart, not my head.
We put up with a lot of stuff. The hip bath on the back verandah for four months while I did the bathroom was probably the low point. The high point was the building of my studio five years ago, with most of the leg, arm and brain work by my good mate and associate at church, Damo. I planted every tree on that property, and tore a few down too.
It’s a beautiful house – now. It sold in a day for four times what we bought it for. I OCD-ed every room in that house and even today as I look around it I love it. Except for the fact it is no longer mine and we have to move out of it (we have been renting it back while our new house stubbornly refuses to be built), in a few weeks.
But it wasn’t so beautiful at the start. It was all we could afford and we liked wooden floors and character, so it was the obvious choice. It had so much to do; new windows, new bathroom, new kitchen, new verandah, new walls in all the rooms. I sanded, painted and renailed every weatherboard on the outside of this place. I had new windows made from an old jetty in Fremantle for the front that stopped the blasting easterly from slipping through the cracks. Mind you, the rugs still waft on the floorboards when that wind picks up. No amount of OCD can seal every gap.
Jill and I went from three years married to 20 years married in this house. Tears, laughter, love, kids, dog, angst, church despair, church grief, church joy, friendships, hospitality, working from home. It’s fair to say that after 20 odd house changes in the first 32 years of my life, a single house in the next 17 has been the most shaping thing that has happened to me. It’s still a 3×1. We share a bathroom between four of us who all need to be in different places by 9am.
And this renovation reminds me. That’s what we are in need of too. Renovation. As CS Lewis reminds us, God comes in and renovates every room. And we pay lip service to that. But so often we want people – especially our people at church – to be fully renovated before we “move in” and share their lives in a serious way.
Imagine if I had been like that. I won’t move in until it’s finished. We’d be still waiting to move in. But the Holy Spirit takes ownership of us, and then moves in to begin the renovation process. He’s not afraid to get his hands dirty sorting us out. He can even cope with the manky bathroom, and gently prods us to polish the floorboards and replace the ceilings one by one. All whilst living in the home purchased by the blood of the Lord Jesus Christ. How long will that renovation take? Well here I am 41 years on since deciding Jesus should be King over my life, and the renovations are ongoing.
Here’s what else God did, and it’s a little like my purchase. He bought us with his heart, not his head. We are reminded that God chose Israel because he chose Israel:
It was not because you were more in number than any other people that the Lord set his love on you and chose you, for you were the fewest of all peoples, 8 but it is because the Lord loves you and is keeping the oath that he swore to your fathers, that the Lord has brought you out with a mighty hand and redeemed you from the house of slavery, from the hand of Pharaoh king of Egypt. (Deut 7:7ff)
I had far more pragmatic reasons for choosing my house than God did in choosing us!
And here’s the beauty of God’s renovation work – it’s worth infinitely more than our renovation work. I sold my house for four times the price I bought it for. Yet it will still need to be kept in good nick, or it will collapse into wrack and ruin. Wooden houses that are nearly 100 years old don’t just fix themselves- entropy sees to that.
Yes spiritual entropy is a dangerous thing too. We need to keep allowing the Holy Spirit access to every room in our house to renovate it, and things break down and crumble, get mould or slump, if not attended to.
But our hope is that one day we will be fully and finally renovated. And at that point, the Owner comes to fully occupy our house, when the weatherboards will never rot again, and the timbers won’t creak and the glass won’t go foggy and the plumbing won’t break down. And here’s what we will find, according to 1Corinthians 5:1:
For we know that if the earthly tent we live in is destroyed, we have a building from God, an eternal house in heaven, not built by human hands.
On that day God’s renovation project on our lives will be complete.
And if knowing that means you show somebody, a struggling Christian, some grace as God does a deep renovation work on their lives, a work that lags behind what your schedule would prefer, then you’re beginning to understand the depths and no-expenses-spared effort that God has gone to renovate you.