He shall have the house torn down, its stones and timber and all the plaster of the house, and taken outside the city to an unclean place. Leviticus 14:45 (NRSV)
We spent this weekend with friends at the lake. It was a wonderful time of hanging out together and enjoying good conversation. Our friends bought a house a few years ago and have been in slow remodel mode ever since. The conversation this weekend meandered often to brainstorming thoughts and ideas for renovating their place. Wendy, who avidly keeps the television in her office on the DIY and Home & Garden channels, was more than happy to jump in with her thoughts and ideas.
There is a house on the lot next to ours at the lake. You can barely see it through the trees in the summer, but those who spend any time at our place on the lake eventually notice the place, and can’t help but be curious. We are often quizzed about the house by our guests. As far as we know, the small house has not been occupied by humans since the 1970s. The structure is largely rotted and the house is literally falling apart. Holes and openings in the structure have led to infestation of all kinds of critters. Those curious enough to wander through the brush to inspect the house closer will find that black mold covers the inside which was abandoned while still furnished. The furniture is equally rotten and covered with mold.
A newer home being updated. An abandoned house rotting. I thought about the contrast as I read this morning’s chapter about the ancient Levitical rules for “cleansing” of “diseases.” The cleansing not only included the human body but also the houses humans lived in. If there was the presence of mold or some other unhealthy thing growing in the house of an ancient Hebrew, the priest was called in to inspect it. If it could not be addressed the entire house was to be destroyed and the rubbish removed from the community.
I am struck this morning by the contrasting word pictures. Sometimes life is structurally sound, but there are always opportunities for improvement. An update here, a renovation there to raise the usefulness and value of the entire house. Other times in life, the core structure is rotten (even if hidden beneath several coats of fresh paint). Renovation is not an option because it changes mere appearances but does not address what is rotten at the core. Old things must pass away in order for new things to come.
Jesus addressed this very issue when he spoke with the priests and religious leaders:
“You’re hopeless, you religion scholars and Pharisees! Frauds! You burnish the surface of your cups and bowls so they sparkle in the sun, while the insides are maggoty with your greed and gluttony. Stupid Pharisee! Scour the insides, and then the gleaming surface will mean something.”
Over the past few years Wendy and I have been slowly trying to update and renovate our cozy little tudor style home. We have worked with an architect on a master plan that includes some really cool changes inside and out. Before we get to that, however, there have been a lot of necessary, but not so sexy, updates we’ve needed to make to the infrastructure of our house. We’ve sort of taken it at a pace of one major project per year. Roof needed to be replaced. Gutters needed to be replaced. Windows needed to be replaced. Siding on the 2nd floor needed to be replaced. Last year we needed to deal with waterproofing the basement and shoring up the foundation.
We actually accelerated things this year with two major projects and a minor project. This past spring we tore out the old concrete steps in our front yard and poured a new front patio. Just a few weeks ago we replaced the green monster. Our home came complete with an ancient green boiler about the size of a small Sherman tank. Estimates of its age put it somewhere in the 50-70 year range. It was terribly inefficient and the heat escaping out of it turned our bedroom (on the floor right above it) into a virtual sauna each winter.
We replaced it a few weeks ago along with our hot water heater with new, high-tech units. The new boiler is a fraction of the size and looks like a jet engine. We can already tell the difference. It still keeps the house nice and warm but heat escaping off the old boiler used to make it nice and toasty in the basement boiler room. Now it’s like a typical chilly basement.
The old boiler is still sitting in the basement. The contractor discovered upon trying to tear it out that the core of the old boiler is made of steel and weighs a ton (pretty literally). They’ve spent weeks trying to get someone here to cut it in pieces and haul it out. Looks like that will finally be completed next week.
But you, dear friends, must build each other up in your most holy faith…. Jude 1:20a (NLT)
For over a year, Wendy and I have been dreaming and scheming to make some major renovations here at Vander Well Manor. Our little brick tudor is a cute old house and we love it. However, the garage is rotting, the wiring and plumbing are ancient, and the boiler appears to have been installed sometime during the Roosevelt Administration. We realize that it is going to take a fair amount of work to bring our house into the 21st century and make some desired improvements. Over the months we’ve been working with an architect to plan the changes we want. Now we’re in the stages of figuring out just how much it’s going to take and cost. To be honest, at times it seems overwhelming.
Building something, and doing it right, is not an easy task nor is it a simple one. It requires planning, thought, investment, and a lot of hard work. In the end there is a cost, and when you’re doing renovation work there is always the question as to whether the resulting outcomes will be worth all of the cost in the end.
So it is with building people. God’s Message tells us that we are to “build one another up.” This, too, does not happen without planning, thought, investment, and a lot of hard work. There is always the question whether your hard work will have been a worthwhile investment. Yet, we are not told to consider the outcome nor is it in our control. Building up other people is simply part of the job description for those who follow Jesus. To be honest, at times it seems overwhelming.
This morning I am reminded that building up a home and building up people have many similarities. There is, however, one major difference. If we succeed in building up our home it will result in some nice and needed improvements, but the house will simply need more renovation in another forty or fifty years. If we succeed in building up people it can have eternal results.
One of the on-going struggles of owning a humble, old house is the never ending need for repair and renovation. Each year Wendy and I have some major update that we’re doing. Last year it was residing the upper level. Before that we needed to replace most of the windows in the main floor. Before that it was the roof. You get the picture.
Over the past few years we’ve known that we need to deal with the water issues in our basement. So, this past Saturday we combined Project with Paddy’s Day. My faithful friends came over on Saturday morning and helped me tear out old paneling, a shower, a stool, and a set of shelves. We had to uncover the walls and make way for Midwest Basement Systems to come and waterproof everything.
Fortunately, it was a beautiful day and we had a lot of fun as we labored. In the evening, the guys returned with wives and little ones to enjoy some of Wendy’s homemade pizza and Guinness Cupcakes as we celebrated the wearin’ o’ the green.