Theological growth is like renovating your house.
You think your 120 year-old Victorian is rock solid, the envy of the neighborhood, though maybe needing a touch up here and there.
One side of the house is resting on a cracking foundation. You couldn’t tell on your own, and it takes some convincing on his part, but there it is, clear as day. It’s only a matter of time before one side of your house falls off.
Lady, trust me, you don’t want that.
The walls look fine to you, but the pipes are in fact leaking, which in time will turn your basement into an indoor pool. Many of the joists are rotting, which threatens to turn your Victorian into a rancher.
Also, your old roofer just kept putting down new layers of singles over the years–a collapse waiting to happen with a heavy snow fall. Your painter, an amateur, slapped some inferior quality paint over rotting clapboards. Most of the south side needs to be replaced pronto.
It turns out your house is falling apart, and you can’t deny it. Admitting it is the hard part, and now there’s no going back. The work needs to begin.
The builder tells you the good news. Generally speaking the house is in decent shape, and the newer building materials are stronger and more resistant to weather and wear. The house is definitely salvageable, but the renovation work will take time, isn’t cheap, and it will be hard to live here while it’s happening.
He begins with the foundation–which means tearing down an entire side of the house to get to it.
My house. My beautiful house. Is this renovation or demolition?
Lady, you have to demolish if you want to renovate. This isn’t a touch up job.
You feel like you’re losing an old friend–a part of your life–something that has been with you for as long as you can remember.
Really?! You can do that?!
Sure. What do think “renovation” means? This isn’t a touch up job. You’ve had too many of those. Now, not only will your house be safer, but you can add more rooms or make the old ones three times the size. It’s up to you.
Sweet. You get some books from Lowe’s (“Never Stop Improving”) and begin to think big–maybe some huge picture windows, or a bay window; built-in book shelves; a monster plasma TV with surround sound and oversized leather recliners (like the kind they have at the ESPN Zone) for the husband [thank you].
Although this is all still a bit weird and unsettling, you’re beginning to see this as an opportunity.
And while he’s knocking down the walls to get to the plumbing problem, you have a chance to expand the kitchen like you’ve wanted to for the last 25 years (though you never told anyone). And why not throw in a sliding glass door out the back onto your new 800 sq. ft. cedar deck complete with built-in gas grill.
And you know, as long as he’s here, why not have him take a look at all those annoying little cracks and quirks that you always knew were there, were bugging you deep down, but managed to ignore all those years.
After the some fresh paint and wallpaper, the job is done, and you have to admit the new house is a heck of a lot nicer than the old one–not to mention no longer a hazard waiting to happen.
And here’s the thing: It’s still your house. Sure, it’s not the same, but you still have those familiar rooms, those nooks and crannies, all memories of the joys and challenges of raising a family–holidays, graduations, milestones.
All that remains. It’s still your house. Just bigger, nicer, safer, more fun. A source of joy, not doom and gloom. Something to enjoy, not kick the dog over.
The renovation work had to be done. That’s absolutely clear now in retrospect. You’re amazed you didn’t see the problems much earlier–but you weren’t really looking for them, and you probably didn’t really want to see them anyway. Someone outside of your house had to point them out to you.
Not everyone renovates their house, no matter how much it’s needed.
Some don’t like anything any builders have to say, and so they argue with them. They actually like arguing. They email them just so they can call the builders names and tell them how dumb they are.
Others feel it’s all a builders’ conspiracy and it’s their responsibility to tell all their neighbors that they shouldn’t have their houses renovated either, no matter what these lying builders say. They feel they know better than everyone else, and they get quite in your face about it if you disagree.
Then there are some who hire builders to begin work, but when walls start getting knocked down they become fearful and fire the builders mid-task. They would rather nail up some plywood panelling to cover up the holes than finish the job.
Cranky old men rock on their porch all day. They spit tobacco and polish their shotguns, glaring at passers by. If you try to come in the gate and talk to them about their house, they tell you to get off their lawn. And you’d better, because they have a shiny shotgun pointed at you.
People can choose to renovate or not. It’s up to them. But sooner or later, if we’re paying attention, we will see that all of our houses show wear and tear that can’t be ignored or touched up.
Good houses are built to last, but all houses are temporary. No house built by man can avoid renovation indefinitely.
The post first appeared in March 2012.