Theological Growth: Extreme Makeover Home Edition

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.

Until an expert builder does a walk through–and what he finds isn’t pretty.

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.

While you are freaking out inside the builder asks, since he’s fixing the foundation anyway, if you’d like him to expand it another twenty feet.

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.

While he’s on the roof, he can throw in some sky lights and solar panels.

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.

Crazy cat ladies isolate themselves. They don’t renovate their houses. Builders can try to talk to them, but they’re not really listening. They are talking to their cats.

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.

  • Pingback: Why Theological Growth Is Like a Home Improvement Project | Dr. Platypus

  • http://www.lifebeforethebucket.com Adrian W.

    As beautiful of a word picture as I’ve ever seen. Except now I have the itch to literally renovate or at least rearrange our house…

  • Paul Brassey

    You didn’t address the cost of the renovation: either a large/larger mortgage, or drained savings. What might be the costs of a theological renovation? You have certainly paid some costs, but also reaped great rewards. Finally, choice of builder is crucial: “Unless the LORD builds the house, they labor in vain who build it.” Ps. 127:1

  • Jon G

    Beautiful, subtle and really worth reading. Thanks!

  • Jay A

    Thanks for the post. This describes me right now. Seeing the hope in the post of a better “house” at the end helps give me hope. Thank you.

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  • Darryl Corley

    Renovate. Nice word. Restore. Better word. Among the illustrations accompanying this article was an original blue print. It details the intent of the Builder (yeah…that was capped). Sure, I can make “improvements” to the house I chose. I can make it more comfortable, safer, even more entertaining. Theology isn’t meant to be any of those things. It is challenging. God spent eons weaving a mystery of symbols and genealogies that only became evident when Christ died. Many attempt to rearrange all that to suit their needs. It is dangerous. Millions have died in it’s pursuit. And in spite of all attempts to create an entertainment industry around worship, we have no command or reference in the first century church to anything resembling today’s “praise productions”. I’m gratified that this parable began with the foundation. However, the foundation of any true theology is immutable. If yours is eroded, you need to find the foundation the Builder intended. In the end, it’s not my house. It’s his. If I choose to alter it to suit my needs and not his, and he no longer resides there.

  • Christi Masso Byerly

    Ah, but what about the historical society that wants the whole neighborhood to enter into debate whether you can paint your house anything other than “colonial slate”, or remove the tin awning and put up a canvas one, or put in Armstrong windows instead of the knotty pine ones? Can be a bit tough in a community, especially in the historic district.

  • Jeff Wishart

    Thanks for this great analogy. I feel like I may be seeing some light at the end of the tunnel of my latest renovation. The problem is that although I still recognize the house and most of the rooms, I no longer feel welcome in it. The guests I used to have don’t like the renovation and feel I should have just added another coat of paint.

  • Leslie Perkins

    Mid-renovation and feeling a little skeptical about the promised beautiful home on the other end. Are we sure we don’t just end up in a rubble pile wondering, “Now what?” Do you, Mr. Enns, or others posting here, really feel that the lovely dwelling is taking shape around you? I’m genuinely interested in hearing how it looks and how it’s better.

    • Aj

      Yes, it’s worth it. But, it is hard. I feel much freer and to be quite honest have way less nagging doubts than I used to. And, things makes so much more sense: Genesis, Job, etc.

      It feels like God has come alive again. However, like the analogy someone gave about the historical district, it is lonely. But what I have found is that secretly many of my friendshave the same nagging questions but are afraid to ask them. They are now pursuing me with renewed interest and our discussions have become richer.

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