Renovate Your Faith

Renovate Your Faith April 22, 2020

As talk of a stay at home order was just beginning, my home was in the midst of some long-planned home renovation. Specifically, a bathroom that badly needed a new tub was scheduled to get a much more substantial makeover, and this had seemed likely to be the perfect time to get this work done as it corresponded with the week of my university’s spring break.

What does this have to do with faith? Please bear with me and I’ll get there, I promise.

In the process of working on the bathroom, some related plumbing issues were able to finally be diagnosed and addressed as well. It involved cutting into the wall from the other side to access a pipe, which had probably been clogged long before we ever moved into the house. There were similar issues in the other half bathroom in the home, and so we hired the person who did the original work to do that additional fix as well.

Sometimes issues go back to the beginning of a home being constructed. Something they are a result of a generation or more of neglect. And sometimes they are things just beginning to go wrong.

As it became clear to my wife that she would unexpectedly be home for several more weeks, as her place of employment told employees to stay at home, this seemed like a good time to get more things of this sort addressed in our house. Having a couple of workers around the house was no more risky as far as social distancing is concerned than going to the supermarket weekly to restock food and other necessities. And we had the opportunity to help these workers manage the situation through ongoing gainful employment. It would be a win-win.

After the bathroom and plumbing work was done, we would need to paint. The person who did the bathroom recommended someone. As we considered this, it made sense to paint the entire house interior on this occasion, rather than just the rooms affected by the bathroom work.

And while we were at it, we could get rid of the popcorn and stucco ceilings and walls that my wife hated.

To do this, we’d need to move everything out of the house with few exceptions. Books went into boxes. My computer and desk were set up in the garage for a while as sort of makeshift “office,” along with everything else that could fit there for the duration.

As we talked with the initial bathroom remodeler further, we learned that he also does other kinds of work, so we asked about soffits, knowing that part of the home’s exterior definitely had some issues that required further investigation. There were also gutters that leaked, and we couldn’t be sure without at least starting to do this repair which was the cause and which was the symptom of the other.

Removing the soffits revealed deeper issues within that had impacted the frame of the roof. And although we had long known that there were issues with the roof, it wasn’t that old (having had the shingles replaced about 15 years earlier after a severe hail storm punched holes in it) and so we didn’t think it needed to be replaced just yet.

But it turned out that it did. And after that work began it became clear that both the initial construction of the house, and the emergency post-hail replacement, had not done things in a high-quality manner, which meant our roof probably would have failed on us soon if we hadn’t gotten to the point of recognizing these problems now.

And so a new roof has been going on, and as I write this the work is still underway. You cannot build a roof without shaking the house beneath it. And so it was expected that some cracks would appear. But there have unfortunately also been some (literal) missteps that have done more substantial damage in a few places, as a foot has come through or almost come through.

Even before we reached this point, I had been thinking about the movie The Money Pit, the 1986 comedy about home renovation starring Tom Hanks and Shelly Long. I think it prepared me well for being a homeowner. I decided to rewatch it and introduce my family to it. I suspected that it would be rather like watching The Office: should we laugh out loud or wonder whether it is funny, given how close it can be to reality, even if given an at times exaggerated and more comical treatment? In the end, my son found it hilarious and my wife found it too close to home (pun intended).

What does this have to do with faith, with worldviews, and with their upkeep, renovation, and repair? A lot, I think. Any worldview requires regular maintainance and investment. But we also need to be willing to notice where something looks amiss, and rather than just live with it, poke at it, scratch off the veneer, and see what lies beneath the surface.

When we scratch and poke at our worldviews and belief system, just like if we do it to parts of our house, some might object that we are causing damage. But when there is rot, the fact that wood crumbles when you poke at it isn’t a sign that you shouldn’t poke it any longer, but that it needs to be replaced urgently or the whole thing may collapse. Worldviews are like that too. We prefer the illusion of stability and durability to the disruption and hard work of renovation.

When someone’s foot comes through your ceiling, it can shatter one’s illusion that the walls and ceilings of their home provide safety and security. No home keeps out weather, thieves, and other perils in a foolproof way. But homes offer us some protection, when they are maintained. They aren’t divinely-safeguarded foolproof defenses against things that we fear, but they are human constructs that help make our lives safer and better nonetheless, to the extent that our human constructs can ever hope to. They do a better job of weathering literal and metaphorical storms when we’re willing to admit that there are problems and address them. All of the same things can be said of worldviews.

It seems ironic to me that I find myself revisiting a post from 12 years ago, when we last did work on that bathroom, and despite what I wrote then, did less extensive remodelling and replacement than we should have. Here’s what I wrote then:

We should investigate deeper than we do when we have opportunity to do so. Not to do so is reckless and irresponsible, but we often prefer ignorance to the realization that our mighty edifices are built on slim foundations. But it is better to engage in honest investigation and the necessary repair and rebuilding that may prove necessary, than to live in a house built on sand until it collapses around us and on top of us.

Your worldview may be like the home – and the marriage – in the movie The Money Pit. Is its foundation good? Everything else can be fixed. But I’ve emphasized before that the crumbling of a worldview can expose in painful ways what our faith is really in. If it is in God, then every doctrine and dogma should in principle be able to be repaired or replaced as needed, without the foundation itself being threatened. But more often than not our faith is an idolatrous one, with our doctrines about God in fact being the objects of our faith and devotion. And so we defend them thinking we are defending God. That’s when we’ve become like the homeowner who prefers the comforting illusion of security to the kind of deep probing and repair or replacement that may in fact save the home, as it becomes something different but better and healthier in the process.

I think these parallels have some usefulness to them. I might try pursuing the analogies further in a series. I could even see a book on Renovating Your Faith resulting from this. What do you think? Please share your own experiences at the intersection of home and worldview maintainance and renovation!

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