September 30, 2009
Before It Gets Better
by Katherine Britton, Crosswalk.com News & Culture Editor
Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; the old has gone, the new has come! - 2 Corinthians 5:17
The Britton family recently bought their first house. Yes, this is cause for much rejoicing and excitement (and financial reshuffling), but my enthusiasm as been slightly daunted over the past two weeks. No, it's not the packing and unpacking of boxes and the physical move that has caused me to pause at the enormity of this step. It's not the size of the mortgage that we'll be hauling around for the next three decades. It's not any of those things.
It's the smell.
My handyman husband and I tackled a foreclosure for our first house, and the dear little house has a few issues. The foundation is sound, the pipes don't leak, and the appliances work, but… well, I sure hope there's a diamond in all that rough. The walls smell (and look) like a pack-a-day, and I try not to imagine what happened to the irredeemably stained (and equally smelly) carpet. We bought the house warts and all, knowing it just needed some TLC. With a steel brush, I told myself.
Now, two weeks (and supposedly halfway) through the cleanup job, I can look around and see what we've accomplished. The carpets have been ripped out to leave subflooring. The hole in the bathroom ceiling is cleaner but much bigger than before. And the wallpaper has been stripped away to reveal bright yellow walls with dozens of spackle-spots.
Turning this foreclosure into something habitable has required some counterintuitive action. As my husband David so gently put it, "Things have to get worse before they can get better."
The process has meant stripping the house down to its bare essentials and starting over with clean floors, new paint to seal away the old smells, and sturdy drywall to replace what's crumbling. And ever so slowly, the house is slowly acquiring a new softness and freshness. But only after getting rid of putrid aesthetics and enduring a period in which the house felt uglier and more unlovable than ever.
In a few weeks, I hope I can look at our house and say, "Yes, the old has most definitely disappeared!" I want the love we poured into that house to shine out in a stunning transformation. And the vile carpets and drywalls and grime? That will all be in a garbage heap far away. I'm prepared to stick with this project until the house isn't just better - the job isn't over until we have a completely new creation.
Intersecting Faith & Life: The miracle of transformation seems to take one step forward and two steps back in my life. Too often, I've found myself trying to move forward in my walk with God before addressing the underlying issues. You can guess the result - the problems keep creeping back, like a smoke smell lingering in old carpets. Christ demands us to deny ourselves completely, and fall back on the very foundation of who we are in him before the work can progress. Only then does a new creation truly emerge.