Tuesday, February 26, 2008

warning: house falling down

Our house is falling apart.

A week ago I woke to find a large piece of plasterboard lying on our front porch (so that's what the noise was!). The porch ceiling has been sagging ominously for years under the combined weight of bird's nest and the water which gushes down it every time there's a heavy rainfall.

I tore down the rest of the ceiling to reveal enough nesting material for an albatross, and bare rafters under corrugated iron.

When we bought this house 7 years ago, we knew it hadn't aged gracefully. Permanent stains on threadbare carpets, unmatching external paint and decaying gutters, a verandah with rotting floorboards and inadequate railings, and a delightful 70's colour scheme - pale apricot walls and dark brown wood.

Water stains and a long crack in the ceiling indicated a leak in the roof which the previous owners claimed to have fixed (hah!).

But when I glimpsed mature lemon-scented gums through the back windows, and walked out on the (rotting) back verandah and saw the uni where Steve works over the back fence, I knew it was the one.

We confidently signed the clause in the home loan - "we will keep the house well-maintained" - not knowing quite how hard this would be.

You may recall the waterfall through our ceiling 2 days before last Christmas: we still haven't fixed the leaking roof. The external paint is now flaking as well as unmatching. The tiles have fallen off the walls of one of the bathrooms.

We've spent as much on maintaining the house as we can afford. The first thing we did was to re-point the roof and buy new couches (well, we did need them, but strange priorities new home owners have!). We had the wiring checked, installed a safety switch, mended the fence, replaced the hot water service, and re-built the verandah.

We're about the fix the roof and gutters (finally!), but it may be a long time before we get around to painting or re-carpeting. And the ugly beaten copper range hood which I swore to replace the moment I saw it is still proudly in place.

But you know what? I'm thankful to God for our huge, unfashionable, slowly decaying home. I'm thankful for its size, comfiness and view. But I'm also thankful for its imperfections.

The outdated kitchen leaves no room for pride in fashionable colour schemes and trendy renovations. The anxiety I feel during every heavy rainfall reminds me how fleeting this life is, how vulnerable we are, how dependent on God for all that we have. The worn paint and carpets are a constant visual reminder not to get too comfortable, not to pour all our time and money into creating a beautiful life, as if this is all we have.

Our imperfect house constantly encourages me to set my heart on my true home.

For God has promised us a far greater home in heaven. A place where rust does not destroy, and thieves do not break in and steal. A mansion with many rooms. A golden city which needs no light, for God is its light and dwells there with his people.

One of the seven angels ... came and said to me, "Come, I will show you the bride, the wife of the Lamb." And he carried me away in the Spirit to a mountain great and high, and showed me the Holy City, Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God. It shone with the glory of God, and its brilliance was like that of a very precious jewel ... I did not see a temple in the city, because the Lord God Almighty and the Lamb are its temple. The city does not need the sun or the moon to shine on it, for the glory of God gives it light, and the Lamb is its lamp. The nations will walk by its light, and the kings of the earth will bring their splendour into it. On no day will its gates ever be shut, for there will be no night there. The glory and honour of the nations will be brought into it. Nothing impure will ever enter it, nor will anyone who does what is shameful or deceitful, but only those whose names are written in the Lamb's book of life. Revelation 21:9-11, 22-27; see also Matt. 6:19; John 14:2


Jess Green said...

This was a relly nice reminder not to strive for a beautiful home in this life. I still get sucked in to that caper. FYI, my first impressions of your home and memories of being there are of a warm, happy place that you use to serve people. I was never bothered by the tiles but saw them as a symbol that you guys were on about the gospel and not about pretty bathrooms. Thanks for sharing your home with us.
PS. You also got me thinking about what it will be like in the year 2015! Even scared me for a second that I had missed 7 years with amnesia cos I just got up from a nap :)

Gordon Cheng said...

Well said, Melbourne buddy Jean!

Our home is in heaven, and the meantime I thank God for what he has given us here.

Mind you, and not to detract in any way from what you've said, I remember when we lived in Horne St taking the attitude that we would just fix the bare minimum, if that (not saying that's your approach!) . And then realizing when we left that we would have to fix the things we hadn't done anyway, to make the place fit for selling should we decide to. From that time on I decided to pay a bit more attention to maintenance, so that at least we would get some of the benefit as well as just the people we sold to.

But God has always looked after us, no matter what attitude we've had! He is gracious.

Ruth Mc said...

Jeannie, I agree with Jess. Walking into your home is always such a blessing. It's not the house, but the people who live there who make a home - and you all make it that. The loving welcome of bouncy, happy children will do me - although I will be happy when you can enjoy heavy rain, rather than dreading it! love Ruth

Jean said...

Yeah, Gordo, I quite agree, and if we had the money we would have done more maintaining!! We've done what we could afford (although I wish we'd fixed the leak instead of repointing the roof, put it down to inexperienced new home ownership). And I think renovating is fine if it's not indulgent or an idol, like all good gifts of God. I've only given one side of the picture, I know. As for the other side of the picture, another day, another blog...

Rachach said...

We have often felt thankful for renting, even though we had to move 4 times in 3 years, because it reminded it of that exact principle, that heaven is our home.
I also would have to agree with Jess completely. Your love is what fills your home with true beauty.
Love Rach