I had bought a house.
It is an old 3 bedroom, 1 bath, 2 story in a desirable part of town…but it needed a bit of work. It wasn’t even on the market, but I found it, put in a competitive offer against an investor, and came out with a house.
I was elated at first…the walls of the bathroom and kitchen were ‘white boxed’, a commercial term used for an interior space that was stripped of anything, painted white, and ready to have interior finishes and paint and put back together. You envision the cabinets that will go in, the tile you want, and how, in a couple weeks, or a month, you’ll be picking out countertops.
Or so I thought.
I tore out a small section of wall, wanting to evaluate opening up the wall a little so that the wall between the kitchen and dining room could be taken out and a counter bar installed. Once the wall was opened up, I noticed the plumbing and HVAC ducts were preventing this from happening…but it also revealed that some galvanized steel plumbing was still in use in the old house. This would have to be removed. So I took out more wall and part of the kitchen ceiling to get at the pipe.
After part of the kitchen ceiling was taken out, you could see some of the plumbing for the upstairs bathroom. Looking at it, I noticed some of the plumbing looked wonky, so I brought in a buddy who knew his stuff to evaluate what was there. Much to my displeasure and surprise, he pointed out some gross inadequacies and bad installation that would create bad problems in the future. All of the plumbing would need to be reworked.
So I had to tear out the finished kitchen ceiling, along with the fact that I had now cut out almost all of the plumbing.
Now in cutting the plumbing out, I noticed that once I did, I could clearly see that the platform that the upstairs toilet sat on was cracked in several places. So after evaluation, I took this out.
When I took this out, it was clear to see that the tops of the joists that sat under the toilet were ‘soft’ from years of neglected water leaking. I had to re-enforce several joists.
All this sounds simple as I explain it….but let me explain it with a little more of the building stress that was creeping in.
Each layer that I took out, each area of rework, each things I had to take out…created a new level of anxiety for me. I thought I had a white complete canvas that I could start to build on, but, as it turns out, it was a blank canvas that was built over an imperfect substructure. It looked ‘fine’ but underneath it all? It was faulty.
You could peel back a layer to examine what is beneath and see and that needed to be re-worked…to then peel back another layer to examine what was beneath, to see and THAT needed re-work…the get to the basic structure of the house….and see that time and neglect had created a structure and THAT would need to be rebuilt.
As the layers were pulled back one at a time, my anxiety grew, and I fretted the work that would need to be done and the money spent for each new fix…the anxiety grew to the point of mini panic attacks, and fear gripped me of the lost money and days of my life to get to a point of where some day in the distant future I would finish the project, although by that time I would be broke, old, and senile.
When faced with a situation like this, you’re tempted to NOT fix things, to patch over, or just cover up so that you can move on without having to do so much hard work. You think, “it’s lasted 100 years this way, should be ok”, but, to build on any of this, was to build on faulty structural support, faulty system that, even with the appearance that it was ok…was fundamentally, and possibly, dangerously flawed. In this type of situation, you can choose to build on the faulty, which might buy you some time…or you could strip things to the core and rebuild for a lifetime.
What would you do?
God speaks to me through things that happen in my life…this was no exception.
I often ask God for help in turning a corner, and He hears me, and answers. But, when God answers, He often takes up our offer in the most unexpected way.
To renovate a house, you often need to take out several layers of neglect to get to the root of the issue…often going back to the structure on which the house is built.
To renovate a mans life, sometimes the same thing needs to happen.
My life is much like the kitchen in the beginning. The kitchen was ‘white boxed’ where you think it’s ready to be built into, just add in cabinetry and countertops and you’ve got a kitchen…but it often takes tearing into the issue, pulling back a couple layers to find you’ve got a bigger problem that’s at the core of things.
In my case, I wanted to move ‘forward’ in life. We all have our ‘forward from here’ plans and thoughts don’t we…that next level that we believe will crest a hill, a giant problem that we feel has always stood in our way will open up a live we’ve always envisioned we should have? We work and work, and build our lives top of faulty thinking. I had this Field of Dreams type vision where I hope God’s telling me “build it and things will come”…but that’s not reality.
So, I bought this house thinking I could spend a couple months on it and it would be perfect and ready to go…no wonder I had moments where anxiety overcame me.
So the more I worked, the more I sweated (I lost 15 pounds…by the way I have a new gym idea!) the more my plan deteriorated in front of me. I tore out part of a wall to learn I had to tear out some plumbing, to tear out a ceiling in the kitchen to get at the plumbing, to realize the plumbing was ALL wrong and had to be torn out, to realize the toilet seating was cracked and tear that out to realize some of the joists needed to be repaired. This took place over about a month and a half.
And similar to the house, each level of repair was taking me to a new place of loss of control, farther away from my goal and further away from my ‘happiness’. Each level required more help, more money, more TIME…everything that I had hoped to build on was being stripped down…to the point where I was really wondering if I had made a terrible mistake.
One morning I read in the Bible “unless God builds a house, a man labors in vain” and I knew that verse was speaking to me.
I was wanting to continue to build upon the old life, to cover the problems and move ‘forward’.
I was building the house to have ‘wealth’.
I was building the house to have ‘financial freedom”
I was building the house thinking it would be easy
I was building the house to impress my friends
I was building without asking God how it should be done.
I was building the house like I was building my life…and it was time to renovate both
There are times in my life where I’ve asked for help, asked for His council in things..and things actually get worse.
Can you relate?
You ask for help in relationships, and things go from bad to worse
You ask God for a new job and the one your in gets worse and there’s no exit
You ask for help in discerning if a relationship is right or not…and the answer is ‘not’.
the answer is pain
the answer is frustration
the answer is confusion
I am absolutely NOT saying that every single situation is about God using pain to get our attention…but I am saying that we should examine every hard situation, every confrontation, every unchecked fear…because there’s often something underneath.
For where we need to peel back a few layers and really examine where we are covering things up…where we are in need of repairs and rebuilding, just like an old house.
The bad news is some times you have to strip things down, tear out everything down to the structure before you can rebuild. Every single character in the bible has a time of being stripped down…stripped of ego, stripped of wealth, stripped of family, land, freedoms…
If you have been torn down and stripped, if you’re going through a renovation, if you’re in the mist of what looks bad…then know that sometimes the foundations of your past cannot be what your future is built on.
The good news is that the builder, the original architect of your life will be there with you to guide and lead you through this.
… that he has numbered our days.
…knit us together in the womb
…we are ‘fearfully and wonderfully made”
…He has plans to prosper us, and not to harm us
…plans to give us a hope and a future
As I was deconstructing a part of the house, I came across several boards that had a name written on them of “JW Jenkins”. Jenkins, my last name, was written in several places on that house.
You could choose to see that as a coincidence…
…you could choose to see that over 100 years ago that God knew, and could see, that I would be working on a house that would need a little boost and encouragement to finish the house the way the architect had built it.
I don’t believe in coincidences
I will finish the house right.