If you know my family at all, you know they’re fixer-uppers. I think I’ve been a part of at least 4-5 house guttings through my teenage years and into my 20’s, two of those houses being ones we actually lived in. I can’t forget learning how to solder copper plumbing with my dad, which also involved how “not” to do it, complete with waterworks. Freakishly scary octopus furnaces in dank basements always prompted thoughts full of lurking spiders. I can remember learning to measure paneling twice before cutting–two dyslexic sisters was quite combination for a ruler and a circular saw. But oh boy do I remember the smell of moldy carpet and cat urine. It always seems to go along with the strange rooms devoted to Elvis or the hoarded stacks of old egg cartons that were sure to be needed one day. Contrary to the sights and smells that might be conjured up in your mind, I have fond memories of most of our family endeavors. All of us developed quite an array of practical skills, especially those of the paintbrush and roller and our good friend the putty knife. I remember being left staring at a giant hole in the wall from where dad had “removed” a cabinet and thinking, “I don’t think the putty is going to be able to fix that hole.” Amy and I do have some horror stories involving cellulose insulation and the world’s worst trip to Home Depot, although I’m sure my whole extended family also has stories that would rival that particular trip. All that to say, our small group at school stumbled upon a project that was soon to bring me back to my gutting years and also teach me some new lessons in the process.
Our small group enjoys projects. We planned to help out some folks from church in their deck-building endeavors. Apparently everyone likes building decks and there ended up being too many hands, leaving us without anything to do. When there was the possibility of another project, we all jumped on it! The folks had just bought the house nearby as a fixer-upper. The garage was a disaster, with an inch or so of mud that had slid down the steep driveway and into the garage, giving everything an extra edge of nastyness. What the mud didn’t touch, the rat poo and spiders did. We had to sort everything into burn and scrap piles–what’s with the egg cartons? They must be the number one hoarding favorite–I digress. Anyway, the two biggest garage surprises were the 22 rounds that ended up hiding out in the burnable items and scared us when they went off in the fire, and the other was the 10 year old remains of a freezer and its contents. The sight of dead bugs and old styrofoam meat trays, along with the scent of long gone meat was enough to send me sprinting out of the garage and grinning as hard as I could to stop the gag reflex.
Payton was using his skills in the deck arena, enjoying the fresh scent of cut wood and power tools. But, I wasn’t jealous…
So, as we moved from the garage to the indoors and began to conquer one room at a time, my thoughts began to move past the general dirt and grime. I was on my knees in the bedroom sorting through piles of stuff and all at once I was struck with the thought of how far we were from Eden. These people had passed away encompassed by their rotting possessions and had been living in dilapidated, dismal surroundings. And I could imagine Satan laughing as these people thought that this was the most that they were created for–for TV, romance novels and knicknacks. And it wasn’t just these people, but all people. It didn’t matter if you were surrounded by filth or wealth. Given enough time, all of my stuff would look just like theirs, covered in cobwebs and mold, home to a host of rodents. I started imagining someone dragging all of my stuff out of our apartment 20 years down the road and thinking how gross it all was. And I’m not preaching against having possessions at all, these were just thoughts that were brought to my mind in the middle of the moment when faced with the reality of not laying up treasures on earth where moth and rust destory. But, really, the sadness of our journey outside of Eden and the tragedy of our fall reached quite deep inside of me.
After my personal contemplations in the middle of the blue-carpeted bedroom, I was soon to discover one final lesson for the day. After the bedroom, we were tasked with the back porch, which had succumbed to the most rot from a leaky roof. In a trip to the burn pile the discovered a most ironic bottle of Febreeze. I then did what seemed most needful and sprayed it all over the rotting sofa sleeper couch and the gaping ceiling tiles. If I closed my eyes, my nose told me everything was clean! It was such a strange mental contrast between what was perceived and what was actually there!
And then Josiah said, “Isn’t that kind of like what we do with our sin? We convince ourselves that it’s really not that filthy by covering it with other things?”