Expanding your faith is like renovating your house.
Your 120 year-old Victorian is rock solid, the envy of the neighborhood, though maybe needing a touch up here and there.
Until an expert builder does a walk through—and what he finds isn’t pretty.
One side of the house is resting on a badly cracked foundation. You couldn’t tell on your own, and it takes some convincing on his part, but there it is, clear as day. It’s only a matter of time before one side of your house falls off.
Hey pal, trust me, you don’t want that.
You’re in shock.
The inside walls have always looked fine to you, but the pipes are in fact leaking, which in time will turn your basement into an indoor pool. Many of the joists are rotting, which threatens to turn your Victorian into a rancher.
Also, your old dial-it-in roofer just kept putting down new layers of singles over the years—a collapse waiting to happen with a heavy snow fall. Your painter, an amateur, slapped some inferior quality paint over rotting clapboards, which looks good for a while but doesn’t last. And now that you know what to look for, you see that the entire south side of the house is a disaster waiting to happen.
It turns out your house is falling apart, and you can’t deny it. Admitting it is the hard part, and now there’s no going back. The work needs to begin.
The builder tells you the good news. The house is definitely salvageable; he can work with it. What’s needed is renovation with stronger and longer-lasting building material, not demolition. But this will take time and it’s not going to be cheap. And watching the old house change right in front of you will be unsettling—literally, since you can’t carry on as usual during the process—but it will also create in you a sense of excitement and anticipation.
You’re starting to warm up to the idea.
He begins with the foundation—which means tearing down an entire side of the house to get to it.
My house. My beautiful house. You said no demolition!
Hey pal, you have to demolish if you want to renovate. This isn’t a touch up job.
You’re glad he didn’t tell you that beforehand. You might not have agreed to it.
You feel like you’re losing an old friend—a part of your life—something that has been with you for as long as you can remember.
While you’re freaking out inside, the builder asks, since he’s fixing the foundation anyway, if you’d like him to expand it another twenty feet.
What? Really?! You can do that?!
Sure. What do think “renovation” means? This isn’t a touch up job. You’ve had too many of those. Now not only will your house be safer, but you can add more rooms or enlarge the old ones. It’s up to you.
Sweet. You get some books from Lowe’s (“Love Where You Live”) and begin to get creative—maybe a bay window for reading; built-in book shelves; a really nice man-cave with a monster plasma TV, surround sound, and oversized leather recliners (like the kind they have at the ESPN Zone).
All this is still a bit weird and unsettling, and you miss the familiarity of your old house, but you’re also catching a vision for what your old house is becoming.
And while he’s knocking down the walls to get to the plumbing problem, you have a chance to expand the kitchen like you’ve wanted to for the last 25 years (though you never told anyone). And why not throw in a sliding glass door out the back onto your new 800 sq. ft. cedar deck complete with built-in gas grill?
While he’s on the roof, he can throw in some sky lights and solar panels.
And you know, as long as he’s here, why not have him take a look at all those annoying little cracks and quirks that you always knew were there, were bugging you deep down, but managed to ignore all those years.
After the some fresh paint and wallpaper, the job is done, and you have to admit the new house is a heck of a lot nicer than the old one—not to mention no longer a hazard waiting to happen.
And you realize: It’s still your house.
Sure, it’s not the same, but you still have plenty of familiarity, those nooks and crannies, the memories of the joys and challenges of raising a family—holidays, graduations, milestones.
All that remains. It’s still your house.
Just bigger, nicer, safer, more fun. A source of joy, not doom and gloom. Something to enjoy, not kick the dog over.
The renovation work had to be done. That’s absolutely clear now in retrospect. You’re amazed you didn’t see the problems much earlier—but you weren’t really looking for them, and you probably didn’t really want to see them anyway. Someone had to point them out to you.
Not everyone renovates their house, no matter how much it’s needed.
Some don’t like anything any builders have to say; they just argue with them all the time. They like arguing.
Others feel it’s all one big builders’ conspiracy and it’s their responsibility to tell all their neighbors that they shouldn’t have their houses renovated either, no matter what these lying builders say. They feel they know better than everyone else.
Then there are some who hire builders to begin work, but when walls start getting knocked down they become fearful and fire the builders mid-task. They would rather nail up some plywood panelling to cover up the holes than finish the job.
Cranky old men rock on their porch all day. They spit tobacco and polish their shotguns, glaring at passers by. If you try to come in the gate and talk to them about their house, they tell you to get off their lawn. And you’d better, because they have a shiny shotgun pointed at you.
People can choose to renovate or not. It’s up to them. But sooner or later, if we’re paying attention, we will see that all of our houses show wear and tear that can’t be ignored or touched up.
Good houses are built to last, but all houses are temporary. No house built by man can avoid renovation indefinitely.
An earlier version of this post first appeared in August 2013.