“Imagine yourself as a living house. God comes in to rebuild that house. At first, perhaps, you can understand what He is doing. He is getting the drains right and stopping the leaks in the roof and so on; you knew that those jobs needed doing and so you are not surprised. But presently He starts knocking the house about in a way that hurts abominably and does not seem to make any sense. What on earth is He up to? The explanation is that He is building quite a different house from the one you thought of – throwing out a new wing here, putting on an extra floor there, running up towers, making courtyards. You thought you were being made into a decent little cottage: but He is building a palace. He intends to come and live in it Himself.”
I’ve mentioned before that there has been a quiet whisper in my life lately. One about change. And welcoming the future. And being open to plans I don’t have for my own self. This whisper has rolled over me in waves until it has become a roar too loud to ignore. A whisper, still, but the loudest kind. The kind only God can make happen. A well-timed message at church about the value of emotional and spiritual health, a drawing nearer and nearer to God by digging out the deepest corners of my insides, and then this quote. Oh, Lewis, how do you always say what my heart is already learning and make it so obvious what I have been avoiding? It’s like shining a mirror into the darkest parts inside and gently revealing what is lurking there.
For 37 (okay, almost 38) years I have been building my own house. I have the blueprints from my Creator, but I’ve been the one overseeing the building. The one with veto power. The one reprioritizing things. The one sinking the whole project from the start. I really am the bossiest home builder ever.
The last few years have been difficult. So difficult. I’ve had to face a mountain of anxiety, uncertainty, and upheaval. Things that others have seen and things that have been known only in the depths of my heart. It has, as Lewis so perfectly described it, hurt abominably. This “living house” as Lewis calls it, the one God is building here with me, is so different from the house I planned to have that it is unrecognizable. It has places I didn’t want to know. It has structures that have reached impossibly high and terrifyingly deep.
I’ve asked God in midnight pleadings why He hasn’t given me the living house I asked for. Why hasn’t He given me one like my neighbor? Why is mine not completed yet? Why must I endure constant construction? And now I know. Because the house I would build for myself would be fit only for my current needs. My immediate circumstances. Because, though I am loathe to admit it, I am an impossibly short-sighted creature. I am bogged down in the now. But, oh how I love that my living house is being built by the Creator of all things. The One who knows what is now and what is yet to come. Because He knows the storms ahead He is working to build a shelter that will survive. Because He knows the breadth of my life He is working to build a shelter than can hold all the love and community that I am blessed to be surrounded by.
I never realized how much building can feel like breaking. I wonder, does the tiny acorn feel the fracture and shattering so deeply when it sprouts? Does the grapevine feel the pain of each new shoot in the Spring? I imagine that this breaking and opening and growing is just a universal pain that we all feel and that if we are truly lucky it never ceases. Lord, let me see these moments as opportunity and not as tragedy. Let me see the house You are building for me and embrace the process.
Part of this journey means embracing a Sabbath for our family and making it a holy and important day around our home. Taking a moment to focus and center and be intentional in our life is something I so often feel is lacking. Growth and change is hard. And constant busyness and the hectic nature of modern life makes it even harder. So we will rest. I’m going to warn you, this will not be an easy process for me. If you know me in real life you will probably understand how hard it is for me not to make this into an event. My first instinct is to create a “Loving Family Sabbath” event on Facebook and invite all of our friends and neighbors to break bread and “rest” with them. I really am an expert at missing the point of these things! Thankfully, I have Thomas to balance me out and bring me back to reality. So, no Facebook events. No Evites. Just our little Friday night family ritual. We’ve practiced this on and off over the years and, like many things we start around here, it didn’t always stick. It’s too easy to get busy and schedule something “just this once.” Years ago we practiced this with the kids. Every Friday we made Challah bread and lit candles and practiced a real Shabbat. Four years later it is still something the kids remember as one of their favorite family traditions. And I cannot for the life of me remember why we stopped. I am certain we meant to continue it. But, life happened. And the resting moments fell through the cracks. And so this Friday we will begin again. I’m not promising we will never miss a Sabbath. But I am saying it will be a priority. A Sabbath from work and from things we have to do. A Sabbath to remember. And to keep holy.
This house of my soul has so much further to go before it is completed. But I am finally able to see growth amidst the demolition. There is an embrace of the process that I am coming around to. My soul has thirsted so long for the life giving water that allows it to grow and the drought is waning and seeds of new life are beginning to make their way to the surface. Painful sometimes, yes, but beautiful, too. And true beauty, I am learning, is about renewal and growth and learning to trust the One who creates all things.