Our neighborhood is all abuzz. The dilapidated house on the corner is undergoing a major renovation.
My next-door neighbor, who’s lived on our street long enough to know about such things, remembers when this ramshackle residence with its unkempt yard was the class of the neighborhood.
Not so for the last couple of decades. For a host of reasons—but mostly just the law of entropy coupled with neglect—the place became an eye sore. A year ago I told a friend, “It’s beyond salvage. They’ll have to bulldoze it.”
Enter Jimmie and Susan.
If there’s an aspect of home repair Jimmie can’t do, I don’t know what it is. One week he’s transforming the snake-infested, leaf-filled “cement pond” in the backyard into a beautiful saltwater pool. The next he’s heaving old sheetrock and bathroom fixtures onto a growing trash pile by the street. Every time I look out my front window, Jimmie’s driving a tractor, wielding a jackhammer, or directing a crew of workers. They guy’s inexhaustible. Lots of days he’s working when I wake up, and he’s still going strong when I head to bed.
Like Glady Kravitz (the quintessential “nosy neighbor” on the old TV show Bewitched) it’s sometimes not enough for me to merely watch from my living room. I have to walk over for a closer look. Jimmie always stops what he’s doing and graciously shows me around. During each guided tour I marvel at the progress that’s been made. But what I really love is listening to Jimmie talk about the changes he intends to make in each room. He’s a visionary. Where I saw only a dump, he and Susan saw the possibility of transformation, and ultimately, a beautiful home.
A few days ago, as I watched Jimmie use a forklift to install a giant beam in the attic, so he could knock out a load-bearing wall down in the main living area, I thought, Why am I so enthralled by this process? After a few minutes I remembered these words of C. S. Lewis:
“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.”
Maybe that’s it. Maybe we love stories of transformation because transformation is the heart of God–and the hope of our own hearts?
Anyway, I’m thankful for the “extreme makeover” going on across the street. Not only does it remind me of ultimate realities….it’s also going to result in some great neighbors.