I’ve been thinking a lot about houses lately. Of course, this shouldn’t be a surprise. I spend four days a week working with a home-building construction company. Every work day I am in and out of homes that even my dreams haven’t dreamed of. Some are of a scale that would suit me just right if I had ten kids. All of them utilize high end quality materials and have artistic touches that transform them from mere houses to live in to sacred spaces to enjoy.
But I really don’t want to talk about those houses. I want to talk about the house that keeps darting across my brain courtesy of a scripture text. The broken phrase that keeps showing up like a flashing neon sign is, “We have a house not made with hands, eternal in the heavens.”
In light of my daily exposure to envy-producing luxury homes and the fact that I have not owned a home for the last twelve years, I have been thinking about the house that I actually am building. At one time I felt that a certain lifestyle was due me. I earned myself a master’s degree, am part of a professional community, and have worked very hard my whole adult life. Home ownership was part of the reward package for a person like me, I felt. And, I suppose, if owning a home was the most important thing to me I would find my way there one way or another.
But I have been thinking a lot about this “house not made with hands that is eternal in the heavens.” I am beginning to realize that my decisions of late expose my intention to focus more on building a house of character than a house made of concrete, wood, and marble. I don’t mean that my character is in any way superior to others. What I mean is that, although I would love to own a house, my goals are more focused on making sure that I live into my deepest values–that of compassion, integrity and service. I would love to own a house, but not at the cost of my character.
There are fleeting moments recently when I ask myself, “How could I have fallen so far?” Yet I know that question exposes a false narrative as if the world owes me something for my commitment to serve. Just a few years ago, out of this same commitment to serve, I found myself appointed by the Portland mayor, city council, and county commissioners to a number positions including the alternate to a county commissioner, should she be unable to finish her term. My commitments have not changed only my external circumstances.
Why do I write this? Because my daily work around the home-building business has clarified something for me. While I am still stunned by the sudden financial turn of events in my life (I was also stunned by being appointed an alternate country commissioner), I also am not really surprised. I don’t have security because I haven’t made security a priority. I don’t own a home because I have not made the kinds of decisions and compromises that would have led to owning a home. I continue to seek places to serve and sometimes that means that I find myself in the heart of city planning and sometimes it means I have to scratch and claw my way to the most minimal of livelihoods.
I have been thinking a lot lately about this scripture text that speaks of a “house not made with hands, eternal in the heavens” especially as I help construct homes for others. I may or may not ever own a house again, but I am having the time of my life constructing a roomy and luxurious home for my soul where compassion, integrity and service each get their own rooms.
And did I tell you about the view!