AdventWord 2019: 6. House

December 6, 2019
Advent Reflections

Scraping windows is one of those chores that can only be done slowly. Repeatedly. Diligently. Painstakingly. And it is awful, boring, sweat-producing, tedious work. I was scraping our windows so that we could repaint them a newer, shinier, more appealing hue of white, in an attempt to lure a buyer for our house. I was scraping them because I was desperate. I was ready to move, and it was just not happening, so there I was, outside, in the blazing sun, pushing and scraping our ancient, peeling windows.

In an attempt to entice Jesus to show me favor and sell this damn house for me, I prayed while I scraped. I thanked him for our house. For the windows and the flaky paint and the beautiful day to scrape them. I thanked him for our friends who had come to help with scraping the eighteen windows, some of which were floor to ceiling. I thanked him that we even had a house. While I prayed, I tried really hard not to think about how I had hoped these windows would be someone else’s problem by now, about how what I really wanted to be thanking God for was a new house and twenty acres. But it was no use. Both Jesus and I could see straight through my flimsy tissue-paper-heart prayers. I was an ungrateful fraud and we both knew it. So I gave up. I stopped praying, stopped scraping and peeling, and went inside, where I was greeted by all the other projects and rooms in the house still waiting to be repaired, finished, and cleaned. The living room ceiling that needed patching, the scarred wood floors, the half-painted dining room, the overflowing laundry, and the ancient, mismatched kitchen appliances. They all were all openly mocking me. There was only one thing to do. Flee the scene.

I grabbed a stack of books and headed straight for the day spa, where I hoped to rid myself of both ugly toenail polish and a bad attitude. While I sat with my feet in plastic bags filled with hot wax, I begin reading about the Rule of St. Benedict in Dennis Okholm’s Monk Habits for Everyday People: Benedictine Spirituality for Protestants… when I stumbled over these words: “Conversion and growth in character happen when we remain, not when we run. . . . Stability means being faithful where we are—really paying attention to those with whom we live and to what is happening in our common life.” At that moment, these words were the exact opposite of what I wanted to hear, but I could not move on. I was arrested. I read those words again and again, letting their weight, their caution, and their guidance soak into my heart just the tiniest bit as the hot wax was soaking into my skin.

Staying put in our current house was not a bad life. It was actually a very lovely life in a lot of ways. I knew this fact in the same part of my brain where I make decisions to pay the light bill, take a shower, and drive on the right side of the road. They were the logical, rational responses to my ungrateful whining. But it was the other part of my brain that was making all the ruckus, the all-emotion and feelings and desires part. The part that stomps its feet, clenches its fists tightly, and screams, “This is not what I want!” I had decided I needed, I wanted, I had to have, that house and those twenty acres. It was the thing that would fix everything, and I wanted it yesterday. Sitting there in the pedicure chair, reading those words of Dennis Okholm’s over and over, I began to realize I had painted myself into a petulant corner and it was sucking all the joy out of my life.

Excerpted from At Home in this Life: Finding Peace at the Crossroads of Unraveled Dreams and Beautiful Surprises by Jerusalem Greer, Staff Officer for Evangelism for The Episcopal Church