In the Bert and Ernie Book, Ernie breaks his piggy bank. Which leads him to put the money from the piggy bank in the cookie jar. And then, the cookies in the milk bottle. By the end of the book, the entire house has been destroyed as each object needs to find a new home.
Entertaining stuff. As long as you can confine it to a children’s book.
About a year and a half ago, my wife casually mentioned that the shower liner in our bathroom was ‘beyond repair’ and ‘disgusting’. Naturally, I did what any man would do: acknowledge it, then hope the problem would – somehow – go away.
Of course, it didn’t. It got progressively worse until even I couldn’t deny ‘we’ (I) had to replace it.
The project has turned out to be a lot like that Bert and Ernie book. Taking the shower liner down removed some of the (hideous, powder blue) tile. So then we had to replace the tile. But then, we reasoned, we might as well replace the ancient vanity, which is surrounded by the tile. And then the tub, which had stains and pieces missing.
And… yeah, now we’re renovating the entire bathroom. Honestly, a lot of the time I just want it be over. But I think God has something better in mind.
So, here are some lessons I think we’re supposed to take away from major house projects like this. I hope they’ll be helpful to you as you undertake your own.
The project is never just about the project. Someday, it’ll be great not to have to go downstairs to use our other bathroom at night. But God is using this project to reveal things I need to work on, and, to shape my character and trust. He wants to do that through your house projects, too.
God is in control, not us. We’re realizing that we just can’t anticipate every twist and turn. Like the previous plumber who decided to remove an entire section of a floor joist. Surprises like this in our projects, though, ‘make us rely not on ourselves but on God who raises the dead’ (2 Corinthians 1:9).
Embracing our limits. While the original plan was for me to do all the work myself, with guidance from my father-in-law, it quickly became clear that I didn’t have the skills to do it all in a reasonable time. House projects help us see – and hopefully accept – our limitations, something we need lots of practice with.
Embracing community and others’ help. If we’ll acknowledge our limits and let go of pride, it opens the door for others to help. Three friends from my community group, for example, came over and helped me demo the bathroom to give us a great start. When we can’t do it all by ourselves, others get to serve and use their talents.
Gratitude. When we step back and look beyond the challenges, home projects show us how much – and who – we have to be thankful for. In our case, my father-in-law and several contractors have donated their time and expertise for free or at a greatly-reduced cost. We have another bathroom to use in the meantime, too. All this is ultimately from God. Where can you be thankful even as you experience challenges in your own project?
Teamwork with your spouse. While you and your spouse may have different roles and abilities in this area, big house projects give us a chance to work together. My wife, Sharon, has been amazing in bringing her administrative gifts to this project. She’s encouraged me when I’ve been despondent (more than once). And we’ve had to make compromises and show each other grace when we’ve acted like Oscar the Grouch.
Serious opportunities for character growth. The pressures of the project have left me with very little margin and my character defects have bubbled to the surface again. Anger when things don’t go according to my plan. My tendency to neglect my kids and marriage to push through the next steps. Wanting everything to be ‘perfect’ even when it takes more time and money than I have. When our house projects reveal the ugly things inside of us, God is giving us another opportunity to seek forgiveness, wholeness and growth.
So, when we undertake a significant project on our home, it’s never just about getting it done. Although that matters, house projects are part of the deeper, more important project God is doing in our hearts.
Let’s live it out: What lessons have you learned/are you learning through the projects around your house?