I don't like working on houses. I am far from a tradesman. I went to seminary to be a pastor but somewhere along the way ended up installing cabinets, tiling backsplashes and hanging drywall. Somehow, as if not by my own will or design, I am here, in this hot and humid place, called to do a little handy man work. And that's how it has been this summer.
In the past, we've had a lot of volunteer teams and college students help with rehabs, but this time around, my co-worker Larissa and I spent most of the summer doing the work ourselves. While I can boast a gentleman's B in middle school wood shop, Larissa has an MA in structural engineering from MSOE. With my graying beard, flannel shirt and belly that overhangs my toolbelt, I look the part, but Larissa can design a structurally sound wall where all of the weight is properly transferred with hardware that is appropriately rated for the task.
We are taking a building that previously housed our ministry interns for two years and transforming it into a home for a family. If I am being honest, I have to admit that I used to think in terms of "good enough for two years." Now we are thinking in terms of 15-20 years of usable life for everything. And it has been a type of spiritual experience for several reasons:
1) I am forced to take more time. Doing something correctly for the long term often means doing it twice and even three times. It can be frustrating. This is true of faith as well - it often involves the re-ordering our lives. And just when it seems right, we realize that we need to be deconstructed in order to be built correctly again.
2) I am forced to think multi-generationally. I used to think in terms of a group of people in their twenties. Now I think about how our work on the house will impact older people and kids. This means that a funky stair tread must be repaired no matter what and that a loose bolt on a handrail matters where before it didn't. Everyone matters in this rehab and their needs must be accounted for.
3) I am forced to think aesthetically. Yes - before I could mix 5 gallons of off white oops paint and for 10 bucks paint an entire floor. Now I have to make sure that the colors are appealing for a buyer, that counters and cabinets match the flooring and that moldings match each other. And this is a radical re-orientation of my values. I am reminded by our resident theologian/philosopher, DesAnne Hippe, that aesthetics is actually a branch of ethics. And ignoring proper aesthetics is ignoring truth.
This is our first rehab that is for sale. The home goes on the market next month and we are praying that it will be a blessing to a family and to the neighborhood for many year. I know it has already blessed me - even if I would have rather been sipping iced coffee in an air conditioned Starbucks all summer instead of trying to match texture coats. Lifting partial quotes from Milton, I will simply reflect, "Long is the road and hard is the way that leads a house to become a home." Grace and Peace.
Tim Nelson aka The Reverend of Rehab