Almost four weeks ago, we had a kitchen fire that took out our stove, a laundry basket full of towels, the range hood, and the cabinet above the stove. The firemen hacked through the wall behind the stove to check for electrical problems, so that was gone too. The entire house smelled horribly of smoke and most everything was coated in a layer of black soot.
The night before the fire, I had gone to bed with my tummy in knots as I contemplated the mess Keith made as he replaced a bedroom window. How would I cope with the inconvenience as he moved on to replace the rest of the windows?
Less than twenty-four hours after my bedtime ponderings, my entire house was an inconvenient mess and I felt nothing but gratitude.
Sometimes I have to learn the hard way.
If the kids and I had gotten back from our Monday morning hike just three minutes later, the whole house would have been a loss. Instead, I can walk through my home and finger photo albums and the kids' special toys, mercifully spared.
The fire was technically my fault, since I must have bumped a knob when I set the basket of towels on the flat-top stove. But not a single accusatory word has passed my husband's lips. Instead, he has encouraged me, forgiven me, and helped me to understand that to him, "It's just stuff."
I could have needed to perform the necessary cleaning and repairs with three little kids in tow. Instead, I stop by our house daily to feed the cat and chat with the contractors replacing cabinets in the kitchen and say hi to the professional cleaning ladies who are scouring every single object we own, all courtesy of the insurance company.
We could have been "out on the streets" with no place to stay while our house was returned to a livable condition. But my parents have opened their home to us for nearly a month now. The kids are thriving in the familiar environment that is "Papa and Grammie's house" with the benefit of a big backyard and a playroom. And no "in-law" conflict to speak of - thank you Lord for my parents and husband who are truly sanctified saints.
The gifts that are my children and husband would have truly been enough had our house been taken. But it wasn't and now oddly I feel that I have too much. Life is really simple at the heart of it: a roof over our heads, even if it's not "ours". A couple of pairs of clothes. Food to fill our tummies. Lots of snuggles and kisses. Some invigorating fresh air and a few books to feed our minds. A precious Savior and His precious Word.
I have all of these wonderful simple things living here at my parent's house. And then there's still my whole house full of stuff across town. I don't deserve any of it. And frankly, I need very little. I keep thinking of all that could have been burned up if our home had been destroyed. I would have been sad to lose the photographs, of course. And my journals. But everything else could have been replaced. Not that we need it all anyway.
The thing is, one day all of my things will be burned up. They won't last. So I'm left with this odd tension between desiring to make our home a little piece of heaven on earth and the knowledge that it's so much more important to store my treasures in the heaven where I will spend eternity.
What does that look like? I used to think that it just meant that we ought to love most the things that will last. People, God's Word. But now I wonder if I've missed part of it. Doesn't the way I spend my money reflect what I truly love? Surely it's not wrong to buy myself an ice cream cone. But what if I'm spending money on myself everyday at a rate far outpacing the money I give to others? What does that say about my love for people? And what does it say about my love for God's Word, which commands that Christians care for the poor and condemns those who overlook their needs?
My heart keeps being drawn to the people who lack even the simple things. And I wonder that I can continue to indulge myself when I have far more than I need already.
I have a house after all.