Confession time. I’ve been getting emails from John Piper’s ministry with daily devotionals for a number of years, and while my intentions are generally good, those emails have often gone unread. For whatever reason, the last few days I’ve been feeling an even greater pull to actually carve out a few moments in the morning to read the words of wisdom. They aren’t long, usually just a few verses and a paragraph or two of analysis/considerations, and it’s foolish of me to not do so. The last three days have been nothing short of miracles in terms of their timeliness:
On Monday, the verse came from 2 Corinthians 5:7 where Paul reminds the people of Corinth (and us today) that “we walk by faith, not by sight.” Piper then goes on to compare the concept of salvation to buying a house, and that instead of a mortgage, we actually get the house for free. Yet for some reason we as Christians still spend much of our lives looking to make payments on a debt that we can a) never repay and b) don’t have to repay. The metaphor is a might clunky, but hit home for me because E and I had the closing for our house set for the following morning. Hard for that to be coincidence. I should have paid better attention that morning.
Tuesday started with a familiar verse from Piper’s devotional:
Cast all your anxieties on him, for he cares about you. (1 Peter 5:7)
While I appreciated the sentiment of the verse at the moment, I was actually feeling like we’d reached the end of a season that was loaded with anxiety. The house buying experience was filled with questions that drove me to worry. Will we find a place we like in our price range? Can we actually afford to pay for it? Have we saved up enough for our down payment? Will we give ourselves enough time to move? Can we come up with all the money that we need to start-up utilities, move and all that entails? Will the loan go through? Will the house be in good shape? Will there be repairs we can’t afford? And yet, there I was on Tuesday morning getting ready to head to attorney’s office and feeling, for the first time in weeks, pretty relaxed about the whole situation. Piper’s email, while welcome, didn’t apply to me at that moment.
I really hate being wrong.
The signing of the documents went great. The sellers were nice people and their real estate agent was a funny guy who made the proceedings feel less stuffy and formal. Our agent brought donuts and while there were lots of papers to sign and a last-minute confusion left me going to bank right after the closing to wire our down payment, I walked out of the bank branch feeling accomplished and, finally, excited about our new house.
Then I texted E, who had gone ahead to the house to meet our agent for a celebratory photo and a deep breath of sweet release, only to get this in response:
“Huge problem here.”
Not exactly the words you want to see on the day you close on a new house. The key doesn’t work, I’m thinking, or the lights don’t turn on because the electric bill hasn’t been turned over to our name. Something small, please let it be something small.
“Carpet is soaked and water in the kitchen near pantry. Can’t find source,” is her reply to my query for more information. Then, a few minutes later: “Leak in other townhouse, the other one for sale, water house leak. The carpet is flooded over there and leaked to our side.”
On the remainder of my drive to the house, I’m starting to roll over all the possible outcomes here. We didn’t plan to move for another 10 days or so, but we had talked about getting the living room painted, about cleaning the carpets, giving ourselves a fresh start and then moving in everything the weekend after next, giving us ample time to clear out our current apartment and get it ready for inspection. This was going to throw off the timeline, maybe not for the move, but for everything else, and I didn’t want to deal with it fully until I saw the extent of the damage.
I arrived a few minutes later, and saw that while a section of the carpet in the living room and inside the coat closet was pretty soaked, that part of it was still fine. There were little puddles of water in the kitchen and pantry, but nothing terribly problematic. The beginnings of a mold-like odor was starting to settle into the air, however, which our agent, who showed up soon after I did, noted would be the biggest issue. Fortunately, our seller’s agent had gone by to get the other set of keys from his lockbox on the door and had already headed out to Lowe’s to buy some shop vacs to help clean up the mess in both our unit and the empty one next door. While I protested against going into work, our agent assured me there wasn’t anything I could do, and in the 35 minutes it took me to drive to work they were able to get most of the water up, contact the seller of the empty unit, who was subsequently able to call someone to get out and assess the damage. I’m assured they’ll get started on fixing what needs to be.
Needless to say–but I’ll say it anyway–this is all pretty demoralizing. It puts things that I thought were finally settling back in unsure territory; and while it’s okay for us to start moving in some of our stuff that goes upstairs as soon as we want, there’s still the question of when we’ll actually be living in the house we just bought. If you know me well enough, you know that barrages like this are something I fight to avoid, making it all the more difficult for me to adjust to them when they happen. These days it feels like the assault is endless.
Seeing reminders of what the Bible tells me about anxiety and worry sometimes does little but exacerbate the situation. I know this, I want to scream, so please quit reminding me of what I’m not doing! Casting is for fishing and acting, I retort, as if that lets me off the hook. And then I remember another definition of the word: the casting of something into a mold to make it what the creator wants it to be. This, to me, wells up in me an alternate reading of what we’re commanded to do with our anxieties. Yes, we are supposed to give them up to God to allow the burden of worry to be removed from our souls; but I also feel like it has something to do with the continued casting and recasting of our character into something closer to what we’re meant to be. It’s a remarkable re-consideration of the text, and one I’d never thought about before; it might even be misinterpretation, but to my mind, both are intended results of our needing to cast our cares on our Father.
And then this morning, Piper’s email reminded me of this:
“For this reason I say to you, do not be anxious for your life, as to what you shall eat, or what you shall drink; nor for your body, as to what you shall put on. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothing? Look at the birds of the air, that they do not sow, neither do they reap, nor gather into barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not worth much more than they?” (Matthew 6:25-26)
This was the reminder I needed today. Better yet, the email marked this as part 1 of the unpacking of this verse, meaning there’s more to come.
If this house thing is yet another fire that melts me down and renders me a better version of myself, then I suppose my only response is to allow myself to be poured out into the mold, and remember that I’ll be fed according to my needs in the end.