An Old House

Shortly after we were married, my wife and I had the opportunity to buy a very old house. This house was ancient. It was originally built as a one room Methodist church. Over the years it had been a church, a school, a parsonage, a rent house and finally our very first home. Throughout those years it was remodeled and added onto on several different occasions.

Being a young man with a head full of ideas and that insatiable desire to change things, I began right away to remodel the house, yet again. (I imagine that, if those old walls could have, they would have let out a long exasperated sigh as yet another man determined to force his will upon that tired old structure.)

As we began to make a few changes here and there, it wasn’t long until we ran up on some structural alterations that had been made years ago that made absolutely no sense. I remember standing there and puzzling over this strange carpentry that simply did not seem to have a purpose at all. Eventually I decided that the idiot that did such a stupid thing, obviously had no idea what he was doing. I was convinced that I knew better. I was convinced that I was smarter. I was certain that I was right. So, with the reckless abandon of my youth, I tore it all out.

What followed was a comedy of errors. I would quickly learn that there had been a purpose for that odd addition to the house. The person who was responsible for making those changes to the structure of the house had a very sound reason for doing what they did. However, I wouldn’t realize any of that, until I had already undone the work that had been so carefully done before my time.

I found myself learning, the hard way, lessons that had already been learned before my time. I also found myself reconstructing those structural additions that hadn’t seemed to make any sense at all to me in the beginning. The difference was that now I knew why they were there in the first place.

I wish I could say that I only learned that lesson once, but it became a familiar thing. In a structure that old, that had been worked on by so many different people over the years, I quickly learned that I would be doing myself a favor if I studied a matter until I could finally see it from the perspective of the original builder before I started making modifications.

Unfortunately, even armed with that knowledge, there were still some things that I wouldn’t understand until I had already made the same mistakes that someone before me had already made.

In light of the lessons that I learned from that old house I must say that I am thankful for the boundaries and standards that were prayerfully put in place years ago. I may not fully understand everything that was done, or why it was done, but I do recognize the fact that there were some hard fought battles that were won and some difficult lessons that were learned that I, and the young men of my generation, haven’t yet had to wrestle with.

Something within me cringes each time I witness a well meaning preacher rubbing his chin and eyeballing a standard with that old familiar look in his eyes that just won’t be satisfied until he learns for himself why the fence was placed where it was placed so many years ago.

My family and I have, long since, moved out of that old house and, as I look back upon the years that we lived there, I am thankful that, in my youthful ignorance, I never damaged the structural integrity of that house beyond repair. I was lucky and those old timbers were strong.

But I learned a valuable lesson. When you begin to tear down things that you don’t understand, there exists the very real danger that, by the time you understand what you’ve done, the damage will be beyond repair.

– TMc –

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