Unless the Lord builds the house, it ain’t worth it . . .

There’s a verse in the Psalms that has to do, I think, as much with practical care for my material possessions as it does with belief in what or who created those material possessions.

In Psalm 127:1, the Good News Translation (a lovely, simple translation) says: “If the LORD does not build the house, the work of the builders is useless; if the LORD does not protect the city, it does no good for the sentries to stand guard.”

How does God “build” a house? How does God “protect” a city? I wonder about that right now since many houses and cities in the country of Ukraine (and many people) are not doing well, are falling down, are burning, are beyond fixing.

Well, at least from the perspective of self-identifying as an “Evangelical Protestant Christian” (in quotes because it is such a broad, hard-to-pin-down term these days), I have enough sermons, Bible verses, Sunday School classes, moments of pondering (and experience with people whacking away on construction on my house) to know that God in the Bible has a reputation for caring deeply about his human creation–when that creation (in the aggregate and individually) lets him care.

The Bible says he has created every human being to be identifiably human yet unique, the he knows the hairs on every human head, that he gives all human beings, whoever they may be, the same opportunities for relating to him, for relating to each other well, for caring for each other and for the world they live in, and yet.

Human history and daily reality kind of don’t express that grand concept very well. They both echo, at least as far as my imagination can hear, with the cry of some intensely unhappy, thwarted three-year-old, “No, I can do it myself!” Followed by screams because self-direction toward some dubious goal is thwarted, followed perhaps by the throwing of the smallest, hardest, sharpest toy available.

Currently, as a still-wanting-to-be-married woman of a certain age who owns a home (and who cannot count on male blood kin to be available), I find myself constantly having to check my attitude and behavior when those who have much more home construction awareness than I do (usually men) advise me on problems I ask about.

These people could be professionals, or they could be friends. And when they advise me, I find myself so often skeptical, sometimes to the point that I wonder if a) I should have asked for advice, b) if I asked the for advice the right way, and c) if the person I asked actually heard the question.

This is because I live in an old house, built in 1907. I have owned it for eighteen years. I have paid off the mortgage and will never be able to buy another, better house and pay off that mortgage. I live in a city neighborhood where people are hardworking but challenged by crime, mediocre schools, and political and cultural indifference to the plight of average folks trying to get by.

More than once I have gotten, from male home construction and maintenance advisors, looks of skepticism and puzzlement. You live here? You want to spend money and fix this? Wouldn’t it be easier to sell this place and move into an apartment?

These are men who have skills and experience in dealing with living spaces I don’t. They have homes of their own that they spend all kinds of time fussing over, fixing, measuring, improving. They do it either because it gives them a strong sense of satisfaction or because it allows them to show off for a spouse or an intended spouse.

They like having bucket lists and lining through each item they accomplish. And they like standing around–at the YMCA I go to or at my church–talking about how long it took them to do X, how much X cost, how they figured out how to make X work or how to retrofit X in a most ingenious way.

And then they come to my house. My wonky old house which I love. Because my sister gave me a generous gift to help me pay closing costs. Because my family came to spend Christmas with me twice before my father died.

Because my father put up rods for my clothes in my closets. Because my mother gave me towels for the bathroom. Because my other sister gave me a pushmower. Because my niece drove a U-Haul all the way from Virginia by herself to deliver furniture left me after my mother passed away.

Because I was able to offer other people a place to stay when they needed it and got the joy and challenge of getting to know them though they were from cultures much different than mine.

I sometimes feel sad that these men, who take time and make effort and are really smart and skilled, will never know what my house means to me. Because why should they? I’m not a member of their families. We don’t socialize.

I also feel envious of their loved ones for whom they will unhesitatingly sacrifice time and money in order to improve, beautify, and reimagine the living space in which their wife is raising or has raised their children, in which they have found refuge from a busy life by building, gardening, repairing, installing.

Time after time I wonder: if I am getting the same advice and looks over and over, is it because I’m getting them from guys just doing life the cut-to-the-chase guy way? Are they truly clueless about how I feel because they can’t imagine why an unmarried woman would want to tackle such a responsibility? Do they think I am foolish to forgo eating steak in order to take care of my house when I could forgo my house and eat steak whenever I want?

At least two years ago, I started praying (because I believe in doing that), “Lord, if you want me to stay in my house, you have to clearly give me everything I need to live here safely and well. If you don’t want me to stay in my house, you have to clearly give me everything I need to leave my house and live somewhere else much, much better safely and well.”

So far, when I think of leaving, I cry. And when I ask for advice, I cry. And when I continue to pray, I cry.

What is God telling me? A married man’s home is his castle, but a not-yet married woman’s home should be an apartment?

If that’s so, then why don’t my kind advisers work to get me married off to a contractor? That way I get to live in a “castle,” they don’t have to disrupt their lives. And my husband can take his place in the circle of home-improvers, after which he can say to me, “Honey, let’s go home and have steak salad for lunch.”



Published by willowgirl

Lover of beef stew, cats, old movies, C. S. Lewis, and men who know how to wear kilts.

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