“We take the worst house in the best neighborhood and we turn it into our clients’ dream home,” Chip Gaines says during the opening theme of the HGTV show Fixer Upper. Chip and his wife Joanna pour time and energy into dated real estate, revealing a charming home for their clients within each 45-minute episode.
My family and I watched a re-run last week of their renovation of The Pit, a two-story house purchased for $10,000 and complete with layers of abandoned junk and squirrel infestations. “This is not the right house,” their client said.
Clint and his wife Kelly saw the bullet holes in the siding and the trash in the yard, but Joanna urged them to look deeper. “This is what we do,” she said, also reminding Clint of his own profession as a woodworker. “Everyone’s throwing it away, you see vision for it.” The house wouldn’t stay this way.
It’s a Beast
“Imagine yourself as a living house,” C.S. Lewis wrote in Mere Christianity. “God comes in to rebuild that house. At first, perhaps, you can understand what He is doing. He is getting the drains right and stopping the leaks in the roof and so on; you knew that those jobs needed doing and so you are not surprised. But presently He starts knocking the house about in a way that hurts abominably and does not seem to make any sense. What on earth is He up to?”
Chip and Joanna agreed that the house was in dire shape. “It’s gonna be a beast,” Joanna said. As they walked through the rooms, they contrasted what was and what could be, detailing its shortfalls and outlining what work and insight could do for the place. From our TV-viewer perspective we saw glimpses of their vision; computer-animated crown molding or wood flooring were projected onto what we could see of the house as it was. But the ideas went beyond stripping wallpaper or cleaning out a hoarder’s collection. The kitchen needed more storage, the ceilings were too low, and rooms needed to be larger and more open. Soon a wall was coming down.
What Is and What Could Be
I am aware of a lot of my own shortcomings. Maybe not all of them, but I know the heart attitudes no one else sees, yesterday’s doubts and temptations that are still here today, and I remember losing my patience more than once this morning.
But next to that awareness is the truth that the God who began a good work in us will never abandon it (Philippians 1:6), regardless of how slow progress may seem to be. He sees the junk, the awkward paint color, the old-school tile flooring. He’ll take care of those. But He will also correct the foundation and make sure the walls are in the right place.
What is and what will be.
“What on earth is He up to?” asked Lewis, but he already had an idea. “The explanation is that He is building quite a different house from the one you thought of – throwing out a new wing here, putting on an extra floor there, running up towers, making courtyards. You thought you were being made into a decent little cottage: but He is building a palace. He intends to come and live in it Himself.”
We’re all works in progress. And when He unveils the final masterpiece, everyone will see the transformation of our fixer upper hearts.
“I’m just enjoying looking at every little detail,” Kelly said as she walked through their finished home.
“I’m all about taking something that is neglected and bringing it back to life,” Clint said. “But, literally, you could’ve just torn it down. You could’ve just said, ‘I’m not even gonna look beyond the siding.’”
“Nobody would’ve faulted you,” Kelly said.
“Yeah, nobody would’ve blamed you. It would’ve been like, ‘I understand.’ But it didn’t turn out that way. And I’m so glad that it wasn’t torn down.”