This year will be a year of the new for my family. We learned that Emily is pregnant with our third child, so we will welcome a new baby into our family. Five people could fit into our 1786 sq. ft. rancher, but we could also go crazy in the process. Begin house hunting search. Begin decluttering and preparing our house for staging. Prepare to say goodbye to this spectacular backyard, the place of hundreds of memories.
This is the third housing search in our marriage, which makes us veterans now. The only thing we’re expecting is the unexpected. We aren’t surprised by the roller coaster ride that is real estate. Hopes rise and fall. Disappointment may be temporary or permanent. Nothing is certain until you’ve applied your signature for the hundredth time at a title company and you exchange keys with a stranger.
Housing Search: A Stage for Spiritual Growth
In between the moment your realtor places a sign on your front lawn and the moment you open the front door to your new home, there is much learning and growing happening in the heart. For followers of Jesus, a real estate process is the staging ground for learning faith and trust. And learning means growing and failing, failing and growing. This has been my story, at least.
You cannot affect the decision of another, this person or family known to you only by the names on the contract offer you sign (or counter, or accept, or refuse). You can only control your obedience to the decisions God is calling you to make at each stage of the process. A real estate process is similar to other life experiences. God may not reveal the next ten steps all at once; he may only call you to take a single step—the next one.
In an environment where change is sudden and often surprising, it’s difficult to practice restraint, detaching yourself from an outcome you really want. Hopes can become fixed to a showing of your house, a contract offer, a house you want to buy. Holding things too tightly—attaching your heart to one outcome—can tie your soul in knots.
Holding Things Loosely
Here’s the spiritual risk of clinging to an outcome too tightly: your will begins to force a result you want instead of relying upon God’s will for your future. There’s no need to describe what happens when your will begins forcing itself over and against God’s will. You feel it in your soul. The heart is deceitful and it begins to demand what it wants, maneuvering all scenarios to one outcome. All of the sudden, surrendering to God becomes a source of fear, not faith and joy.
Therein lies the greatest risk in clinging to hopes too tightly. Your soul recoils from the idea of surrendering its greatest material wish to the Giver of all good things. This is the most dangerous place. To appropriate the words of Jesus, ‘what does it profit you to gain your dream home if you lose your soul?’
Trustees of a Gift, Not an Owner
Here’s the spiritual truth of home ownership: you never own a home. If you hold the title deed of a new home, congratulations. It’s a great moment and one you should celebrate. If you make the last payment on your mortgage, well done. Eliminating debt is a tremendous achievement and a great virtue. An expensive champagne is well in order. However, you still don’t own a home. You never do. You have been entrusted with a home, a place that God will one day bring to full redemption when Christ comes again. He has ‘the cattle on a thousand hills’ and your little hill and the house it’s on belong to Him, too.
My prayer for any house I live in is that myself and my family would prepare this place for God’s new creation at the end of time. I’m called to bring the peace of Christ to the land I’ve been given. I’m called to open the doors of this home in hospitality and service to Christ. I’m called to be a good neighbor and live Christ’s commands of love from this home. I am the trustee of a home, not an owner.
Should I live in the next home we purchase the rest of my days, there still will come a day when the title deed will change over to another person not named King. I am a trustee, not an owner–my mortality proves that.
Surrender and Servanthood in All Things
When my understanding changes in relationship to the place where I live, I begin to hold outcomes more loosely. My greatest fear is the fear of not surrendering all things to Christ. My greatest hope changes–I want to be a faithful servant with all that God has given or plans to give me.
When I list my home, I am the servant of God. When I search for a home, I am the servant of God. When we hand over the keys of our former home, I pray for peace over the new owners. When we open the doors of our new home, we will bless every room with the peace and love of Christ. At every stage I’m called to be a servant. And servants don’t make demands of their Lord.
In the end, such a complex, stressful process with a lot at stake comes down to simple, childlike faith. It’s believing what Jesus said of his Father:
Or which one of you, if his son asks him for bread, will give him a stone? Or if he asks for a fish, will give him a serpent? If you then, who are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father who is in heaven give good things to those who ask him!” (Matthew 7:9-11 ESV).
And that is the test of faith in a housing search–the test of surrender, the test of believing the Father will bring good gifts though I know not when or where or how. I trust him. He is the Lord, I am his servant. Thank the Lord He’s patient while I learn how to be a trusting servant.