Last year I went to Florida to visit family and drove my kids by the house I grew up in. It’s always been difficult figuratively, not having a home to go back to. But when we drove by and found this, I was eerily disturbed. The actual home I grew up in was boarded up with a sign on the front door. There in the middle of a beautiful neighborhood tucked behind the sidewalks I rode bikes along and walked to the schoolbus on was a condemned house. What was once my home, now with broken boarded windows, a swimming pool that had become a swamp and a second story that appeared to have caved in.
I have been haunted by this image and reality often since. Now not only did I not have a figurative “place to go home to” the house I grew up in is literally condemned. Sitting empty and ready for some impending destruction to come.
As I’ve thought about this picture, I find myself curious about the story! Did the termites my parents treated return and eat away at the structure? Did the roof my sisters and I sunbathed on begin to leak? Were there foundation issues that were ignored for so long the house simply began to cave in on itself? Was there some deeply rooted issue that went unhindered and unaddressed and eventually devastated the entire structural integrity such that it now needs to be demolished?
Lately God has reframed this picture in my mind and heart. As I’ve tried to reconcile the broken parts of me that were shattered growing up in that home. The scars I bear from the consequences from generations of addiction, neglect, abuse, adultery, divorce and abandonment are conveyed in the stories these walls hold. Wounds that have been exposed all over again as I navigated abuse at the hands of church leaders, not just those who injured me but those who failed to believe me or protect me. I’m strangely seeing the condemnation of this home as some sort of grace. As if God is vehemently communicating “NO MORE”. This is not a place we will ever return to. This is a place that needs to be knocked over with a bulldozer or burned down to the ground. What this house represents- needs to be leveled.
I’m not sure what I think about the idea of generational sin, but my friend Tim says that children are always the ones most impacted by the sins of their parents. They bear the weight of the consequences in ways the parents never do. He suggests this is the same with institutional sin or as he calls it corporate iniquities like racism, misogyny, abuse, oppression. I know so many courageous and ridiculously strong people doing their work to break these cycles in their lives. Digging deep to address the structural damage and foundational integrity issues of their family upbringing or their faith tradition.
I know just as many who aren’t interested or willing to engage it. They’re choosing instead to walk on uneven floor planks or patch the leaky roof over and over rather than engage in renovation work. What I know about pain is we either transform it or we transfer it. Also, that showing up to pain and pursuing healing to live whole and free is the hardest freaking work there is. If the only fruit that comes from doing our work is that our kids carry less of the damage- it will be worth it. God I pray we’re attentive to your invitation to engage this healing work, personally, in our families, as well as in our churches!
I may never have a childhood home to take my kids to but I’m longing to one day drive by this block and see something beautifully rebuilt here. I hope this spot becomes a monument to what God can do through his restoration work, even though presently its just a busted house.
It’s a miracle I have relationship and live connected to my sisters and both parents I grew up with here. Although the present reality doesn’t suggest it, I believe the same can be true of the broken relationships from my former church. “Nobody on your list of people you’d like to reconcile with, is interested in reconciliation with you at this point.” Heartbreaking words to for me to hear. I know that there is absolutely nothing beyond God’s redemption and that what He restores is far better than what ever was. I’ve seen it, I’ve lived it and Ill continue to hold hope that it’s possible this side of heaven.
A wise mentor recently told me heaven is about reconciliation but we’ll experience it faster if we’re courageous enough to pursue it here and now. I believe him and am fascinated and compelled by the implications of his words.
If you’re struggling to hold out hope for what’s possible, I’ll believe it for you. If you’re carrying wounds from your childhood home, maybe this picture is for you. If nobody ever saw you in your circumstances and told you what happened to you wasn’t okay- hear me, it wasn’t okay! If you can’t believe God sees you, carries righteous anger as your defender and fights fiercely for you- I want you to know He does. The fact that I’m alive today is proof. If it’s been a while for you or perhaps you’ve never known this grace giving, fear fighting, hope bringing, most loving Jesus- it’s not too late. He’s working right now on the redemption and restoration of this whole world and invites us to be participants in His work. And here’s what I know friends, His work begins within each of us.
“Imagine yourself as a living house. 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? 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.”