I stayed outside. A glance through the partially opened door was enough. Enough to see painful images and feel an indescribable sorrow at my own hardness of heart. I wrote my last post with this most recent and last visit to our house on Brodrecht Road in mind. Nine years ago, Jeff brought us there, Aletheia (2), Haddie (4 months) and myself, right before deploying to Iraq. And it was at that house that I almost purged myself to death. But I won’t linger on this, as I have done so in other posts. What I did want to pause for a moment on are houses of pain.
A couple of heavy items from the back porch and a few items from kitchen drawers needed to be retrieved before we closed on the house and so my brother Josh, his girlfriend, Morgan, and I came along to help Jeff. After the porch was taken care of, Jeff asked if anyone wanted to come inside to take a last look at the house. No one said anything, so Jeff went inside alone. Should I have flung the door open wide, dashed in and declared His faithfulness to me in that house of pain? Part of me wishes I had done so. Should I have stood at that spot where He had such great mercy on me and sung the Doxology? Part of me wishes I had done so. But I didn’t. I stayed outside, uncomfortably wondering why it was taking Jeff so long to grab the last few items from the house. I stayed outside with Josh and Morgan, of whom I gladly took a picture, when asked, capturing their friendship and enjoyment of each other. While snapping that picture, all I could think of is if only I had a chance to get back to the place where they were at, how differently I’d do things. Maybe, I should have shared my struggle with them. Maybe I should have asked Josh and Morgan and Jeff to stand with me at that place of mercy in the house and sing with me. I know they would have, and, in fact, would have been honored to do so. Because, Jeff, Josh, and Morgan, they are sinners like me. They have received God’s mercy and grace, like me. They, too, no doubt, have houses of pain. And I know I would be privileged to walk through their houses alongside them, should they ask me, lifting up my voice alongside theirs, as they declare the faithfulness of a Savior, in the face of faithlessness.
If only all houses of pain were ones where we could walk through one last time, and with a final lock of the door, never return. But some ghostly forms of us, have a way of returning to these houses, haunting them with our presence, as our thoughts cruelly and most always, unexpectedly, betray us, by bringing us back to the places we had hoped never to return. Every day I fight such memories and grief. They have often left me unsettled and feeling lost. Part of me thought that when the house was finally sold, I would be forever rid of it in my mind. But since selling the house, its memory has pressed even harder on my spirit. I would ask God to erase my memories from that place, but I know that He is too good for such things. For in that house He said, “thus far, and no further.” In His great kindness, He disciplined me and delivered me from bondage. In that house, the gospel burst forth with greater brightness, as He showed me that it had been, was, and ever would be only the faithfulness of Jesus Christ that keeps us blameless before the throne of God.
I think back on that house on Brodrecht Road and ask, could there have been another way? Why does this house have to be a part of Your plan for me, Your good and sovereign plan that works all things together for the good of those who love You, for those who are called according to Your purpose (Romans 8:28)?! Be glorified, O Lord, forever in that house, even as I return to it in my memories.
The final walkthrough is one I can only do in my mind. And in my mind’s eye, as I shut the front door for the last time, I look up, and see there, over the doorpost, the blood of the Lamb, and I fall on my face and worship.