Wednesday, October 12, 2016

A Christian's Guide to Buying a House


Our family recently grew by one and while our current house has plenty of space for the three of us, we are anticipating a future with more kids. I would rather move with one child in tow than two or three, so my husband and I have been keeping an eye on the real estate market, knowing that we have plenty of time to make a decision, but wanting to be ready if the right house came along.

For six months there has been nothing to write home about, but this week, we found the house. The perfect house. Vaulted ceilings, laundry room, great neighborhood, yard for kids, gorgeous kitchen. It basically looks like the reveal of a Fixer Upper episode. It checked every box on my list...except for the price. It was bigger than what we had originally been looking at, but would be enough space for all the children we wanted to grow up in. Of course I prayed and asked God for direction and wisdom about whether or not the house was right for us. We didn't want to get in over our heads.

In the middle of the night while I was awake dreaming about walk-in closets and double ovens, the still small voice began to speak, and He had a lot more to say than a simple yes or no. He spoke, as He so often does, in the form of Bible verses that I have read and reread, memorized and cherished over the years. Here is what He said:

1. "Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth where moth and rust destroy and where thieves break in and steal. Instead, store up treasures in heaven where moth and rust do not destroy and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your heart is, there your treasure will be also." Matthew 6:19-21
Houses are a good thing. However, the place where we invest our time, money, energy, and thoughts becomes where we place our heart. Something good can become a real distraction from what is truly important if we allow it to take first place in our hearts. It is definitely something that I have to actively guard against in my own life.

2. "Men may make their plans, but the Lord directs their steps." Proverbs 16:9
We have wonderful plans about what we want our family to look like, but even this early in our marriage and family life we have faced many situations in which things did not go the way that we had planned. But one thing I know for sure, every time God has directed us away from what we thought we wanted, His plan was so much better. So we can plan ahead about what our future may look like, and it not come out anywhere close to that. I don't want to be so tied down to the things of this world that I hesitate when He calls us to something different than we had originally envisioned. I don't want to jump on something good, or even great, and miss out on what He has, which is best!

3. "Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation- the old has gone and the new has come." 2 Corinthians 5:17
Part of me has this idea that a new house will change some things about me. For example, if I had a better kitchen, I might be more inclined towards the gift of hospitality (which does not come naturally for me). Or, if I had more closet space, I would be more organized. I have a view of who I would be in the new house. And honestly, it is pretty crazy to think that changing the four walls around me will magically make me love cleaning house, give me the ability to stay on top of the laundry, and make dinner always finish on time. In fact, it is most likely the opposite! If I can't keep my current sized house under control, how would I expect to keep a larger house clean and tidy? The verse says that if anyone is in Christ they are a new creation, not if anyone is in a new house. I cannot depend on a house to transform me; I have already been transformed! God has already taken my heart and redeemed it, making me a new creation. If I cannot accept that renewing act and embrace it, but instead look to a house to do that work, I am certainly wasting my time!

4. "For I know the plans I have for you, declares the Lord, plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you a hope and a future." Jeremiah 29:11
Another lie that I was listening to was almost opposite from the one above, although simultaneously in my mind- this house is too good for me. I don't deserve such a beautiful house! I am so incredibly blessed- how could I possibly ask for more? Satan wants us to feel guilty about the things that God gives us, but in the end, it is His choice to give and take away, and our choice how to be good stewards of those gifts. If we get this house, it has nothing to do with whether or not I personally deserve something so nice. And if I did feel like I deserved it, then I would not have the gratitude that God desires when He gives us good things.

5. "So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but what is unseen, since what is seen in temporary and what is unseen is eternal." 2 Corinthians 4:18
Why do I really want this house? What is my motivation? Is it so that I can have a place to raise my family in a safe and loving environment? Or is it so that my everyday can look like my "dream home" board on Pinterest? Am I investing more of my time and energy into square footage than I am into my relationship with God and others? Will this house contribute to those relationships or distract from them? If I am being honest, I don't like the answers to those questions...

6. "Which of you, wishing to build a tower, does not first sit down and count the cost to see if he has the resources to complete it? Otherwise, if he lays the foundation and is unable to finish the work, everyone who sees it will ridicule him, saying, ‘This man could not finish what he started to build.’
In the same way, any one of you who does not give up everything he has cannot be My disciple." Luke 14:27-29, 33
God has called us to be good stewards of the resources that He has given us, and they are not all for us to spend on ourselves. We need to count all of the costs involved- not only the price of the house, but also higher property taxes, utilities, upkeep, etc. as well as the lost income from what could have earned through investing the money over the long term rather than putting it into a house. Knowing all of the numbers is a good thing, but ultimately this parable was talking about sacrifice- giving up what we want for the sake of the Kingdom of God. We have to count the cost and make sure that this house will not stand in the way of us being able to be generous with others.

7. “Therefore everyone who hears these words of mine and puts them into practice is like a wise man who built his house on the rock. The rain came down, the streams rose, and the winds blew and beat against that house; yet it did not fall, because it had its foundation on the rock. But everyone who hears these words of mine and does not put them into practice is like a foolish man who built his house on sand. The rain came down, the streams rose, and the winds blew and beat against that house, and it fell with a great crash.” Matthew 7:24-27
Feeling financially secure when looking at the numbers is great, but ultimately the rock is Christ. I have to find my significance and security in Him and Him alone. Not in our savings, our house, our investments, or anything else! It can all be gone in an instant, and all that will be left is Christ. If we have built out lives on Him, then no loss or gain of temporary things can shake us. I think sometimes having too much can be a trial of faith just as much as having too little, which is why it is so important to keep our foundation sure.

Like I said, I asked for wisdom, and He gave me plenty to think about. So what does all of that mean? Yes or no? I think what it means, is that God is not as interested in the beauty of where I live as much as He is in the condition of where He lives- my heart. If I have a house a beautiful as a Chip and JoJo remodel, but have not love for Him first, I have nothing. If I am the perfect housewife, mother, and host, but have not a priority for the eternal and get caught up in external appearances, I gain nothing. If I have security in the world's eyes but have not built my life on the rock of Christ, I am nothing. So whichever way we move forward, I need to spend just as much time cleaning, organizing, and preparing my heart as I do my house, and make sure that I am not letting the temporary take the place of the eternal. Looks like I have quite a job ahead of me!