It seemed to me at the time that I had stumbled upon the Last Homely House. And once I’d arrived there, I never wanted to leave.
That is…until I got a look inside.
As much as the natural world outside the house seemed like Elrond’s Rivendell, the inside felt more like Gollum’s hellish cave.
The current resident kept it very dark. Blankets over windows, few lights, low ceilings. The house reeked with the smell of cigarettes and dog urine. The walls were murky, the tile and carpet were decades old with some rooms only floored with a concrete slab. The original aluminum window frames were filthy and porous. The ceilings were stained with nicotine and other contaminants. The bathroom floor was about to fall into the crawl space. It was oppressive just to step inside.
But, the opportunity to live amid this astounding mountainous beauty was something we just couldn’t pass up. So, with the help of several subcontractors and friends, we decided to make the leap to restore the house to livable condition. And since moving in, my wife continues to work her magic to make it even more livable. Despite the darkness of those first impressions, the beauty of creation outside compelled us to make the inside more beautiful, too.
This brings to mind the final stanzas of that glorious hymn:
This is my Father’s world:
Oh, let me ne’er forget
That though the wrong seems oft so strong,
God is the ruler yet.*
While many recognize the dangers of wasting our lives preoccupied by pleasure or superficiality, we can miss the danger of paying too much attention to the world’s darkness. Of course, I recognize that there’s a lot wrong with the world and that wrongs need to be addressed. But my best motivation to address what’s wrong is by first immersing my life in what’s good and beautiful.
As Martin Luther King, Jr., once said: “Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate; only love can do that.” Will I watch the news and despair because all “the wrong seems oft so strong”? No. I will step outside and celebrate the beauty in these mountains, the encouragements in neighborly kindness, the hope found in houses of worship and charity.
This world is filled with ugliness, but this is my Father’s world. And it is the beauty of his world that compels me to join him in addressing the parts that need restoration.
Despite the work we’ve already done on this 50-year-old house, it’s hardly perfect. Even after the remodeling, few of the floors are level. It can be damp and drafty. Doors still need replacing. The need for paint seems never-ending. The electricity and plumbing still seem to have a mind of their own.
But I can live with these imperfections. Of course, because of the beauty that lies just outside. But, mostly because I live in hope: that this homely house—and my homely heart, and all the world’s wrongs—can with each passing day bear more and more resemblance to the beauty of heaven.
And there’s even the promise that, one day, I won’t even be able to tell the difference.
This is my Father’s world,
The battle is not done:
Jesus who died shall be satisfied,
And earth and Heav’n be one.*
* Maltbie D. Babcock, This Is My Father’s World, 1901.
About John Michalak
An author, speaker, musician, and minister, John Michalak has spent more than 25 years equipping others in the areas of life-change and personal relationship. John’s inspirational new book, 365 Devotions To Embrace What Matters Most is now available from Zondervan publishing.
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