This Old House: When The Old-Self Fails Inspection

Originally published Saturday, 08 December 2012.


At this time last year my husband and I were in the process of purchasing our house. We spent countless hours gathering paperwork and signing documents and in the end we were handed the keys.

I started by opening each set of blinds. The sun poured in as I ripped curtains from rods, tossing them into a pile in the entry way. As fabric and dust flew, the home felt a little more like mine. Later, two men arrived and ripped away the filthy carpets to make way for fresh floors. The next week painters would give each wall a facelift with colors I’d picked out. We unlocked the doors on a Sunday. When I stepped into the kitchen, my nose was filled with the smell of unfamiliarity. The house felt dirty and foreign. Carpet and paint once white were coated with dirty fingerprints, smudges from who-knows-what, and dings and dents lined the baseboards. The dated curtains hung heavy with dust and and the blinds looked as though they’d never seen the light of day. It wasn’t the “ooh goody!” moment you hope for in your dreams of home ownership.

By Christmas day the house looked beautiful. I felt relaxed and cozy, the dusty curtains and dingy carpet were only a fading memory; one I’m happy to forget. I don’t like thinking about how gross my shower was that first day, or where there were spots of someone else’s mess engrained. I’m content to live entirely in the new.

I prefer “new & clean” in more than carpet and paint.

As much as I despise thinking about my previously filthy house, I loathe thinking about my old self even more. I can forgive myself for things far in the past. But what about the things I did last week? What about the relationships that have witnessed my wretchedness today? I don’t want to be reminded of the evidence of my current sinful state. I’d like to forget about it.

But I can’t, because it still exists, poking it’s ugly head up at the least opportune moments. This self, I hate. I hate the imperfect, sinful, prideful, unloving, detestable me that I can’t seem to paint over. I wish she’d disappear and leave only the new-me, the one who breathes and exudes Christlikeness.

Like Paul, I can’t do it. I continue to do the very things I do not want to do. When I’m pressed and ugly sinful behavior comes out, it’s proof that deep inside there is still a selfish heart fighting for control. This old-me makes new-me sick.

Out with the old

In my home, I can pay contractors to come in and rip out the old and replace it with fresh everything. My heart can’t be covered up so easily. Remnants of my old-self hang ragged and imperfect and I need renovation that only the Holy Spirit can contract.

I can’t erase my own past or present failures; they’re a part of my fallen sin-nature. And though they’re sinful and ugly, they’re included in the part of me that Christ died for. He loved me even when this part was dead in sin (Eph. 2:1-10) and had no love to give in return. He looked on me, in my helpless state, and He did not hate me. He loved me and He died for me.

I’m not helping myself or anyone else by obsessing about the reminders of the old-me. I don’t need to wallow (Rom. 8:1) in despair over the ways I still fall into temptation. I need to rejoice in my salvation (Is. 61:10) and move on with life in Christ.

In with the new

One year later, I love my home. I’ve made it mine and settled in. I can’t erase the memories of what it looked like, felt like, and smelled like the day it became ours. It’s part of the house’s history. I’m proud of all of the work we put in and all the choices we made. And even though I love the work we did, I don’t spend much time thinking about it. I enjoy our house and life rolls on. I want to adopt the same mentality and graciousness toward myself.

I inevitably blow things with my family. I let down my friends. I say dumb things I wish I could take back. I am the old house, the one coated in dirty fingerprints and stained carpets. And Jesus purchases me anyway.

In Christ, my filth is cleaned by righteousness. No amount of shameful feelings, unmet expectations, missed quiet times, or sinful stumbles can separate me from the love of God. The love of God has covered all of my spills and all of my dings and dents. It has become mine, He has sought me, signed my papers and purchased me. He loves me.

My remaining remnants aren’t a failed inspection report, they’re part of the purchase price. My failings are not grime to scrub away, but further glimpses of His mercy and grace through salvation for me to remember.

I have been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me. And the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me. I do not nullify the grace of God, for if righteousness were through the law, then Christ died for no purpose. -Galatians 2:20-21