What does a house say about its occupants? I go into a lot of houses. I expect you do also. Lot’s of things hit my eye right away: how clean or cluttered, type and age of décor, books and photos in plain sight, indicators of religious faith or spiritual interest, signs of personal habits such as ash trays, beverages, foods, kinds and numbers of electronic equipment and gadgets, whether drapes re open or closed, and the like. A quick survey like that helps me make some guesses about where best to start a conversation, how best to address a tragedy, what follow-up might be in order, and possibly a little about what values and beliefs might underlie the lives of the residents.
A few days ago we took a tour of a house now owned by a museum. Beautiful beyond beautiful, elegant beyond elegant, and large beyond large with incredible views out over the ocean on one side while surrounded by gardens on the others. My wife and sister loved it, and, given enough servants, could envision the good life that they might enjoy there. As far as it went, I agreed, but something also seemed very wrong to me. Entry to the property was down a steep driveway carved into the side of a seaside cliff. The house and grounds were built on a rock platform blasted out of that cliff about fifty feet above the sea. Not defensible in a military sense, but clearly a place meant to discourage communion with anyone else. Although said to be in exactly the state it was when the owner lived there, there was not a sign of anything that would identify him or her or any other person related or close to them. Guests were said to be many, but it appeared that a guest bathroom of any kind was relegated to the pool house except for one second floor guest apartment. The only other bedroom was the owner’s suite taking up nearly a third of the place. The kitchen, I presume, was in the basement and the province of the servants. All works of art were elements of a magnificent collection but devoid of human personality.
What it said to me was that the resident was lonely, had few real friends, lived in a museum setting that deliberately avoided personal intimacy, and it filled me with a profound sense of sadness for the owner. What does God’s kingdom hold for such a person? What does reconciliation, forgiveness, salvation, restoration to wholeness bring to such a person? Is such a person something of a social leper regardless of wealth and fame, or maybe because of wealth and fame? Scripture is filled with such earthy people who, for good or ill, are intimately involved with life and each other. Where might scripture speak to such a person? I wonder.