I wonder if a house can be haunted by good things.
My wife and I are moving to a new place a few miles away.
As we pack the last of the boxes and start a final cleanup, it makes me remember the first day we arrived at this old house about five years ago. I played the “I wonder” game, as in I wonder what happened in this place before we got here.
Yes, that can be a little creepy. Maybe I don’t want to know who did what to whom in these hallways. But I’m inhabiting the exact space as they once did, touching some of the same surfaces, sitting in some of the same places. We probably ate in the same spot, facing the same wall.
All I know about the former tenants is that they were little people who lived and interacted with history. Thinking about them gives me a sense of perspective. It reminds me that we’re all players who show up on the screen for a brief time before exiting.
Yet the house remains.
This rental duplex we’re about to vacate was built back in the early sixties. I’m pretty sure somebody here got excited about the Beatles. They watched Gilligan’s Island when it was cutting edge programing. They probably had strong opinions about the Vietnam Conflict. I’ll bet the Watergate scandal must have been a subject of conversation around the table in that small dining room.
Much later, tenants got dressed up in funky outfits and went to the local discotheque. In 1980, somebody must have rooted for the American hockey team to win the Olympic gold.
I’m sure I’ve only touched on the tame stuff.
While we were packing, my wife called from the other room, “Could you come here, please? I have something to talk to you about.” She had found a tin of Altoid mints. Judging from the dust and discoloration on it, it had to be pushing twenty-five years old. It didn’t have any “Curiously strong” mints in it, but it did have a few strands of fossilized marijuana inside. Sitting next to the tin was a lighter with a rubber slip cover and a pack of zigzag papers. She said, “I found this in the top corner of a closet shelf.” Then with a wry smile, “Do you have something to tell me?”
No. But somebody before us apparently did, even if it was unintentional.
What would I be leaving in this house?
As I finished tidying the basement one last time, I reflected on the emptiness of it. You could never tell that over 1,500 theology books had sat on shelves in there. If these walls could talk, they’d tell of tears, disappointment, elation, and relief. They’d talk about dreams, worry, pain, joy, and laughing.
In other words, they wouldn’t say anything different from normal homes. Except for one sizeable difference. Jesus had been intensely involved.
By a conservative estimate, if I calculated having been filled with the Spirit three times a week over these last years, then 780 times the Holy Spirit had been in this space, interacting and sometimes arguing with me, but always manifesting the presence of Christ. The Savior of mankind had been in this basement about as much as he had ever been on any beach in Galilee.
Thankfully the glory is portable, and I’ll be taking it with me. But it originated in this room of cinderblock walls painted white. I’m not a big one for officially memorializing places, but as I’m out in the community, I won’t be able to help driving by this place and feeling like a lot of important things happened here.
I still wonder if there’s any truth to a line I heard once—“When something happens in a house, sometimes it leaves behind a smell like burnt toast.” If that’s the case, I hope the smell left here will be a fragrance of something beautiful.
Photo credit: Brian Brewer