Renovation is Difficult

Photo by Stefan Lehner on Unsplash

Redecoration is about the cosmetics — an attempt to spruce up the place. Redecoration is making things more appealing on the surface — visually more appealing most of the time. Redecoration does not call you to make any real structural changes, so it is much easier than renovation, and it normally happens without any professional assistance and with much less expense. Redecoration is definitely less risky than renovation.

Renovation, on the other hand, is closely associated with innovation, which involves starting something new from scratch. Innovation is a result of originality and creativity. Innovation is something you birth; it’s new life. Renovation contains all these things, but begins with a shape, a history, and a form. It carries burdens and traditions from the past, which require additional tools.
~Renovate or Die, Bob Farr & Kay Kotan

Living in a parsonage (a church-provided home) comes with its own benefits and challenges. No matter where we’ve lived, we have always tried to make improvements that didn’t come out of the church budget. Yes, taking care of the house is primarily the church’s responsibility, but we like to make it part of our regular giving as well.

In one house, the half-bath in the master bedroom was tiny. We would sit down on the toilet to take care of business and bang our knee on the vanity. It was ridiculous. After a year or so of this, we had enough, and decided that we would replace the vanity with one that had a slimmer profile. Our knee-banging days were over!

So, we bought a new vanity and sink combo, and took out the old one. Of course, once we did that, we realized we were going to have some issues with the mirror. The way is was sitting was not going to work; we had to turn it 90 degrees. No big deal. We took the mirror down, and prepared to rotate it.

Well, in doing that, we saw that we were going to need a new light fixture. There was no way the old light fixture was going to be able to go back once we rotated the mirror. Oh, and by the way, we needed to repaint the wall because it had been painted around the mirror and there was going to be a block of the old color on either side of the mirror once it was reoriented.

We got to installing the new vanity, but it turns out the flooring was cut around the old one. We were going to need new flooring. We pulled up the toilet, got the flooring torn out… and there was mold on the subfloor. We could have taken our chances, cleaned it up, and covered it back up with the new flooring, but that didn’t seem right. So, the subfloor got replaced, new flooring got put down and the toilet was put back.

Finally, we were able to put the new vanity in, and, wouldn’t you know, the plumbing was wonky. New pipes were needed. What was going to be just a “simple” vanity replacement turned into a complete bathroom remodel. What should have taken an afternoon ended up taking a month. I guess it’s a good thing it wasn’t our primary bathroom. But, after I don’t know how many dollars and about five weeks, we had a nice, new bathroom.

Renovation is not easy. I know there are people who are very talented at renovating homes and flipping them for profit. Some of them get their own television shows, which cause the rest of us to have to do all this work on our own homes. However, renovation is neither my calling nor my gift. It is my bane. Generally speaking, I despise doing this kind of work now because there’s always something else that pops up. If it’s a simple, straightforward job, no problem, but that’s not usually the case.

Renovation is difficult because you have to be able to adapt. You have to be able to deal with what’s already there, and if that’s compromised, you have to tear it down even more. Sometimes, you have to go all the way down to the frame before you can start to build it back up. That’s hard work.

There’s a lot of talk these days about deconstructing one’s faith. In my opinion, it’s necessary. It’s a constant task. In fact, I’ve written about that before on this platform. However, what I’m seeing is a lot of people working down to the frame, and then walking away from it altogether.

And, I get it. Some people have experienced immense trauma at the hands of religious leaders or communities. Even reflecting about it can bring back memories of that trauma, and nobody wants to deal with that. But… don’t we owe to it ourselves to do just that? Don’t we owe it to ourselves to do the hard work of renovating and finding the base from which we can rebuild?

Certainly, there’s no need to do it alone. There are supportive communities out there that one can tap into. There are really good therapists in the world that can help people work through and overcome the trauma.

Sometimes, when we get into a project, we get in too deep to just give up. I’m not saying we don’t need to walk away for a while, or that we don’t need to seek out some help with it. But nobody enters into a house renovation with the intention of not rebuilding the walls, and making the space better than it was before. We do the renovation because there is hope for a better future.

As a whole, the church could use a good renovation from time to time. In fact, throughout the history of the Church, we see a movement every 500 years or so that shakes up the Church in profound ways. All I’m going to say is that Luther’s 95 Theses was written in 1517. Do the math, folks. It’s time for another renovation. I’m not saying that it’s going to be easy. But it is necessary.



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Matt Swisher

Matt Swisher

Just some guy who is looking to make my pocket of the world a better place. Life is a journey; let’s walk together and help each other along the way.