What's Under the House?
Of all the things home buyers and sellers hope to avoid on a home inspection report, foundation issues are near the top of the list. Why? Because the foundation is the key to structural integrity, and when it is compromised, significant problems and costly repairs will likely follow.
In home building and in life, it's true that a strong, properly built foundation can guard against fracture. But even the best laid foundations, over time, experience environmental distress. It's normal. No building is totally immune from it. Changes in temperature and the surrounding soil can cause the foundation to settle, creating cracks and pathways for water to enter the structure. In our lives, difficulty, disappointment, rejection, injustice and pain press in around us. If the cracks are acknowledged and repaired early on, further costs and serious issues can be avoided.
The thing is, a compromised foundation often goes undetected or unresolved. Major issues usually don't happen instantly. Out of sight and out of mind, many foundation problems start small and worsen gradually over years, eventually leading to warning signs like drywall cracks, uneven floors, nail pops or gaps around doors. Other times, of course, a major event like an earthquake creates acute, obvious damage. Either way, if not adequately addressed, unrepaired foundation openings can threaten our health and safety by leading to mold, pests or structural damage. If severe enough, portions of the house can crumble, or even collapse.
PAINTING THE WALLS WHILE THE FOUNDATION CRUMBLES
In my life, the effects of unresolved foundation damage showed up as anxiety and depression. I spackled and painted over the cracking interior walls with yoga classes. I hammered the nails back into the walls with medication. I realigned the doors and leveled the floors with another drink, deep breaths or relaxing music. I put all my focus on repairing the surface issues right in front of me.
Meanwhile, far below, the cracks in my foundation were growing and spreading with each second that I spent misdirecting my attention. The enemy of my soul got me so distracted with the loud, obvious SYMPTOMS that I didn't think much about repairing the not-so-visible areas where they originated. My body and spirit were crying out that something was wrong and I was so concerned with shutting them up that I stopped asking why. I stopped believing that restoration was even possible. Honestly, I didn't know how to deal with the actual hurts that launched me into this way of living. So, despite my stellar touch-up work, the nails kept popping out and eventually the house of my life began to collapse. It was only when I turned my attention to ground level that things started to get better and STAY better.
As I examined my foundation before the Lord, He began to point out the cracks that had occurred throughout my life. Some were surprises; some were not. In some cases I just hadn't experienced complete repair like I thought I had.
There were some subtle hairline fractures that seemed minor. But no matter the size of the hurt, when we don't respond by taking it to the Lord for healing and truth, it can slowly lead to false beliefs. For example, my response to discouraging words and expectations I didn't meet caused me to believe that I had to prove myself to earn acceptance, even with God.
There were also some earthquakes. The first major jolt to my foundation occurred during my sophomore year of college, when I was sexually assaulted. I told virtually no one about it. In fact, I could barely admit it to myself. The shame and confusion was so heavy that it would be 20 years before I ever really addressed this crack, so it grew and spread and remained deeply buried until I finally invited God into my pain.
In general, I strayed from God throughout college. I kept my distance from Him partly so that I could live as I pleased, but also because I felt like I was failing Him. Rebellion and condemnation, hand in hand. It was during this shaky time that I met the man I would marry. Brad didn't know the Lord at all, but I loved him so I took him to church occasionally to make myself feel better about it. Our decision to get married was fraught with my own doubts and disapproval from my parents. My foundation rattled again. I even called off the wedding at one point, with invitations already printed and the wedding dress purchased. My head spun as I attempted to listen to everyone's voice but God's. Brad never wavered during our on-again/off-again engagement, despite the rejection he must have felt. He loved me unconditionally. Eventually, in the spring of 2004, we began our journey as husband and wife — but on very rocky terrain.
Two years later, as a newlywed and a new mom, my foundation was utterly rocked by Brad's admission that he had been unfaithful during our first year of marriage. This time the damage was immediate and severe — yet not catastrophic, praise God. Only by turning to the Lord in our desperation were Brad and I able to repair that gaping hole over the course of many years. I thank God that He uses evil for good (Genesis 50:20), that He refined me through that fire (1 Peter 1:7) and, most of all, that Brad became a new creation in Christ (2 Corinthians 5:17) because of it. Today I have the privilege of being married to a man of God.
But the thing with trauma is that, much like a foundation crack allows water to sneak in (or gush in) and cause other problems down the road, a wound can open the door to the enemy who waits for every opportunity to take advantage of us. Trauma and wounding are prime entry points.
In the vulnerability of a broken foundation and a broken heart, my doors had become wide open to attack in multiple places. Insidious lies entered through these exposed areas. Fear and control marched in like the beasts they are. And they brought all their friends. Instead of sealing them out in the name of Jesus, I unknowingly gave them access. It wasn't long before I was their slave.
With the raw realization that bad things could happen to me, I concluded that people and God couldn't be trusted and therefore it was up to me to anticipate and prevent anything else that could go wrong. I also believed that I had made poor decisions that led to my hurt and because of that, I was unworthy of happiness. I wrongly thought that if I made any more mistakes, I would be directly responsible for more suffering. So I couldn't even trust myself. You can see how every decision quickly became agonizing.
By the grace of God, trauma itself didn't completely destroy my foundation. But the resulting fear that spread to every corner of my being almost took the entire house down.
THE WAY TO TRUE REPAIR
In an actual house, it would be ridiculous to think that we could fix the aesthetic issues without examining and repairing the foundation cracks that caused them. So why don't we apply the same logic to our lives? Maybe because it's hard work. Maybe because it can seem overwhelming. Maybe simply because we don't know how. Returning to the place of our pain, asking God about it and then allowing Him to heal and repair is more intense than just hammering the drywall nails back in and moving on.
For me, it took some guts. It took time and energy. It took heaping amounts of prayer, commitment, faith, forgiveness and repentance. It also took the support and guidance of fellow believers willing to invest in my healing. There is a cost involved in this process, but the cost of avoiding it is far greater. And the freedom and healing gained is priceless. When we seek superficial repair in superficial places, our Heavenly Father's heart breaks because He knows that it will only lead to more damage. "Unless the Lord builds the house, those who build it labor in vain." Psalm 127:1 He's the only One who offers the restoration we've been longing for.
Whether it's normal wear and tear or a sudden impact, the reality is that any break in a home foundation exposes it to elements that can wreak havoc on the entire house. Likewise, the wounds we inevitably experience have the potential to cause destruction — but only if we allow things like resentment, bitterness, fear, pride, rebellion, insecurity, control, unbelief or unforgiveness to become part of our ongoing response. Instead we must immediately take our brokenness to the Master of repair. If we seek God in our pain, deal with it according to His word and believe what He says over the lies that try to invade, He'll heal what we never could with our meager putty knives. "He heals the brokenhearted and binds up their wounds." Psalm 147:3 The Lord is more than willing to gently close up those cracks and protect us from further damage.
A NEW FOUNDATION
But Jesus does more than just patch up our broken places here and there. Through His work on the cross, He actually lifted up the whole crumbling house of our sin-filled lives and laid a new foundation, giving us solid ground to stand on forever. "So this is what the Sovereign Lord says: 'See, I lay a stone in Zion, a tested stone, a precious cornerstone for a sure foundation; the one who trusts will never be dismayed." Isaiah 28:16 Jesus died and rose again, paying the penalty for our sin, to restore us to complete wholeness. "By His wounds, we are healed." Isaiah 53:5
As if that wasn't enough, He invites us to be part of the holy "building" that houses His Spirit! "...You are fellow citizens with the saints and members of the household of God, built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Christ Jesus himself being the cornerstone, in whom the whole structure, being joined together, grows into a holy temple in the Lord. In Him you also are being built together into a dwelling place for God by the Spirit." Ephesians 2:19-21
Because of Jesus' victory on my behalf, my place in the household of God and the power of the Holy Spirit within me, I have the authority to reject Satan's lies surrounding the hurts of my past, present and future. Today I stand on the truth that God can be trusted with my life when I surrender it to Him daily. The truth that I don't have to earn His acceptance because Jesus already earned it for me. The truth that because He forgives me, I can forgive others. The truth that I only need to seek one Voice to lead my decisions, that His sovereign purposes for my life trump any mistakes I could make and that He is my unfailing protector and security. Because of this, I don't have to fear.
I simply can't find anything else that solid to stand on. My guess is neither can you. "For no one can lay a foundation other than that which is laid, which is Jesus Christ." 1 Corinthians 3:11
PUT DOWN THE HAMMER AND PAINTBRUSH
We can't fully repair the cracks in our lives without the Lord, and we certainly can't afford to ignore them. If you are struggling with anxiety or depression (or other countless effects of hurt) like I did, consider taking a look at your foundation by asking God why. Be straightforward and practical. Lord, when and how did this originate? Am I believing any lies as a result of being hurt? Have I given the enemy access to my life through my response to wounds? What needs to happen so that I can experience healing and restoration? Then follow Him to the places of needed repair. If you need help, ask a trusted believer (me included!). When you let God take care of the foundation cracks, it's amazing how much stronger your whole house becomes. What He rebuilds has a way of being even more beautiful than it was before.
STANDING THROUGH THE STORMS
When our girls were little, we used to sing a song about the wise man who built his house on the rock and the foolish man who built his on the sand, based on Jesus' teaching in Matthew 7. Did you notice that He said storms would come for both of these people? "The rain came down, the streams rose, and the winds blew and beat against that house" BOTH times. Yet only the household living according to God's word was strong enough to remain standing. "It did not fall, because it had its foundation on the rock." Storms rage and cracks happen, and we'll continue to experience them during this lifetime. But if we build our lives upon the Rock of Jesus Christ, we can live with confidence that the cracks won't lead to collapse. We can stand — not because of our own strength, but because He upholds us.
Though we live in a broken world, the Lord's desire is not for His children to live in broken houses. He has made a way for us to live securely, if only we will choose it.
"My people will live in peaceful dwelling places, in secure homes, in undisturbed places of rest. Though hail flattens the forest, and the city is leveled completely, how blessed you will be." Isaiah 32:18-20