Not to worry—my musings here do not rise to the level of A. J. Jacobs’ A Year of Living Biblically in which he literally attempts to follow all the Old Testament Jewish injunctions to godly living. Nor do they rival Rachel Held Evans’ equally radical effort to abide by scripture’s directives for women in A Year of Biblical Womanhood. In fact, both Jacobs and Evans wrote about their experiences after a yearlong attempt to live overenthusiastically different lifestyles.
No, this is me attempting to come to grips with a season of transition. After nearly forty years as homeowners, my husband and I are temporary (we hope) renters.
These walls are not my own. Not mine to choose paint colors. Not mine (or more correctly my husband’s) to tap multiple small nail holes into in search of a stud.
Since we hope to be renters for no more than a year, I’ve decided not to bother with putting any more than the bare minimum—keys and calendars—on these walls. To do more will only create holes which we will need to repair when we leave. (OK—the wine rack is up too, sans wine. An egregious oversight sure to be remedied with a few more weekend trips to local wineries.)
It took me a month to come to this decision. And I still wonder: Have I given into laziness or despondency? Is this the wise, pragmatic choice? Or a nod to the minimalist lifestyle now in vogue? (A brief aside: Isn’t it ironic that we patronize Martha Stewart and the mavens of lifestyle and home decor who advocate we do more with less, but rack up conspicuously consumptive bottom lines)
But back to my bare walls. In one sense, they are an acknowledgement of loss. And grief. We’ve left behind a certain sense of stability and control that comes with homeownership. We’ve moved away from church and work communities that provided a sense of family. It will take some time to reestablish those. But I could choose to view these empty walls as a metaphor for starting over. They could be the blank canvas for our next season of life.
For me, and I suspect for most women, decorating our homes is a reflection of us and our families. The wall hangings packed away in the boxes in the garage reflect my interests and personality. The plaques speak to our faith. The family photos remind me of God’s provision of children and his faithfulness in their rearing to adulthood. Leaving it boxed up feels like leaving part of me packed away, like I am less than the person I’m meant to be because part of it won’t see the light for several more months.
The pragmatist in me asks, “If you can live without it for a year, did you really need to move it?” My heart answers, “I’ll tell you in a year—when I unpack those boxes.” If those photos and hangings still connect with my soul, the answer will be yes. Yes, I did need to move those cross-stitched baby announcements and the framed photos marking our children’s passage through elementary school and high school graduation. Yes, I did need to hold on to that antique mirror—an advertising piece for my grandfather’s blacksmith shop. Yes, I still cherish my children’s artistic works—created when they were three or eighteen. They speak of joys and hope, of creative energy, and personality quirks. Guests in our home learn almost as much about us from the works on our walls as the words we speak. They show and tell.
But there is the danger of identifying too strongly with physical and cultural identifiers. How many of us are described by ourselves and others by what we do rather than who we are? My challenge in the months ahead will be to not let these bare walls define me, but rather to view them as an object lesson. It may be that God needs me and these walls uncovered and uncluttered for the next chapter he’s writing in my life. They are a reminder to hold these earthly objects loosely. For just as these walls are not mine, this world is not my home. It’s a staging area for my eternal home. And my heavenly Father is in charge of its décor.