Looking for home

It’s become one of my happy phrases: “Are y’all ready to see your fixer-upper?”

We didn’t even know about the HGTV cable series Fixer Upper until episodes became available for streaming. To me, at least, it’s addictively binge-worthy. Hosts Chip and Joanna Gaines have what seems to be a delightfully playful relationship (and Chip is always ready to clown for the camera), their kids are adorable and well-loved, and the renovation projects stunning.

If you’re not familiar with the show, the routine runs like this. You meet the clients, find out why they’re looking for a new home in the area (Waco, Texas), and hear their budget. Chip and Jo show them three homes that need various cosmetic and structural fixes and help them envision what could be done within their budget (and a dollar goes a whole heck of a lot further in Waco than Southern California!). The clients choose, and the Gaines crew goes to work. Floors are ripped out; walls are knocked down; cabinets are trashed. Unanticipated problems delay the project and raise the expenses. But little by little the remodel takes shape.

Eventually comes the moment of the big reveal. The clients are brought to the remodeled house, which at first is screened from view. The either Jojo or Chip asks, “Are y’all ready to see your fixer-upper?” and the screen is rolled back. Nearly every client says some version of “Oh, my God!” when they see the beautifully transformed house; they keep saying it as they walk through the renovation, sometimes with tears of gratitude.

And for whatever reason, watching the clients’ reaction to the big reveal always makes me really, really happy.

I mean, really happy.

A psychologist might say, “Oh, it’s just emotional contagion. The clients are ecstatic, you see their reaction and facial expression, and it triggers a similar reaction in you.” Yes, I suppose that’s true.

Or someone might say, “That just shows how materialistic you are! Having a beautiful house must be really important to you.” Well, maybe. Some of the houses they fix up are strewn with garbage and uglier than a pimple on a possum (wow, I just made that up), and I certainly wouldn’t want to live there. And I can’t deny being materialistic in ways that I may not even realize. But I also don’t desire to live in most of the renovated houses they show. Visit, yes; live in, no. I admire the work and style, but the homes seem too big and too fancy for me. Materialism doesn’t explain why that climactic moment in each episode can actually make me joyful to the point of tears.

I think my reaction, at least in part, has something else behind it, something that I suspect underlies the huge popularity of the show. Whether we know it or not, we are all looking for a place to call home. A real home — a place where we can, to echo what Chip often tells clients, “live happily ever after.”

Behind my response, then, I believe there is a faint but forward-looking glimpse of my heavenly hope. For all that the world has to offer, there is a part of me that knows that this is not my eternal home, at least not without some serious renovation. As much as I love my wife and family, as much as I enjoy and am grateful for my life, there is always something that reminds me that I’m not home yet.

“Welcome home,” Jojo tells clients as they cross the threshold of their dream house for the first time. Yes. There is a part of me that is ready to be welcomed home, and that part is growing stronger with each passing year. Don’t get me wrong: I don’t have a death wish, and I’m not looking for a heavenly mansion lined with gold (or subway tile or Carrera marble or repurposed shiplap or…).  But lately, my wife and I have been witnessing more and more the ravages of age in our friends and family, while feeling our own aches and pains. What will it be like to live in resurrection bodies in a world rescued from sin and death? That’s worth waiting for.

Something in my spirit prays: Oh, my God, yes, I’m ready to see my fixer-upper.