April 20, 2007

A Bigger House

It was the first time I had ever lived on my own, away from parents, for more than a week. My new "home" was a small cabin with a canvas roof at the scout camp where I served on staff. Even though it was a unique and somewhat artificial environment, it gave me my first taste of what it would be like to be on my own in the "real world."

Obviously, the small size of the cabin--and the fact that I shared it with another counselor--limited the amount of possessions I could have: clothes, bedding, toiletries, a few books, a cassette player, and other miscellaneous items, most of which I carried up the hill to my new home in a large duffel bag slung over my shoulder. Years later, I would realize that those weeks I spent living there were among the happiest of my life. A part of me knew this even then, but still, I couldn't help but dream of what it would be like when I really did have a place of my own.

That day came soon enough, when I moved into the dorms at Chapman University. My room was small (as dorm rooms typically are), yet it did have a solid roof, a bed, a desk, a dresser, and a closet. The stuff I brought with me on move-in day only filled about half of the storage space available to me. I wondered if I would ever use it all, but the wondering stopped a few weeks later when I ran out of room.

I lived in Chapman's dorms for four years, the first two with a roommate, the last two in a private room. I acquired more belongings, using all the storage space available to me, even when I had a room to myself.

After graduation, I moved into an apartment with my new wife. Over the next several years, we lived in several different apartments, the last being an 800 square-foot unit in Los Osos. That apartment, with its two bedrooms, retro-shag carpet, and small backyard, suited our family (which now included a baby) just fine.

Seven years ago, we moved from Los Osos ("The Bears") to Rio Oso ("Bear River"). We also moved out of our 800 square-foot apartment and into a parsonage about three times as big.

When we arrived at our new home, I walked through the living room (which seemed to be as big as our entire apartment in Los Osos) and laughed. I sat down on the floor in the middle of the room and laughed some more. With three large bedrooms, two bathrooms, an office, and an enormous two-car garage, I couldn't imagine ever using all the space in this house!

It didn't take long, though. The house quickly filled with new belongings ... and new people. We had a second child. Shortly after that, we welcomed an exchange student into our home. Then, a group of teenagers from the community began hanging out here. For the second time, one of those teenagers is now living with us indefinitely.

Needless to say, our house is full.

Today, my wife is taking advantage of an unexpected day off from work to clean out closets, sort through belongings, figure out what to keep and what to get rid of. She expects to have a good van-load of stuff to take to Goodwill.

I now know that whatever the size of the house, it will somehow be full. Different people define "full" in different ways--some can tolerate a lot more clutter than others--but however one defines it, it will happen.

I believe that it's a natural law of living. It's as if the size of the house creates a certain expectation, and the house will quickly fill to meet that expectation. How big it is doesn't matter; the house will always be full. "Full" is its natural state, and if the house has extra, unused space, it will somehow find a way to fill it.

God help me if I should ever live in anything bigger than the house I currently occupy!

If only my expectations for other things in life could be as big as the house I dread. In my mind, I have built houses for all sorts of things,including my finances, my career, my relationships ... even the role and influence of this blog and my writings. I truly believe that however big a "house" I build for these things, they will grow to fill that house. That is to say, whatever my expectations are, whether they are big or small, those expectations will be met.

Am I thinking big enough when it comes to the relationships in my life? Are my expectations too low when it comes to my financial situation? Have I really opened myself up to allowing God to use me to my fullest potential?

Note to self: I will build a bigger house! I will build it large enough for all the blessings God is sending my way. There will be a big room for good finances, an enormous den for positive relationships, and a spacious changing room to transform the blessings I receive into blessings I can give to others. There will be plenty of room for good health and an enriching spiritual life. The house will be big enough for all the fun, happiness and love I expect to come my way.

All these blessings will be mine. I'm building a house big enough for them, and the house will be filled.

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