Four crumbling stairs leading up the hill from the rock-encrusted sidewalk—that’s all that’s left. If you drove by today, you wouldn’t know that I once smashed honey bees on the driveway with a shovel, or that I did so barefooted until one got a squishy revenge. You also wouldn’t know about the loft in the garage where my brothers would hide away or the window in my room that thieves peeked through before they stole our bikes. You’d never see the stairs leading out the back door where my mom would sit while we brought her giant grasshoppers to examine or plums from the fruit trees.
You see, I had this idea that one day, when I got the chance, I’d take my wife and girls to Marion, Alabama. I’d show them the house where I spent the first five years of my life, regaling them with stories about the giant heating grate in the middle of the hall that my brother used as a bathroom while sleepwalking, and the stove fire that sent my dad to the hospital, and the small square pond with goldfish that our landlady’s cat loved to eat.
But I can’t—at least, not the way I intended. My oldest brother dashed this plan by posting a Google Street View image. The two neighboring houses still stand. Ours is gone. Completely. Considering the size of the trees that now play the stand-in role, I’m guessing the house disappeared years ago (given our experience with electrical issues there, probably in a blaze of glory).
I’ve been told by movies and books that I can’t go home again, and this sad image of an empty lot does make a pretty good case for that. But that house—no matter the memories of watching PBS in the living room or music blaring from my brothers’ stereo—that house was never my home, not really. Nor is the house where I spent most of my youth, nor is the place I live now.
Seeing an empty lot reminded me how easily the things here on earth disappear. One moment you’re settling into a comfortable Alabama life; the next you’re suddenly uprooted for Tennessee. And when you look back, all that’s left is in your head.
When I saw the empty lot in Marion, it reminded me of an old song that I’ve never really liked. I know I’m supposed to because it’s a classic and all. But I don’t. I do admit that it makes a ton of sense:
Turn your eyes upon Jesus,
Look full in His wonderful face,
And the things of earth will grow strangely dim,
In the light of His glory and grace.
We can try to cling to all the stuff around us—our family, our house, our money—but it all disappears. That’s why our foundation is so important. Building on the Rock of Christ isn’t just a happy-happy phrase that we can post on our fridge and feel good about. It’s a necessity. If we build on anything else, even without realizing it, we might look down someday to find our foundation and discover it’s gone.