I moved into my house 27 years ago, and the house across the street had already been in the same family for two decades. Last Friday, after half a century of uninterrupted ownership, the bungalow had a sign planted in front of it with the name and number of a real estate office.
Every “for sale” sign has a story behind it. Divorce. Death. Job relocation. Upward mobility. Downturning economy. Empty nesting. The modest little house across the street partakes of a few of these categories, though every demise is unique in its details.
I suppose the tale can be told from different perspectives. One is the immigrant narrative: A hard-working, self-denying tailor from Eastern Europe moves in with his equally no-nonsense wife (also a professional seamstress) and they raise two children. Though they know it not, their children will be more like the people of their new country than the people of their old country. A new ethic of quick wealth and comfort supplant the old ethic of gradual accumulation of wealth. Or a new ethic of marriage as Nirvana replaces the notion of marriage as work and patience.
The Bible teaches us the principle of gradualness. Righteousness is like a seed that works gradually, but sin is also a seed-like or leaven-like thing. It is a slow-creeping vine that in the end takes over like kudzu and smothers every living thing. Its early stages do not appear deadly or consequential.
The Bible also teaches us the principle of the internal preceding the external. Something can be bad for a long time before the problem erupts into the external world. Pastors or churches that make the scandal sheets were infected with moral rot for a long time before it surfaced and manifested publicly. By the time you see black mold on your living room wall, you may have to cut away some of the drywall because the spores grows inside the material, not just on the surface. The house of Jesus’ parable that got washed away required a storm to destroy it, because it looked pretty good until the rains came.
Which brings us back to the forlorn single family dwelling across the street. How many years of one little rotten choice after another, one day after another, does it take to lose a house that has been proudly standing for some 50 years?