The Realtor flipped her blond hair back and asked, “Well?  What do you think?” We looked at her, confused. What did we think? The house was awful! Where could we start? There was only a single bathroom tucked in behind the kitchen downstairs, and what a kitchen it was!  Horrible brown vinyl on the floor; open ceiling joists above, with electrical wires hanging hither and yon…in short, it was a disaster. And the rest of the house!  We didn’t have words to describe it. “I know it needs a little help,” the agent offered, weakly. “But,” she said, gaining momentum, “there is a lot of potential. It could be a great house!” I wasn’t sure that I saw it, but I looked over at the Lovely Lady. She looked back and me and nodded. We could handle this!

And, we did.  For the next 18 years, with a lot of help, we gradually roofed, sided, painted, re-floored, and replaced just about everything in that old house. It had potential! We helped it begin to realize that potential. The work was never finished, but we loved the old place and raised our children there until they were ready to fly the nest.

The old gentleman wandered in the store this morning and I asked him how he was doing. “I’d say there’s room for improvement,” was his cryptic reply. I’d like to think that I helped a little in the improvement department as I replaced the old strings on his splendid Martin guitar. He was smiling as he left, which hadn’t really been the case when he arrived.

His words gave me pause today, though. Room for improvement. As I thought about it, I realized that I like that condition. Actually, I like it better than “mint condition”. The thing about mint condition is that the way you find it is as good as it will ever be. From that point onward, the item will be deteriorating. The next time someone tells you that a car you are considering for purchase is in mint condition, understand that they are telling you in reality, “This is as good as it gets! It’s all downhill from here!”

I hope you don’t think that my viewpoint is a cynical one, because I certainly don’t mean it to be. I just like the idea that there is room for improvement. It applies to people, too.

When two people stand before the preacher and say their wedding vows, perhaps it would be better if he would say it like that. The words we hear should give warning, but many times we are too starstruck, our rose-colored glasses, perhaps, tinting the picture we see too much. “For better or for worse (he may not put down the toilet seat), for richer, for poorer (her credit cards are already maxed out), in sickness and in health (he whines when he gets a splinter in his finger), for as long as you both shall live (there will be room for improvement).”

All of us, every single one, are fixer-uppers. We all have room for improvement. Even for the best of us there is still a lot of potential. Our job is to help each other grow toward that potential. We will never, this side of heaven, reach that full potential. Our sin nature will guarantee that. The essential thing is to be moving in the right direction. Without spending a lot of time on doctrine (you know where to find the necessary instructions), we just need to know that God’s grace gives us the second chances we need, again and again. As we walk together, we need to be, not only ministers of that grace, but handymen and women, ready to help our fellow pilgrims grow and improve.

Funny thing about that old house. Our first glance at it was filled with ridicule and contempt. But, as we got personally involved and started to improve it, we began to respect the old place. Even today, we drive past and there is almost a reverence as we point out the things we still love about it. That’s the way it works with our relationships also. When we’re bystanders, seeing only the faults, we are contemptuous and disrespectful. When we have a personal stake, we see the potential, the things that can be and we learn to respect and love. And, it keeps getting better, the more involved we become!

We left that old house still with room for improvement. I’m happy to see that the subsequent owners have continued the process. The beautiful old place is still not as good as it gets. I’m glad that the Creator looks at you and me that way too.

I’d hate to think that there was nowhere to go but down.

“But encourage one another day after day, as long as it is still called “Today,” so that none of you will be hardened by the deceitfulness of sin.”
(Hebrews 3:13~NASB)

“How wonderful it is that nobody need wait a single moment before starting to improve the world.”
(Anne Frank~German Jewish diary-keeper~1929-1944)

© Paul Phillips. He’s Taken Leave. 2012. All Rights Reserved.

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