This Old House
To find freedom for the future, you must release the past.
by Shirley A. Reynolds
Sleepless nights still haunted me. I thought all this anger about my mother’s abuse was gone, but it gripped me in fear when I least expected it — even now in adulthood, with a husband, grown daughter, and grandchild. I believed God had taken the feelings of anger for my mother away years before, but it reappeared with a fierce directive.
Something still gnawed at me — a bitterness. Every day I said, “Lord, I thought my bitterness was gone.” This forgiveness thing was bigger than I realized.
Two summers before, my husband, Ken, and I made our annual trip from Boise to Seattle, where I grew up. We visited relatives there, but it was also my time to drive by my old house.
On this occasion, the pull was stronger, but I wasn’t sure why. Maybe I needed to take pictures of the house and place them in my photo albums. If I do this one thing, I thought, maybe it will be the ticket to erasing the bitterness from my heart. Just one more visit.
Ken drove to my old neighborhood. Everything seemed fine until I noticed a For Sale sign in the middle of the front yard. “They can’t sell my house!” I cried.
My wise husband laid his hand on my shoulder and quietly said, “It’s not your house anymore.”
His comment dug deep in my heart. Why was I here? I had plenty of pictures already. I couldn’t figure myself out.
My plan was to snap a few pictures and go home. Throwing the camera strap around my neck, I walked into the backyard.
“Why am I here, God?’ I whispered. “What is Your plan? You always have a plan.”
Facing the house, I stared at the cement steps leading down to the basement. I sensed a luring, a pulling. Standing in front of the door, I cupped my hands against the window to peek inside. The door creaked open, and I jumped back in alarm. Ken followed me. “You can’t go in,” he said. “You could be arrested.”
I went in anyway. In the basement, I walked along the cement floor as I’d done so many times as a kid. On one side my dad’s workbench sat in the same place. I slid my hands over the rough surface. If someone buys this place, they will probably throw it away in a junk pile.
Overcome by the easy access, I sensed God’s presence. I knew He had provided this time for me, but I wasn’t sure why.
Memories and thoughts of my troubled childhood began to work their way into my mind — things I thought I had dealt with. Anger rose deep inside me. “Go away,” I whispered and walked toward the stairway.
With deliberate steps, I moved up the stairs. Each step felt as if my shoes were filled with cement, yet I knew God had my hand in His, that this was an important visit.
Prayer of purpose
Stepping onto the wooden landing, I sat in the corner, pulled my legs up to my chest as I had years ago, and began to pray. I couldn’t walk through the rest of the house until things were settled in my heart with the Lord.
Ken remained on the bottom step and gave me that old familiar grin. He knew what I needed to accomplish. I didn’t mourn over the things that happened here many years ago; that was in the past. Rather, I prayed for the future and being able to leave my anger once and for all on this landing. It seemed important.
I began to sing “Jesus Love Me,” a song I’d learned at church as a child, and sang it over and over. It had brought peace in my heart when I sat on this landing after episodes with my mother.
On this day, there were no tears. I didn’t need to pour out all the abuse issues; I needed to leave this house knowing I’d left my anger behind.
Ken’s words lingered in my thoughts: It’s not your house anymore. I realized our visit this day wasn’t just about my anger; it was about releasing and walking away from this house — for good.
I prayed, tears running down my cheeks. “Lord, please lift me up from this anger I’ve harbored in my heart for so many years. I thought it was gone. Now I see You need to take me from this place and let it go. Please, do that Lord. Do it now.”
Flood of peace
Sitting there a short while, I raised my head and smiled at my husband. A peace I hadn’t experienced in years flooded me. I looked around at the spider webs and wooden landing; they had no place in my heart anymore. “It’s done,” I said, and we walked up the stairs.
There was a bounce in my steps. I knew I would not be facing the anger again. I no longer wanted to see things from the point of my mother’s abuse; I wanted to see the good things: the sunshine yellow kitchen; the flowers on the wallpaper; the light coming through the breakfast nook windows.
Back in time
Ken grasped my hand, and together we went upstairs and walked through the rest of the house. “It’s the same,” I said. “Everything from the wallpaper, flooring, appliances . . . it’s all like it was when I was a kid.”
I moved up the stairs to my old bedroom. Sunlight beamed through the bay window. “See Mount Rainier? It’s perfectly clear. I used to sit on this windowsill and daydream.”
My parents’ room was also the same, with its slanted ceiling. In my childhood, their room was forbidden territory. Now I was free to enter with my husband.
As we walked down to the front room, the dark cherry-colored hardwood greeted me. “This is the same too, Ken. Unbelieveable.”
Smelling the roses
Then Ken waited behind me as I made my way to the back porch. I loved this porch since Mom planted a rose garden on the other side. I’d sit and smell the roses. Today the roses were in bloom. Only God could have managed that!
For the first time, I looked at the beauty of the flowers, not the thorns on the vines. Red-, yellow-, and peach-colored blossoms seemed to open and say, “Welcome!” This time, tears fell — not tears of pain but tears of joy.
Ken closed the back door, once and for all time. I was so at peace. We walked together to the other side of the house. Then, I noticed one last thing.
Still attached to the doorway of the house was the screen door. Our huge family crest with the letter G was imprinted on the front. Oh, how I wanted that screen door!
When I arrived home in Idaho, I called the realtor, explained that I grew up in that house, and asked for the screen door before a new owner moved in.
The realtor answered, “I go to the church across the street from the house, and am aware that your family lived there. I would be happy to arrange a pickup of the screen door for you.”
A smile crept across my face. Funny how God works.
Change of house and heart
A year passed since our visit to my childhood home, and I looked online to see if the house had sold. When the pictures appeared on the screen, I didn’t even recognize it. New siding, no side porch, no roses, no swings in the back yard. Inside everything was modern and new. There was no sign of my old house.
While flipping through the various pictures of the remodeled house, I shook my head and smiled, thinking of my husband’s words: “It’s not your house anymore.” Someone new lives there now. And I don’t have to go back.