“Being unwanted, unloved, uncared for, forgotten by everybody, I think that is a much greater hunger, a much greater poverty than the person who has nothing to eat.” ~Mother Teresa
Close your eyes. You stand staring at a condemned house. Weeds and ivy have taken over the land. Broken glass litters the ground. A window in front is boarded shut with splintered wood. The windows upstairs are broken and dark. The roof is caving in and the entire structure is in shambles. Everything about the house resembles death, darkness, danger and broken dreams.
And across the front door, a sign is hung: Keep Out.
Some might view this scene as depressing. Others may find it intriguing or even a tad romantic. What could possibly have led to such a sad sight? What was the story behind the old house?
Speaking for myself, it overwhelms my heart with sadness. It represents the death of dreams, of life, of light. A condemned house smacks of something precious that was slowly and painfully destroyed, whether intentionally or through neglect.
Do you know what is even more upsetting? Many of us have hung a ‘condemned’ sign over our own hearts.
According to Merriam Webster, ‘condemned’ is defined as:
*to pronounce guilty
*to adjudge unfit for use or consumption
I think the related words are even more descriptive: attack, blame, criticize, fault, belittle, deprecate, doom, convict, curse, detest, hate, revile.
Are you overwhelmed with fear? Insecurity? Do you feel like you never measure up? Maybe you’ve struggled for years with depression, grief, people-pleasing, addiction or anxiety. Maybe you’ve been sexually or emotionally abused. Maybe there is something in your past that you know God has forgiven you for but you just can’t forgive yourself.
If you feel ‘stuck’ in this same rut of struggle and helplessness, you may have a ‘condemned’ sign hanging on your heart.
Have you ever told yourself any of these things?
__ Why can’t I stop these bad habits?
__ I’m a pathetic Christian.
__ I feel useless.
__ I don’t read my Bible enough or pray enough.
__ I don’t see how God could truly love me.
__ If others knew the real me, they wouldn’t love me.
__ I just need to try harder.
__ It’s easier to keep to myself than open up to others.
__ Loving people is too risky.
__ I’m not good enough.
__ Compared to ______________, I’m terrible.
Whether we realize it or not, these ‘self-talks’ can be one of the subtle forms of condemnation.
The Two Types of Condemned Houses
Condemned houses can take two different forms: the scare-away or the fake-out.
The scare-away house is the one mentioned in the start of this section. It’s openly condemned and looks to be in shambles. Signs are plastered all over it warning people the imminent danger of approaching. In the same way, a scare-away heart is the person who feels so unworthy that they live in fear and dwell on their past mistakes or they are so terrified of opening themselves to others that they hang the ‘keep out’ sign in front. They appear cranky and unlovable as a way to protect their hearts.
The fake-out house is a little trickier. It may actually look pretty good on the outside. But the inside, oh mercy! It’s structurally unsound. There are massive holes in the dry wall. An engineer could come through and fill up an entire clipboard full of problems in every corner. However, the public and the real estate agent may miss it because of the fresh paint covering the walls and the warm cookies on the counter.
The fake-out heart bears little difference from the scare-away heart except that it keeps its pain carefully hidden, coated in pretty paint and good works but broken inside.
And when a house is condemned, what happens? It’s no longer habitable and is scheduled for destruction.
Take heart, my friend. Condemned houses can still be restored. All it takes is someone with an eye to see its potential, and the ability to rebuild it into something amazing. We’ll talk about that very thing in part two.
What kind of house are you…the scare-away, or fake-out? I would love to hear!