A House With Walls of Hope – Hebrews 3
By Christie Purifoy
For Jesus has been counted worthy of more glory than Moses – as much more glory as the builder of a house has more honor than the house itself. (For every house is built by someone, but the builder of all things is God.) Now Moses was faithful in all God’s house as a servant, to testify to the things that were to be spoken later, but Christ is faithful over God’s house as a son. And we are his house if indeed we hold fast our confidence and our boasting in our hope (Hebrews 3:3-6).
My toddler daughter is learning to speak. As yet, she has no word for house, but she is coming closer. She is building a shelter with each new word. Her words are bricks. Daddy. Mama. Sissie. Baby. Kitty.
One day soon she will run her tongue over her growing vocabulary, and she will understand the one word that strains to embrace all of these.
Then she will say house.
My preschool-aged son draws a crayon picture of our home. This is an act of creation and translation. His house is a box. The box squats beneath a triangle hat. The box looks back at us through window eyes. It smiles a front-door smile.
My son does not smile back. His eyebrows tunnel downward until the cheerful box-house is crumpled in his hand.
“I can’t make this. It isn’t right,” he cries.
I wonder if my son has lost his infant wisdom. Has he forgotten a truth his baby sister is only now discovering?
A house can never be wholly contained in one word. Or even in one black-lined box. A house is many words (daddy, mama, sissie, baby, kitty). A house is subtle lines and shades of color.
A house is a marvelous and a glorious and an elusive thing.
So much more elusive than the stacked bricks I call home.
The book of Hebrews names us. As my young daughter names me. As she names her sister. In Hebrews we are called God’s house.
This name is a marvelous and a glorious and an elusive thing.
Once upon a time, God’s house was the Temple. In this sacred house, heaven met earth.
Once upon a later time, God’s house was a man named Jesus. This house was broken, crumpled like a child’s drawing. But this house was made new for all time.
In the days of our own story, we are the body that was broken and made new. We are the Temple. We are the meeting place of heaven and earth.
I sit with my preschool-aged son by one elbow and my toddler daughter by the other. Our backs dimple the pillows on the sofa. We are reading The Three Little Pigs.
My daughter sees the big bad wolf and makes animal noises. My son stares at the illustration of two crumpled pig-dwellings. The first made of straw. The second made of sticks. Only the brick house fulfills its destiny. Only the brick house endures.
My son says with big eyes, “Our house is made with bricks, right?”
“Yes,” I say.
And my yes is a very big word. It shelters many other words and many elusive ideas. Beneath its umbrella I see myself. I see my brothers and sisters in the Body. We can hear the huffing and the puffing, those terrifying wolf-sounds. And we are often afraid.
But we hold tight to hope. We will not let it go no matter how our little legs may tremble.
We may not always feel this hope. We may not always understand it. Hope is also a marvelous and a glorious and an elusive thing.
At times we must hold it in our hands, as a thing distinct from ourselves, like a gift we’ve been given. Only on some days do we feel this hope in our hearts. Quite often it is a foreign concept, an elusive idea we observe through the desperate grip of our fingers.
We watch it there and only rarely see that the thing in our hands has also become the roof over our heads and the walls at our sides.
Christie Purifoy earned a PhD in English literature from the University of Chicago. She recently traded reading lists and classrooms for a vegetable garden and a henhouse in southeastern Pennsylvania. Now she writes stories at an old desk in the parlor of a Victorian farmhouse called Maplehurst. When the noise of her four young children makes writing impossible, she tends zucchini and tomatoes her children will later refuse to eat. The zucchini-loving chickens are perfectly happy with this arrangement.
The chickens move fast and the baby crawls faster, but Christie is always watching for the beauty, mystery and wonder that lie beneath it all. When she finds it, she shares it at ChristiePurifoy.com.