Average read time: 5 min
In a very small town in Texas very far away from where I am currently sitting in my Nashville, Tennessee, dining room, there is a very old house that sits on an extremely quiet country road.
This very old house is unlike any other old house I have ever seen, although it does carry some of the same characteristics of any old house on any old country road; it has a graveyard of rusty, junky things strewn about the yard. Bits and pieces of things that once were, things that used to have motors and move about town or on dusty rural roads. The house has an old dog and an old man and an old front porch. Pretty typical.
This house is forever etched in my brain—a mysterious scene from childhood with its grey, rotting boards and wispy, yellow-grassed front lawn. I passed by it routinely while riding in the car on quiet drives to my grandma’s house.
The strange thing about this house is that, in its old age, it leaned.
It was a house that leaned so far to the right, you wondered how it was still standing at all. Its lean was close to a seventy-five-degree angle, yet people lived inside. Very poor people. People who probably owned that property and that house for years and years and passed it down carefully to younger generations—it being all they owned. You could probably walk on the right side of the house, and if you were tall enough, hit your head on the crusty and grey wood siding.
The siding of the House That Leaned looked like if you touched it, you would get a thousand splinters in your hand; the wood was that aged and cracked and worn. It no longer was the healthy color of wood, but the color of untreated lumber after it has been through a hundred years of wet weather and sun.
The House That Leaned was situated in a generous sized lot, with the junky, rusted things preceding its front porch like ancient guardians. It was sandwiched between two other lots containing only ruins.
One lot contained a sagging front porch connected to half a wall of what used to be a house. The other lot: a dilapidated shack with the roof caved in on one side with holes where windows used to sit. Both ruins had the junky ancient protectors guarding the walk up to what would have been the front doors: old tires, metal barrels, rusted out old cars. Modern art installations we might now call them—shadowy depictions of what used to be, poor representations of the poor that were housed there.
The two houses on either side did not make it—time got the best of the properties and their owners abandoned them, allowing them to rot slowly away under the East Texas sun. However, that one house in the middle—the House That Leaned—still stood. It wasn’t perfect, but it was standing.
When we would drive by this house on the way to visit my grandma, I would often see an elderly man sitting quietly on the porch in an antique chair, his eyes staring at the road gently, and his mind knowing something solid and true. Everything looked dusty—he looked dusty—the summer sun had grown the grass in the front lawn tall and dried it yellow. The warm breeze pushed the long dried strands of grass back and forth like waves of water against the rusted and forgotten mechanical things.
The old man sat and would think toward the road. One time in passing, I saw his woman come out of the sideways door with an apron tied around her wide hips and she said something in his direction. He smiled and nodded at her, and then his eyes went back to the road for quiet contemplation. I wondered how in the evenings they might sit together on a couch oddly angled because of a drooping floor. I wondered how poor they were, how rich they were. The shack they lived in was lowering itself to the ground slowly, but it still stood, whilst neighbors had fallen. What do they know that I don’t? About keeping shack houses up and running till death?
I want to know how to keep a house from falling to the ground. It would be good information to have.
I think about the House That Leaned often; I am older, and it is too. The people I saw on its porch are probably long gone, but the mysterious image of the shack that stayed up long enough for people to still live in it is etched in my memory.
I see the House That Leaned when I start complaining about my apartment or my neighborhood or not owning my own home. I envision it when someone tries to convince me I am unlearned for not traveling to enough foreign countries. I daydream about it when I overhear someone lust after a pair of expensive pants they just have to have. I picture it sometimes when I give thanks for my dinner. I remember it when I feel like the food in my fridge isn’t good enough for me to eat.
I have so much I take for granted, so much I throw away because it isn’t good enough anymore, and so much I lust after because someone tells me I’m not good enough because I do not have it. I have everything I need, yet I want more.
What is good enough? What is enough?
I would rather spend my time sending deep thoughts toward the road like the elderly man than chasing a pair of jeans; being grateful for what I have, instead of constantly hunting down what I don’t; giving away the extra, rather than storing it greedily or swallowing it down fast.
Jesus, teach me that You are enough—that You uphold and provide—that I have all I need already. Teach me to be poor in spirit and walk in humility, to be generous, and to find worth in You, rather than in the things that are fleeting.
The memory of the House That Leaned is good medicine.
Matthew 6: 25-34
25 “Therefore I tell you, do not be anxious about your life, what you will eat or what you will drink, nor about your body, what you will put on. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothing? 26 Look at the birds of the air: they neither sow nor reap nor gather into barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not of more value than they? 27 And which of you by being anxious can add a single hour to his span of life? 28 And why are you anxious about clothing? Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow: they neither toil nor spin, 29 yet I tell you, even Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these. 30 But if God so clothes the grass of the field, which today is alive and tomorrow is thrown into the oven, will he not much more clothe you, O you of little faith? 31 Therefore do not be anxious, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ 32 For the Gentiles seek after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them all. 33 But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you. 34 Therefore do not be anxious about tomorrow, for tomorrow will be anxious for itself. Sufficient for the day is its own trouble.”
Note/disclaimer: I like a good pair of jeans and a fancy dinner just like the next person, and I’d love to own a nice house just like any other apartment-dweller/renter; however, this is something God is teaching me about lately: I have all I need already. I have enough, I have plenty—and that revelation should grow a deep contentment and generosity and humility in my spirit. The House That Leaned is a memory that I keep close to me to remind me I have enough.