We purchased this 1894 house only 6 months ago. While my husband and I plan on raising our family here in what we hope will become a generational home, it is more than just our physical dwelling. Likewise, it is more than a source of economic potential and community pride for the area. It is a tool that has inspired me to see people as the greatest source of potential for building a community. It is also a warning not to abuse such potential. Such is the story of the fireplace.
Upon walking into the home through the original French doors, you can see a fireplace encased by a hand-hewn mantle with a beautiful mirror above it. According to the local folks as well as the articles I have read, Laura had, not only an artistic gift, but a tangy sense of humor that revealed itself in this room. Laura Pope Foresterś husband was a Justice of the Peace; therefore, many weddings were officiated here. Prior to the beginning of the ceremony, Laura would ask the bride and groom to gaze into the mirror "at their last look at freedom." (Comic relief or truth? Mmm...a blog for another day.) The mirror and mantle are still in great shape. Unfortunately, the fireplace is not. At all. But it does remind me of a truth that shapes my behavior.
When we bought the home, we found clothes and cardboard partially burned and stuffed up inside the chimney. Yes, I am serious.
While a chimney is obviously a place to burn things, it is not the same as a burning trash barrel. The interior box is ruined and the actual bricks must come completely down. There is a lesson here:
When you use something in a way that was not intended, abuse and damage happens.
It is the same with people. When I expect someone to act or to live in a way that was not intended, neglect (at best ) and abuse (at worst) is the natural result. For example: When I forget that my children are not meant to act like adults--rather, they are going to naturally act like silly, immature children--I am bound to lose my temper with them. When I expect my husband to satisfy all of my emotional and spiritual needs, I am bound to see him as a failing husband and treat him poorly if he does not fulfill my unrealistic demands. When I expect anything from my job other than an income, I am bound to be disappointed and therefore negatively adjust my job performance. When I expect the church to gratify my needs instead of equipping me to go out and impact my culture for Christ, I can imagine that my church is failing me.
The bottom line is this:
Damage happens when I expect something or someone to act in a way that does not coincide with their original purpose.
Let's reexamine our relationships and discover how to treat them as they are supposed to be treated instead of transferring our trash or burning our burdens into them.