I first lived in the Old House. It was called that because it was the oldest house of sawed lumber east of the Peace River. My great grandfather had built it in 1876 after the original log cabin burned. Plumbing and electricity were not added until after my mother married my father in 1945. The bathroom was located in an ideal position – right off the back porch. After a day of working hard in the groves or with the cows, you stepped right into the bath room to shower off. Unfortunately, the electrician and plumber failed to communicate, so the fuse box and cloth insulated electric lines were also located in the bathroom (not exactly up to code).
For this reason (and many others) my mother built the New House when I was seven. It had air conditioning, a bedroom for each child, and best of all, a bath without a fuse box. The only problem was the architect was not familiar with the work habits of cattlemen. All the bathrooms in the house were located at the far end, away from the door most often used. Shortly after we moved into the house, my mother’s voice would ring out, “Stop tracking dirt through my new house!” Thus began the custom of stripping down to our underwear under the carport, hosing off, and dashing through the house.
This system worked pretty well until the day my mother was entertaining her bridge club. My brother and I were riding horses, had gotten sweaty, and needed to a good bath. We stripped as usual in the carport at the back of the house, not seeing the cars parked on the half-circle drive in the front of the house (where company entered). My brother hosed himself off, then squirted me in the face, temporarily blinding me. Naturally I took this as a provocation to get him in trouble, and perhaps sent to prison. I darted inside the house screaming “Steve squirted me in the eyes and now I am blinded for life!”
In my quest to find Mama, I ran in the direction of voices. The ladies were arrayed around a card table in the front room, where I was forbidden to ever set foot. I temporarily forgot this prohibition, my blindness inducing amnesia. I arrived in my underwear, my eyes squinted shut, sobbing, screaming, and dripping.
Apparently, the refined ladies of the Lemon Grove Bridge Club had never experienced sibling rivalry, or at least they had never heard it expressed so loudly by a sopping wet boy in his underwear. Their mouths formed large, silent “O’s” at this breach of etiquette. My mother flashed me a look that clearly communicated, “I am going to kill you.” At this moment my brother also entered the room, to act as his own defense counsel. He had reached the age where he was ashamed of his body in front of strange women, so his eyes widen, and he scampered down the hall to lock himself in the bathroom.
My memory of that night’s events are hazy after that. I recall peals of laughter, the abandonment of the bridge game, a beating for myself and my brother (I still don’t know why I was spanked – he was clearly the one at fault), and being forced to mop up the lake that had formed in the hall while my mother grieved over her new front room carpet, now clearly imprinted with mud.
Jesus cleanses us before we ever come in the house. His grace washes over all the dirt of our souls. He is never shocked. The power of His forgiveness deals with all the dirt that clings to you. There is never shock in the Father’s house when you come in, dripping of grace. There is only, “Welcome home.”