The Basement Room
We, each of us, have a house inside our souls. A beautiful place that we have built over the span of our lifetimes, each a little different from any other. This dwelling is not only where we live, but also what we show people when they meet us. Some people only ever see the yard, others make it to the sitting room just off the foyer, some leave something of themselves behind.
Each home, like each person, is unique. One may have a huge kitchen and a library and a spiral staircase. Another may have a sprawling layout, big bedrooms, and bathrooms that could double as day-spas. But every house has a room–the basement room.
It’s a place that we’ve made off-limits to visitors and that we rarely acknowledge. Inside that room is nothing except maybe a beat up, threadbare rug. Under the rug is a trap door, inset with a large metal ring, polished smooth by time and repeated use. The trap door creaks like it may break in half as you open it to reveal a small dark space, occupied by a black box, covered in locks.
This box is where we store every thing we don’t want others to see. This is our vault of failures, mistakes, and hidden desires. This is where our secret sins are hidden.
Most of the time we live in feigned ignorance of this box. We show people around our houses, and parade them through all the beautiful rooms that look too perfect to be lived in. Maybe a few special people even get a tour of the rooms that are under repair, but no one ever sees the room with the box. Ever.
When life is going well, we may even forget about the box for a time. We focus on our upper level renovations, making strides to improve our houses. We throw lavish parties and have guests over often.
Eventually, though, it happens. A particular darkness creeps its way in and before we know it, we realize that something has to be added to the box in the basement room.
We tell would-be visitors that it’s not a good time. We pull the shades. We slowly make our way to whatever beautiful room holds our latest mistake. In isolation, with much struggle and pain, we strive to lift our burden until it is slung over our back, weighing us down as we begin to walk. One labored step at a time we begin to make our way through the house and down the stairs. Finally, when we have fought and sweat our way through the house, opened the door to our secret room, moved the frayed rug, and lifted the trap door, we stare at our black box. One lock at a time, with guilt and shame as our constant companions, we open the box. Then, in one desperate motion, not daring to look, we shove our burden inside and slam the lid closed once more.
Later, much later, eventually, we invite guests back to our house, but we find ourselves constantly worrying about how close they are getting to some of the doors. We are never at peace. We are anxious, afraid we’ll be exposed. Over time people visit less often, put off by our constant evasion and ever-increasing house rules.
Then one day, out of loneliness, or desperation, or maybe even necessity, we invite a new Guest into our house. He is content to chat by the entrance for a long time, but eventually He asks us for the full tour. Proudly we show Him our favorite rooms, lingering in the biggest and the best our home has to offer. Reluctantly we show Him the current remodeling projects as well, surprising ourselves by even taking some of His make-over suggestions.
Then He points to the basement stairs and we can feel our dread. Anger joins the fear and we find ourselves trying to politely usher this impudent Guest out. Then, we demand He leaves, but His persistence and quiet spirit soon find us standing outside the basement room. After a gentle but unwavering demand we together walk into the room no one was ever supposed to see. With grace and assurance, He moves the rug and points to the trap door.
His silent encouragement wins in the end. Each lock we remove brings a new emotion to the surface. Anger, fear, sadness, hatred, longing, disappointment, despair, shame, guilt. Our tears flow faster with each tumbler click and the air becomes too thin to get a full breath. As the last lock falls away, He puts His hand on top of the box. Better to let Him do it. We may not have the strength.
We stand as far from the foul black box as possible. He prepares to expose everything as we watch with mounting dread. In one swift motion He removes the lid, breaking the hinges and destroying any chance of reattachment. Looking on from our carefully planned distance the amazement is greater than we ever could have imagined. Taking one tentative step forward in disbelief, we see clearly. The box is empty.
There is not one rotten ugly thing inside. No shred of failure or scrap of disappointment. Not one single sin remains.
That’s when the realization hits. All the years spent dreading the box, all the ugly words said to ourselves about its contents, all the hours spent dragging our garbage through our beautiful mansion to this tiny dark room, they were pointless. All it would have taken to be rid of the box long ago was to share it with Him. To open the lid wide enough that nothing could hide inside.
Our eyes burn, not only from the swift onset of tears, but also from the radiant light that is coming from the opened box. In that moment we realize that the one-time Guest Who set us free, Who demanded to see every part of our home and refused to settle for less, is everywhere in our house, splashing every dark place with the purest light.
Picking up the black box but leaving behind the lid and all the locks that once weighed it down. Throwing open all the doors that once hid it away, we make our way back upstairs. Heading straight for the heart of the house we set the box on a table in the middle of the room. We then sweep through the house like a whirlwind, opening every curtain, unlocking every door, and flinging wide every window.
It doesn’t take long for others to notice and ask for a tour of our updated home. As they step onto the porch, we grab them by their hands and pull them along toward the room with the now empty box, nearly exploding with the excitement of sharing the good news with anyone willing to listen.
Our visitors stand in bewilderment. Then, the questions come, too fast and too numerous to be answered individually. Yet, we find ourselves ready with a quick answer for all of them, “Because of a Heavenly Friend, I have no need to hide from you, my friend.”
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