Pastor Don's Journal Articles
When a House Becomes a Home
In early September I was in Orlando for a funeral and, as I always do when in that city, I drove by the little house on Rockledge Road where once we lived. It was the first home we ever owned (the price: $50,000), and that's where we were living when John Mark was born. There's a tree in the front yard that we planted that very day (March 20, 1984). This time I worked up enough courage to stop the car and go to the front door.
“Hello. I used to live in this house", I told the woman who answered my knock.
“Oh, you must be the pastor", she replied. And I was shocked that, after thirty years, anyone would have remembered that.
She warmly welcomed me in and told me to feel free to look around. I did. The furniture was different, of course, updated, but so much else remained the same, just as I had it fixed in my mind. And that's when the memories flooded. Of John Mark crawling down the narrow hallway. Of the toilet paper he unrolled all over the bathroom. Shag carpeting. The Christmas tree with a cow bell on the bottom branch so that we would know when our son had gotten too close and we could come to the rescue before it all toppled. Of the day when the police showed up at our door because someone had dialed 911 but then wouldn't speak coherently on the phone. "We suggest you do something with your son", is what the deputy told me.
That tree in the front yard now dwarfs everything else on the entire street.
We moved to a larger, prettier house two blocks over for our last few years in Orlando. But you never forget the place where you really first became "family".
In May 1998, the Davidsons moved from a house we had lived in for eight years (at that time, the longest I had ever lived in any one place since childhood) to a much larger residence in another Danville subdivision, Laurel Woods. The new place was much better suited for the grand scale entertaining that Audrey enjoys doing. More room for our teenaged son, too. Its architecture was different, for sure, but exactly right for us -- at that time.
We still hated to leave the house on Corn Tassel Road, though. So many memories. This was where Jonathan Hilliard taught John Mark to ride his bike without training wheels. Where we lived for a time with our pet chow, Sugar. A man from our church erected a basketball goal in cement in our drive way the day we moved in and John Mark, his young friends and I, played ball there most afternoons after school. Sledding down the street and into our cul-de-sac when the February snows were deep.
The afternoon before we moved, my son and I went out to play basketball before it got dark.
"Hey, Dad,” he said, "I guess this is the last time we'll be doing this, huh?"
He knew, too, that with the pulling away of the moving van, our lives would change. That it wouldn't be the same.
And it wasn't.
I am always nostalgic about place. All the places where we have lived. The things that happened there. The patterns on the ceiling above my bed that I memorized on tearful, sleepless nights. The people who lived there with me, or the hundreds of guests we welcomed within those walls over the years. You can't go back -- not really. But each one still lights the corners of my mind and always will. I can visit them again in my dreams.
I had a sense of that on Sunday, just a flash of it, when I walked into our church sanctuary before too many worshipers had arrived. The sadness took me by surprise. After dreaming and planning about a renovated and improved worship space for years, we are now soon coming to the time to say goodbye to what we have known. That's over eleven years for me -- but maybe many, many more for you.
You were married in that room. Baptized. Had your babies dedicated. A sermon was preached from that platform that changed your life, perhaps (I have to believe it happens). Walking across and being honored on the occasion of your high school graduation. A casket containing a loved one was solemnly rolled down that aisle and out the front door to a waiting hearse. A certain "tree" that, when lighted, dwarfs everything most of us have ever seen.
With every move our family made (now it's back to just Audrey and me), our lives got better. More room meant we could do more things. It was never about ostentation or personal comfort but always about being able to serve the Kingdom better. More strangers around our table. More guest rooms to share with someone who needed a place to stay the night.
And so it will be with this renovation at church. I expect a few tears as the day finally comes to walk out. To say "Thank you, God" for all the great things that happened in that sanctuary over the more than sixty years First Baptist has called it home. But the steeple will still stand, the exterior will not look that much different from King Street, and many things about the interior will look very much the same, too. And when we come back into the new space, after 18 months or so in the Faith Activities Center, we will have a space that is larger, more functional and adaptable for the future. More space where we will serve the Kingdom of God for yet another generation.
Our life together will be even better.