I was only 24 when I purchased my first house. I was young and inexperienced with money, and I knew very little about home ownership. When I hired a local contractor to finish the basement, I had no idea that he had not done the work to the code of the township. And later, I had no way to enforce the corrections because I hadn’t gotten the required permits for the work to have been done in the first place. I hadn’t intended to do anything illegal, yet the responsibility still fell on me as the homeowner, and all of it came to light several years later just as I was about to sell the house. It forced me into one of the strangest decisions of my life.
The house had already gone on the market when I discovered the impact of the earlier decisions, and after much research, I realized I would have to demo the work that had been done in the basement and sell the house in the same condition I had purchased it in with an unfinished basement. But because we already had several buyers interested and several more open-house showings, we had to explain to prospective buyers that although the basement looked beautifully done, it would be “unfinished” by the time they purchased it. These were some of the most awkward conversations of my life. I’m still amazed that it sold in a relatively short period of time.
When the demolition was finally done, we discovered an array of serious problems, including some safety concerns with careless wiring. I was so grateful that God had protected my home during my time there, and I was even more grateful that I would be able to walk away from it without trying to hide wrongdoing just to make an extra few thousand dollars. It was a powerful lesson for me on the ripple effects of honest work, authenticity, and the value of a clear conscience.
As I recently shared this story with my sons, I think they thought I was crazy. I ended up losing thousands of dollars and having to deal with the humiliation of explaining to prospective buyers and realtors why they couldn’t purchase my home as it was. I had to come clean. Like the basement, I had to be stripped down to bold honesty. And yet selling that house with an unfinished basement remains one of the best decisions I’ve ever made. Every time I think of it, I wonder how I would have felt if something horrible had happened due to the faulty construction or if I had caused a financial hardship for someone else because of my “finished” basement façade.
I now value “unfinished” characters and conversations all the more. I feel most loved when someone loves me enough to come “undone” with me and allow me to see what’s underneath the surface. It may be a part of growing older and maturing, but I’m less and less tolerant of fabricated appearances. I think God prefers us this way, too, especially since He can see past all the faulty appearances anyway. Like my home, I crave my spirit to be finished by the One who will complete the work in me in the finest way possible — for His glory. It’s somewhat of a slow process because, truthfully, I’m not the easiest person to work with. But my Carpenter knows that well and continues to extend grace upon grace in my raw and unfinished state. So, until then, friends, please pardon my appearance. It’s taken a lot of demo to become cleanly unfinished.