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Soul Searching

Tom Saretsky


Your spiritual house: love it or list it?

My current favourite television program is called Love It or List It. It’s one of the countless home renovation programs on TV nowadays. The program chronicles the desire of couples looking to either renovate their current home or upgrade to a different home. The house is usually in desperate need of some kind of renovation, putting the couple at odds with one another because one wants to stay and renovate the home and “love it,” while the other wants to leave it altogether and “list it” for sale. After the initial meeting with the couple, the hosts of the show then begin their competition with one another. One host is a realtor looking to find another home for the couple, and the other is a renovator/interior designer seeking to renovate the couple’s current home.

The hosts are given a generous budget and a wish list from the couple for what they would like changed in their current home or included in a new one. Most of the couples on the program usually desire, in either a new home or a renovated one, an “open concept.” They want more space with fewer walls, less clutter, larger rooms, and a major update or upgrade.

The renovations never go smoothly. They always encounter major hidden obstacles, and usually something must be sacrificed on their wish list in order to stick to the budget. As well, the house the realtor finds doesn’t always satisfy everything on the couple’s wish list. At the end of the episode, when the house is renovated and another house is offered, the couple is given the choice. Will they love their newly renovated home, or will they list it and move out? 

In the times I’ve watched the program, the majority of the couples choose to love their home and stay. The renovations are impressive, but the viewer doesn’t see the work that remains to be completed — yet they love it enough to continue living in it. The house remains a work in progress.

Have you ever thought about your own spiritual house? Think about these questions. If your spiritual life were a house, what would it look like? Is it in need of renovation? Do you “love it” the way it is? Does it need an upgrade? Would you “list it” and pursue a completely different spiritual path? Or would you rather leave it alone and put a “Keep Out” sign in the window?

If I were to honestly answer these questions, I would have to say that my house is in need of a renovation. I love what I have, yet I know it needs work. However, with a hard hat, the right tools, materials and lots of help, I could turn this “old house” into a much newer one.

Like all the participants on the show, my wish list would include an open-concept. I need extra space, fewer walls, and a general upgrade. Usually the guests of the show need to do a good deal of cleaning before the renovation project begins. I’m the same. I’ve accumulated a lot of stuff over the years, like some attitudes that need to be thrown away. I’ve held onto some resentment and past judgments. These conspire to make for a closed-in and cramped living space. To that end, my newly renovated spiritual house will have higher ceilings, more open space and rounded corners on all the walls.

I need to tear down the walls of my pride and seek to open my mind and my heart to all kinds of faith perspectives. I would endeavour to build larger rooms of acceptance and understanding and seek to live the words of St. John of the Cross who once said, “Learn to understand more by not understanding than by understanding.” I need to work on welcoming those with whom I don’t always agree or share the same worship style or faith perspective instead of placing them on a spiritual spectrum or dismissing them as old-fashioned or out-of-date. I’m currently in the process of building a bigger entrance.

We could all use the occasional spiritual renovation. Cynicism, pride and division seek to turn us away from one another, leaving the entrance of our hearts too small to accept another’s perspective. Sometimes we need to remove walls and insert more windows in order to let in the Light.

My spiritual renovations will never be complete, but I’m a work in progress. The main thing is to continue loving my faith and embracing the opportunities or invitations that present themselves to change or to renovate.

I urge you to embrace the opportunities to look at your current spiritual lives and make the effort to renovate when necessary. Change is never easy, and renovations can be messy and inconvenient. However, they’re essential if we are to ever make room and provide a home for one another and for the One who seeks to take up residence in our hearts. Be courageous. Be bold and begin your renovation project today. You might just love it!

Saretsky is a teacher and chaplain at Holy Cross High School in Saskatoon. He and his wife, Norma, have two children, Nathan and Jenna.