Edith Macefield was 84 years old when men in suits came and knocked on the door of her humble two-story cottage in Seattle. They were all set to build a shopping mall right where her little house sat, and they were determined to see her move away to a retirement center someplace so they could bulldoze her home and begin construction.
But, Edith was determined to stay put. The men is suits even offered her a million dollars to give up her little corner of the city, but she refused. So, the developers had no choice. They decided to built their gigantic shopping mall around Edith’s house.
She lived in her little home, sandwiched between buildings made of concrete and steel, for three more years before she died. Many people in Edith’s position would have quickly taken the million dollar offer and headed off to buy a big new house and new cars and everything they had ever dreamed of buying. They would’ve spent their last few years enjoying their money. But, Edith saw value in what was already there. Her mother had lived in the house. She had died on the couch that still sat in Edith’s tiny living room. Edith saw the worth in her little spot, and she wasn’t interested in what the rest of the world values.
Since her death, her house has become a symbol of courage, determination, and independence for locals. They enjoy walking by and seeing the modest little house, the last remnant of what was once a thriving neighborhood filled with families and tradition and values. It sits in stark contrast to the now booming area crammed with shops, restaurants, and fast-paced city living.
Turn on the news. Listen to the world applaud poor Bruce Jenner. Listen to the highest court in this country debate the merits of same-sex marriage. See the hatred and anxiety and fear fill our computer screens as we watch rioters in Baltimore. Hear the pastors claim that there are no answers. It is plain to see that Christianity in American culture is becoming a lot like Edith Macefield’s little house. This world will offer just about anything to see us walk away quietly with treasure in our pocket. To see us turn away, ready to build a new “faith,” one built on worldly wisdom and the approval of others.
Christianity is beginning to look downright odd, sitting there in the middle of all of the big, shiny ideas that men have sold to our lost and searching and, yes, dying population.
But, I can say one thing about Edith’s little house. It still stands. It sits where it has sat for generations. And, when people pass by there, they know they are seeing something special. They hear the testimony of a determined woman, and they see what it cost her just to stand her ground. And, years from now when that shopping mall is empty and run down, when the developers have abandoned the idea of that particular concrete maze of flash-in-the-pan shops and shiny sushi joints, Edith’s little house will likely still stand. Unchanged. Unrelenting in its mission to tell the story of things that most people have long forgotten. Even if developers do manage to tear it down someday, they can’t destroy the telling of Edith’s true story and what it means to the people nearby.
This faith of ours, it isn’t going anywhere. The church is God’s plan. It doesn’t fail. It doesn’t disappear. But, in this country, in this time, it is going to look awfully strange. It is going to seem out of place. The church will stand. The question is, are we going to take what the world is offering us and run away to the safety of some man-made idea of how people should live? Or are we going to stand our ground? Are we going to remember the worth in what we have? Are we willing to be set apart, like a two story clap-board cottage in the middle of a shopping mall?
Will we determine to be the ones ready to step outside and tell the story of things that most people have long forgotten? Will we give the answers that searchers are desperate to find? Will we be satisfied living in what God says is good and real and right and enough? Will we raise our eyes to Heaven and say, Here I am, God. Send me? Are we willing to be a part of the remnant that doesn’t mind looking foolish to the world, as long as we are pleasing to our God?
Edith’s house got a little makeover shortly after she died. Fresh paint and a huge group of balloons decorate the outside. People stop by and take photos, and a few locals even have a picture of the house tattooed on their arms. The house is counter-cultural. It will always look odd in its current location. And, so will the church, as long as this earth continues to spin. As Christians, we can count it a privilege to look different and be different. Every day that the church looks more radical and strange is another day that we have the opportunity to identify with Christ and to live for Him in ways that confound the world.