Unless the Lord sells the house …, by Ben Jeapes

This was our bedroom ...
I really valued the ACW’s New Life: Reflections for Lent book. Of the many excellent reflections, the one that particularly spoke to me was the experience of Marion Andrews in selling her house (week 6, Thursday).

Because, you see, it kind of spoke to me …

We knew there were structural issues with the building in which we lived. Nonetheless, we put the flat on the market in faith. We didn’t gloss over the faults. Nor, to be honest, did we draw attention to them - but we assumed any halfway decent buyer’s survey would identify them. We factored this in to a lower offering price. And of course it didn’t didn’t stop us cleaning before each viewing, putting a fresh tablecloth on, changing the towels …

And then, as we were on the verge of completing, a completely different survey - not our buyer’s - identified even worse issues than we had realised. As in, the entire front wall of this four-floor building needed rebuilding. When it was converted into flats in the 70s, someone had put an extra window into the basement without properly reinforcing it. The wall had spent the previous 40 years quietly slumping.

So we reported this to our buyer. The brakes came screeching on, of course.

But that was all. Our buyer still wanted the flat and she was prepared to hang on. We were open with her about everything: progress being made in rebuilding, problem neighbours who didn’t intend to contribute towards the costs, and so on. Nearly a year later we finally moved into interim rented accommodation so that the work could begin. We still had our buyer.

The work was finished last March, and on Maundy Thursday last year - 18 months after accepting her offer - the sale completed. Within a couple of weeks we had seen the place we wanted to buy, and our own purchase completed in August.

I am absolutely certain that God blessed the sale of our flat, complete with all its ups and downs and dead ends and frustrations. When God acts, he always requires a bit of human input to kick it off, in the form of faith and trust. That’s the difference between performing a miracle and magically granting wishes. Our openness about the building was a prerequisite for this to happen.

This is a difficult thing to get across in fiction, because even if you have faith, you can’t guarantee via a logical process of cause and effect that God will end up causing the desired outcome. God is a free agent, with a much better grasp of the situation than you. That is one reason I am carefully not assuring everyone that if you try to sell your home like we did, you will succeed. And I am not taking the credit for the success of our sale. It was God, all the way.

Unfortunately, in fiction, you need the logical cause and effect process for the plot to make sense. The worst kind of Christian fiction that I have read - often unpublished, and for a reason - features a miracle as though it were the inevitable outcome of a series of events, when the fact is, it can’t be.

But you can still bring in the attitude. Your characters can have aspects which the world would consider to be obstacles. Lines they will not cross. A hero needs obstacles to overcome, and the best ones - the ones that make the story interesting - are the ones that come from inside.

Ben Jeapes took up writing in the mistaken belief that it would be easier than a real job (it isn’t). Hence, as well as being the author of 7 novels and co-author of many more, he has also been a journal editor, book publisher, and technical writer. www.benjeapes.com


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