The weather has stretched Christmas out by an extra couple of weeks here, at least on the outside. Wind chills below zero have kept lights on the trees and guttering and wise men still in search of Baby Jesus. By and large people seem fine with this. If they’re not, it hasn’t gotten to the point where getting on with things outweighs the risk of hypothermia.
I would imagine that if anyone is relieved at a little Christmas overtime, it’s Kenny. Not just because seven-year-old boys wouldn’t mind seeing sparkling lights and an inflatable Santa in his yard an extra month out of the year, but because helping his father take them down would require going into the basement.
And Kenny doesn’t like the basement.
I have a theory that every house has a junk room. A place where all the I’ll-put-it-here-for-now stuff goes, whether keepsakes or yard sale fodder or stuff you really need to throw away but just can’t bring yourself to do so. For some, that place is the attic. For folks like me, it’s a shed in the backyard. For Kenny’s family, it’s the basement.
All of that old and mostly forgotten stuff down there gives him the willies. It’s scary down there, he’s told me. Dark and stinky, too. It’s where the spiders and mice and ghosts live. Also the furnace. That’s the worst. Kenny’s convinced their furnace is the gateway to hell itself.
At night before bed, he doesn’t worry about the front or back doors being locked. Kenny worries about the basement door. He’s seen the movies (though he won’t fess up and tell me which movies he’s talking about) and knows what can happen. In other words, he isn’t afraid of something coming in, he’s afraid of something coming up. It’s a fear magnified by the fact that the lock is on the inside of the door instead of the outside. The builder’s mistake, and one Kenny’s father has never gotten around to fixing. Which means the spiders and mice and ghosts can keep everything in, but Kenny can’t keep them out.
This fear—this dread—is Kenny’s alone. He hasn’t told his parents about the basement, and how he worries about the lock on the door before he goes to bed, and how he prays his dad will eventually change the lock around to the other side so Kenny could get in but they couldn’t get out. But he won’t say anything. It would make him seem like a kid. And when you’re a kid, the very last thing you want is to act like one.
Me, I understand all of this. The kid part, but especially the part about the basement. I might not have one of those in my own house, but I do have one inside of me. Deep down and seldom seen. It’s the place where all my junk is kept, the fears and worries and failures. The sins I’ve committed and the regrets I have.
It’s a mess, my basement. Junky and moldy and dark. I suspect things crawl around down there, too. And there are ghosts. Plenty of ghosts.
But I’m not alone. Flip through your Bible and you’ll find plenty of people with junky basements. Moses had one, what with that murder charge and all. David, too. Peter junked his up pretty when he denied Christ after saying he never would. And let’s not forget Paul, who had on his hands the blood of hundreds.
They found out the very thing we do—living with junk in the basement isn’t just scary, it’s tough.
But they also found out that God can clean up those basements. He can get rid of the junk, scrub everything down, and chase away all the nasties. But He can’t do it alone. We have to open the door and let Him in. Because like Kenny’s house, there are locks on our basement doors, and they all lock from the inside.