We learned early on that when choosing a house to rent having a landlord you can live with is more important than having a nice house to live in. Gimli came to Minas Tirith a couple of months after I did. We found a great house for him just down the street from us. It was a really nice home with an indoor toilet and bath. Most homes did not have this wonderful feature back then, though many do now. The landlady was an elderly woman with a bitter disposition. That house was in reserve for when her grandson got married. That house was what she had to give him. It was very important. It was all she thought about day and night. Now she was renting it out to strangers and who knew what they might do to it.
She came around to the house every day. Every single day. Daily. She would come into the yard and look in all the windows to see if everything was as it should be. One day she came to my house in a panic. The silver plate was gone! It was gone, gone, gone. I tried to calm her down. Perhaps Gimli or his wife just took it down and put it some where safe? No, no, no, it's gone. They have lost it. I talked to Gimli later. He said that that silver plate was the ugliest thing he had ever seen and they had put it up in the closet. It was fine. She insisted they put it back on the wall. She came by once or even twice a day with complaints like this.
I was annoyed at first but then I became quite concerned for her. Her whole life was this house. It was quite clearly her god. But here's the thing: She received no pleasure whatsoever from this house. It was purely a burden to her. A burden she could not, or would not put down. But the situation got worse. A lot worse. A water main that ran next to the house had leak. One day Gimli found his basement flooded. This is always a bad thing but when your house is made of mud bricks it is a serious bad thing.
This began a saga that Gimli has written up and it is several pages long. I will not tell it all. I am too lazy to type it all up. Gimli dug a small canal to drain the water away from the house and considered that good enough. You can imagine that the landlady was not satisfied. She got the water department of the city to come out. They are underfunded and notoriously incompetent. They dug to fix the problem and the long and the short of it is that there was fifteen foot deep swimiming pool that eventually swallowed the entire road next to the house for the best part of four months.
During this time her health began to deteriorate. She became more and more ill and her disposition became more and more bitter. The house. It was all she thought about and it gave her nothing. She would bad mouth all the neighbors on the street and eventually Gimli had to move. He decided that he could put up with her but that everyone he came to minister to could not, and should not have to. He found another home. A home whose owner lived in another country.
All during this time I would talk to the old woman. I think she liked me in as much as she was capable of liking anyone. I listened to her and I counseled her. She never listened to me but she knew I cared. One day I challenged her attitude about the house. I told her it was just a thing. A material object that would pass away. She should not let it bind her the way it did. She agreed. It was a thing, and a temporal thing at that. But she could not let go of it. It was everything to her. About a year after Gimli moved she died of stomach cancer. She never did go and see a doctor. It would have cost money that was needed for the house. Her son eventually sold it.
I have thought a lot about her. How much she is a caricature of all of us. We are bound.
Bound to sin and selfishness. Bound to the lies that hold us down and keep us in spiritual and relational poverty. She lived her whole life in a misery of worry and disatisfaction because of that house and now she is spending eternity in hell for it. It is such an unthinkable evil that surely someone should do something about it. Fortunately someone has. Jesus died to set us free from this bondage. He calls us now to be free. Are you free?