Redemption and Restoration on HGTV’s Fixer Upper

Fixer Upper, the fifth and final season of which premieres on HGTV later this month, stars Chip and Joanna Gaines, a husband-and-wife team who renovate houses around Waco, Texas. Chip brings construction expertise and goofy, self-deprecating humor, while Joanna brings focus, design skills, and the ability to laugh at Chip's antics. In each episode, Chip and Joanna are hired by clients to find and renovate a house. As Joanna says, "We take the worst house in the best neighborhood and turn it into our client's dream home."

My brother, a new homeowner, introduced me to the show, and since I discovered that Hulu had the first three seasons I’ve been watching almost daily. As an apartment renter, I would have thought that watching a show about people getting their dream homes would be discouraging, but I feel only joy watching the projects come together. When I see the new homeowners’ tears of happiness, I cry, too.

I dream about homes often. Apparently, this is common. Psychologists theorize that houses in dreams represent ourselves. For me, there is also a more tangible source for my dreams. Growing up we moved frequently, and as an adult I've moved often as well. Houses—and housemates—haunt my dreams, sometimes with nightmarish rehashing of conflicts, sometimes with glorious visions of beauty, space, and love. For me, those latter dreams represent my dreams being fulfilled, as scarcity is replaced with abundance.

Jesus spoke of houses in John 14, where he told his disciples that his father’s house “has many rooms” and that he was going to prepare a place for them. The King James Version translates the word “rooms” as “mansions,” which at that time meant simply a house or dwelling place. But the idea of spaciousness is there in the word “many” (pollai), which carries the sense of abundance I find both in my dreams and in Chip and Joanna’s houses. Not just abundance for the lucky couple that gets their dream home, but abundant welcome for all who come looking for a dwelling place.

This theme of abundance is woven throughout Fixer Upper. Each client starts with a set budget. Chip then finds houses for far less than that, leaving them ample money for the renovations. They knock down walls, widen doorways, and raise ceilings, creating a feeling of spaciousness in even the smallest home. Sometimes they expand into the yard or attic, literally adding square feet to the house. Joanna favors light colors and large windows, so everything looks bright and airy. You barely seem to be in a private house at all, but a great hall, created for gatherings.

It brings to mind Jesus’ parable of the great banquet in Luke 14, where the host instructs his servant to bring in the poor, the crippled, the blind, and the lame. Being relatively poor and somewhat lame myself, I’m grateful for the thought that there will be room for me at the banquet. There is a messenger coming down the streets and alleys for me, and for all of us.

If houses represent ourselves, then finding a bedraggled, neglected house and restoring it to a new beauty can be symbolic of our own healing and renewal through Christ. Chip and Joanna’s specific vision is to find the worst house to renovate. Their joy, and the excitement of the show, is in the contrast. The worse the house looks in the beginning, the more dramatic the reveal at the end. It’s somewhat similar to the dramatic revealing described in Revelation 21:

Then I saw “a new heaven and a new earth,” for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away, and there was no longer any sea. I saw the Holy City, the new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride beautifully dressed for her husband. And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, “Look! God’s dwelling place is now among the people, and he will dwell with them. They will be his people, and God himself will be with them and be their God. ‘He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death’ or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away.” He who was seated on the throne said, “I am making everything new!”

In John, Jesus speaks of going somewhere else to prepare a place for his disciples. In Revelation, God’s dwelling place travels down to us, redeeming and renewing our world. Christians believe that instead of us leaving our old, broken home, God comes down and dwells among us, restoring the world not only to its former glory, but to a new order in which there is no more death or pain. Our pain is redeemed, our broken hearts and bodies made whole. The wait is over, our suffering has ended, and we are finally and forever welcomed into our true selves, and our true home.

Jessica Kantrowitz is a writer and editor living in Boston. Her work has been published on Think Christian, the Our Bible App, and The Good Men Project. You can find her at her blog, Ten Thousand Places, and on Facebook and Twitter.

Comments (4)

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This was a great piece. (Peace? Yes!) My husband watches Fixer Upper a whole lot, and I have had trouble understanding why an activity I call “tuning out” seems to actually be a need for him. Now I have a redeemed view of what my husband turns to after a long day’s at a sometimes thankless job. Thank you!

I’m not a watcher of HGTV, but this post makes me think I ought to be. In this season of growing-up sons who are establishing their own homes, my home is changing, so I welcome these words about renovation and longing.

Thanks for reading, Judith and Michele!

Thanks for this well-constructed and spacious piece. Your words here and elsewhere are often a sun-filled room or a tree-high deck with a vista to a beautiful landscape.

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