By Stuart Powell
Presidents’ Day, which we will celebrate Monday, February 17, now honors all presidents, but in the late 1870s it was originally set aside as a federal holiday to honor only one—our nation’s first president, George Washington, born February 22, 1732. Let’s fast-forward to the end of that remarkable man’s life.
On December 14, 1799, George Washington died at the age of 67. His death occurred less than three years after completing his service as first president (1789—1797) and then retiring to his beloved Mount Vernon estate. When his widow, Martha Washington, died in 1802, the Virginia property passed down to George’s nephew, then to his great-nephew, and finally to John A. Washington III, his great-great-nephew. But the younger Washington struggled to maintain the estate and the buildings fell into disrepair.
Early in 1853, the Mount Vernon Ladies’ Association formed with the intention of purchasing and restoring the dilapidated mansion and most of the property. They began raising money and navigated the legal hurdles to purchase the site. On April 6, 1858, Washington signed a contract to sell, and the association took formal possession of the plantation in 1860. Then began the slow process of restoring the buildings to match their condition at the end of the 18th century. Through the association’s efforts, Mount Vernon’s proud edifice was returned to its former glory, but no one ever again lived in that restored house.
We all have a physical body in which we make our home. Every Christian can point to a day when Jesus began the work of restoration on our spiritual “houses.” The carpenter’s son replaced the shaky foundation with an immovable one. As long as we let him, he continues to restore the “house” from the inside out. He plans to restore it to the shiny luster of the original design. And he never plans to move out of the house.
Paul describes the process like this:
“I have been crucified with Christ, and it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me. So the life I now live in the body, I live because of the faithfulness of the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me” (Galatians 2:20, New English Translation).
Because of Jesus’ willingness to go to the cross, every Christian is promised a restoration better than Mount Vernon’s. By allowing his body to be beaten and his blood to be poured out, Jesus made the down payment to buy and restore that which God treasures: humanity.
As we eat of the bread in remembrance of his body and drink from the cup in remembrance of his blood, let our thoughts drift back to his sacrifice, but let’s also look forward to the completion of Jesus’ restoration efforts when he returns in all his glory.
Stuart Powell lives outside of Terre Haute, Indiana, where he serves with the North Side Christian Church.