Dear friends, we are God’s children now, and what we will be has not yet been revealed. We know that when he appears, we will be like him because we will see him as he is. And everyone who has this hope in him purifies himself just as he is pure.
1 John 3:2-3 (CSB)
A few weeks ago, I noticed a house in our neighborhood that was falling apart. More than a cracked driveway or peeling paint, this was major disintegration at a rapid rate. And I was super annoyed to see it.
As I drove by that first day, I felt my nose wrinkle and my lip curl in disgust. I assumed that the house in question was simply being neglected, although perhaps it had been completely abandoned. Either way, the lack of attention and care being given the home bothered me — enough that I actually drove a block out of my way to avoid seeing it.
Over the next few days, I realized that someone was actually rehabbing this house. The tearing down was intentional, and a building up was surely coming soon. Strangely enough, that wasn’t enough for this judgmental neighbor. Even though I knew this house was in the process of transformation, I still felt my lip curl as I glanced toward the siding-less house with the overgrown weeds. I did think, with some curiosity, Huh. So that’s what a house looks like under siding. But my response to that thought was immediate and dismissive: Gross.
I know myself. When the work on that house is finished, I’ll be genuinely delighted. On the day I drive by and see a brand new, beautiful house standing where a pile of wood stood just a few weeks prior, I will be genuinely impressed by my neighbor’s hard work and commitment to improving their home.
And yet, while I know I can only truly appreciate the “after” picture in comparison to the “before” shot, I really did not want to witness the in-between. And though I say that I appreciate a homeowner’s labor of love involved in rehabbing a house, the truth is, I didn’t actually want to see the mess or sweat or tears involved.
Transformation — whether we’re talking about a house or a heart — is not a pretty process. True rehabilitation, true change, only happens when the old, crumbling, moldy, and rusty parts are stripped away, revealing the naked truth underneath. It’s only when we are elbow deep in mud and muck that we can see the strong, shining bones below on which we can build something beautiful.
Even during seasons of reflection and repentance, we can be tempted to put too much emphasis on the “after” part of a transformation. Sure, everyone loves gasping and applauding at the big reveal at the end of a home improvement show. And it is absolutely inspiring to read about someone’s triumph over adversity.
But what about when that excavation and rehabilitation takes place in our hearts and our lives? When we are only willing to direct our gaze on the after pictures, we’re missing the hard-fought beauty of that behind-the-scenes battle. We’re missing out on the chance to more fully understand the sacrifice that led to the victory, to more completely appreciate the reward that only came as a result of the work. And we’re missing the whole truth about who we are and how vast the gap between “before” and “after” truly is.
It took me a while, but I realize now that the day my neighbor’s house was at its ugliest and messiest was actually the most amazing one of its entire transformation. Because without that day, I couldn’t possibly appreciate its new siding and shutters and landscaping and front porch light. Unless I face the destruction, I can’t understand the magnitude of the recreation.
This truth is no different when it comes to our journey to the cross during this Lent season. If I wait until I’ve “got it all together” to reveal my struggles, I’m robbing God of the opportunity to shine through my ugliness and my mess. I’m forgetting that He is the only one who can make me into a new creation, and He won’t transform me until I lay myself bare before Him and let Him get to work.
When my house is falling apart, that is the time to open up to God and to others. Not later. Not when I get it figured out. Not when I’ve painted and polished and perfected it all. If I waited for that day, I’d never have a story to tell, for we are all in constant change, constant sharpening and growing and transforming. So when our houses are falling apart, that is the day we should look up, accept the Lord’s help, and meet our neighbor’s eyes. Doing this will undoubtedly help us be more patient, more gentle — with each other and with ourselves. And as we turn to the cross and the One who loves us at our ugliest and promises to redeem our worst messes, it will certainly reveal to us the true beauty of transformation.
Excerpt from Journey to the Cross: Forty Days to Prepare Your Heart for Easter by Mary Carver.
It’s not too late to have a meaningful Lenten season. Let us send you a FREE sampler from our Lenten devotional, Journey to the Cross! Journey to the Cross: Forty Days to Prepare Your Heart for Easter was written with women of all stages in mind so that we can all better experience the power and wonder of Easter with intentionality and depth. We hope it will bless your Lenten season.
Ruth Mills says
I love this! My husband frequently accuses the producers of the home improvement shows of adding issues to make it dramatic & more interesting to watch. Yet renovating a sinner? No drama need be added! I am chock full of issues Jesus has to deal with from the foundation up to make me new. BUT GOD in His mercy & grace is doing that every day. Yeah God!!!
I loved this! He’s still working on me. Thank you, Jesus for never giving up on us!
Today’s reading makes me think of what I read in one of Max Lucado’s books. I’m paraphrasing here. “We need to remember that the work on the Cross also includes the the middle, the Saturday between crucifixion and resurrection”. Since reading that I have always tried to remember Jesus, more than anyone, knows how hard the middle can be.
Thank you for these thoughts! I love to see restored houses! I, too, get super annoyed at “junky” neighbors! God transforming our “ugliness”…..such a good analogy.
What a season of deconstruction in my life-death of loved ones, caring for loved ones with dementia amd now a divorce. I cling to Isaiah 43 (not sure exactly what verses) “see I am doing a new thing”. All this only to be reconstructed with his grace and unfailing love into a new creation. Thank you Jesus for your faithfulness.
Beth Williams says
Praying for you sweet sister. Life can get hard at times-especially when caring for those with dementia. Both my parents had it in all forms from simple to geriatric psych. Asking God to give you strength & perseverance to handle all of life. May you feel His loving arms holding you tightly. Prayers for peace & comfort as you mourn the losses.
Isaiah 43:18-19 “Forget the former things; do not dwell on the past. See, I am doing a new thing! Now it springs up; do you not perceive it? I am making a way in the wilderness and streams in the wasteland.
Sending Hugs from Watauga, TN ((((((((Hugs))))))))
Kellie Johnson says
Yes over and over again! Oftentimes we want the pretty, shiny and polished but we don’t want to do the work to get it there. We want the updated, newer, wiser version of ourselves but when the chisel comes out, it’s natural to duck for cover and flinch. Lord, help me stand up with square shoulders when I see your hand working in my life, even when it’s uncomfortable.
This was beautiful Mary thank-you for sharing….
Blessings to all,
Beth Williams says
True transformation takes a lot of work. Just like older houses need tender touches & repairs our hearts, minds & souls do also. God is constantly pruning us to rid us of the “weeds & dead branches”. One way I go about getting that is to pray some “dangerous prayers”. Firstly: “Search me, O God & know my heart; test me & know my anxious thoughts. See if there be any offensive way to me, & lead me in the way everlasting. Then comes the big one. “God I trust you so much. I know that you love me, that you are always working in me. If you want to do something more in me then do it. If it is painful, then I welcome the pain. If you want to use trials to make me stronger, build my faith, make me close to you, then use them. God do whatever it takes to free me from my love for this world. To crucify my love of comfort God break me. God will do what He needs to change us from ashes to beauty. A glorious likeness of Himself.
Allison Wixted says
Really enjoyed this, Mary! Mess also makes me turn away! Thanks for the reminder that we can only become God’s masterpieces if we invite him into our messes!