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
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.
Heavenly Father, I am in awe of You. When I see the mountains or a rushing river, a flower pushing its way out of the ground or a sunset painting the sky, I cannot deny that You are a mighty and powerful God. You are a wonderful artist, and I’m so grateful. Thank You, Lord, for giving us beauty in every corner of this planet — to enjoy but, more important, to remind us of your magnificence. Forgive me, God, for the days I never look up once, for the times I’m so focused on myself that I forget to look for You. Please keep reminding me, keep pulling my eyes up. Don’t let me get tired of or used to the wonder of You. Help me see the beauty of the world You came to save. I love You. Thank You. Amen.
Excerpt from Journey to the Cross: Forty Days to Prepare Your Heart for Easter by Mary Carver.
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Terry Lynn Taggart says
AMEN! I have recently seen how I am guilty of this to.
Dawn Ferguson-Little says
Mary thank you for what you wrote. Excellent so it is. It yes we are all God’s Children. What we will be has not been revealed. It good to know we are God’s Children. As it good to know God is our Heavenly Father. He loves us so much. That much he sent his one and only son Jesus to die on the cross of Calvary for us. It takes me back to a few songs I learnt at Sunday School as child. That I am thankful for my unsaved parents for sending me to when small. My late Mum I don’t know if she gave her life to Jesus or not. But my elderly Dad still is not saved. I Pray for his salvation and I prayed for late Mums. You couldn’t tell my Mum she need to get saved and you can’t tell my Dad. As they say keep all your beliefs to yourself. Good you believe all that. So I just lived my life in front of my Dad now he the only one alive out of my parents. But I am thankful that they sent me to Sunday School. That is where I learnt theses songs. One is “Jesus Love Me This I know For The Bible Tells Me So.” The other one is “Jesus Loves All The Children Of The World Red And Yellow Black And White” theses to songs tell me that our Heavenly Father loves us. So what more do we need to know. What amazing love that is. Another song is “He’s Got The Whole World In His Hands” We look around at the beautiful world our Lord has given us to enjoy. All it beautiful colours and all the pretty awesome things we can see each day he wakes us up to enjoy it. It is amazing. We are blessed. Thank you Mary for what you shared. Love Dawn Ferguson-Little in my prayers incourage. Xx
Very thought provoking. Not only for our own “messy-ness,” but to be patient with the messiness of others …….not expecting perfection or instant growth or not accepting where they are at the moment
Maryann Winslow says
So Beautifully Written! Thanks for the reminder to press on in God’s restoration project that is my life. Especially when it is so scary to face the mess!
Truth! We do tend to turn away or avoud from ugliness. Satan likes to shame us with our ugliness. But Jesus begs us to bring our ugliness to Him to be transformed.
Beth Williams says
Last fall my job changed suddenly to something I don’t like or want. There have been some trials along the way also. For a while I kept most of it to myself & hubby. Frustration, anxiety & depression hit hard. Then I decided to pray & tell others. It was like a well springing up. God was telling me that He was doing transformative work in & through me. I quit looking inside & started looking up towards heaven & thanking God for His great love & care for me. Now when the trial is over I will see the magnitude of my recreation.
Jolene Hall says
I gave the wrong email
An excellent analogy. (I can imagine myself making a similar comparison in my head but not writing it out so nicely!) I also care too much about physical appearance. I’m grateful God was willing to come into our mess for and with us, and that He was patient through the everyday of it. What I consider gross is also not entirely what He does; that is humbling too. Like the verse about it not being what goes into the man but what comes out of him that makes him unclean. I don’t want to get messy like dirty and be bumbling and old and ugly and awkward (I know, too late), but the real filth is moral — doubt, fear, judgment, bitterness, impatience, pride, envy…. I would love to be able to more quickly see the beauty under the mess, which He must see because He is beauty.
My other thought was that people don’t always seem that patient with my ongoing SLOW transformative mess either, and they seem to want to point me to some other solution to get it taken care of more quickly (self-help, counseling, etc). But the truth is that it can be quite slow. For our human eyes, maybe too slow to detect until that finished product you refer to, but for humans it won’t be completely finished this side of heaven, or at least some of it. People seem less patient, and I appreciate when they’re willing to share their own struggles, because it’s a way of making time for me too and I can make time for them. (This is coming from someone who’s single, so that surely influences my view on this too.) A way to slow down and practice patience and long-suffering toward one another. But anyway, the truth is, I am guilty of the same things and we all need grace and prayer. It’s not easy being vulnerable, especially after you have before and it didn’t go well.
Gloria D. Williams says
I want you know that this post this morning has just fallen in line with my journey to GOD’S assignment for me and other hurting WOMAN. This gives me another aspect of GOD’S work in my MIRACULOUS HEALING coming forth. Thank you.