Renovation & Transformation
I remember watching Trading Spaces as a teenager and falling in love with the idea of transforming ugly and boring spaces into unique and beautiful masterpieces. Although my dreams of becoming an interior designer didn’t pan out, I ended up marrying a man who shared my love for design and beautiful architecture. In the first couple years of our marriage, we dreamed of buying our first home and making it our own. Eventually God answered our prayer and we have spent many weekends over the past 6 years doing just that. In my journey learning to be content living in a constant work-in-progress, I’ve found many lessons that I’ve been able to apply to my life and my faith.
I think transformation is something that is at the root of who we are as humans. From the moment we take our first breath, we begin the lifelong journey of growing and changing. Transformation is also something that is at the heart of our relationship with Jesus. The Bible tells us, “Therefore if anyone is in Christ, the new creation has come: The old is gone, the new is here.” (2 Corinthians 5:17) My husband and friends give me a hard time about it, but one of my favorite things to do is load up my vehicle from floor to ceiling with the remnants of a recent demo. I drive to our local landfill, throw it all into a big pile, and peer at it from my rearview mirror as I drive home with an empty vehicle. There is something extremely cathartic about the whole thing. In the same way, I know Jesus longs to take all of the rubbage of my soul, my sin, my strongholds, my fears, and cast them as far as the east is from the west (Psalm 103:12). I also love the analogy that God doesn’t leave us empty. He gets rid of the old, so He can do a new thing in us. “Forget the former things; do not dwell on the past. See, I am doing a new thing!” (Isaiah 43:18-19)
Although I have greatly enjoyed fixing up our home over the years,I’ve had to learn to be content living with the imperfections of my home. This in turn, has taught me to be content in other areas of my life. We all want the HGTV transformation, don’t we? We want to watch a space go from ugly to breathtaking in under an hour, but that just isn’t real life. In the preparation of welcoming our 6th child, we have been tackling some pretty major renovations in our home, and it has been nothing like what I’ve seen on tv. It’s obviously ideal when the homeowners can leave the home while it is being remodeled and return, after all the dust from drywall and sanding has been wiped away, the painting done and the furniture placed neatly back in its place. Our reality consisted of our family of 7 being crammed into two small bedrooms, routines being thrown out the window, the sound of hammers and saws keeping us awake until well into the night, tears over not being able to find desired toys and, at one point, not being able to get to the desperately needed coffee.
The experience reminded me how transformation does not come easily, but usually requires painful and uncomfortable sacrifice. This is true for our spiritual transformation as well. We sometimes forget that Jesus’ definition of blessing looks very different from our world’s definition. Our world wants us to believe that blessing lies in success and prosperity, but the truth of Scripture paints a very different picture for us. Paul says in Philippians 3:10, “I want to know Christ – yes, to know the power of his resurrection and participation in his suffering, becoming like him in his death.” We want the power of the resurrection without the suffering, but it doesn’t work that way. I love the analogy Jesus gives in John 15:1-2, “I am the true vine, and my Father is the gardener. He cuts off every branch in me that bears no fruit, while every branch that does bear fruit he prunes so that it will be even more fruitful.”
Our recent renovations challenged and stretched our whole family by disrupting our lives and causing a lot of discomfort.We kept reminding ourselves that it would be worth it in the end, because what we were losing was going to be replaced with something better and more functional. We must view our spiritual growth and our lives in the same way. May we learn to live out the truth of James 1:2-3, “Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance.”
One of the greatest lessons God has taught me from our home renovation is that my focus determines where my heart is. It is not wrong to want a beautiful home or to take care of something that you worked hard to acquire, but when I found myself being angry at my children for simply being kids, the Holy Spirit convicted and challenged my motives. You see, it didn’t take long for me to realize that living and playing in our home presented the risk that the beauty of our finished projects would lose out to the messiness of our daily life. The new carpet will eventually get spilled on during a family movie night. The newly painted walls inevitably scratched by lego tables being moved in search of better light. The hardwood floors blemished by chairs pushed across, and wet towels and dog drool being left on them.
Although I want to be a good steward of the home God has given me and teach our children to do the same, I cannot lose sight of the fact that the greatest blessing of our home lies in the relationships and connection of the hearts that reside within its walls. It’s scary how easy it is in my pursuit to create something beautiful for my family, to begin to focus on the thing rather than who the thing is meant to serve.
In a similar way, we sometimes make our relationship with Jesus about the beauty of the finished product. We have good intentions, but somewhere along the way it becomes about checking a box and maintaining a certain external appearance. Our transformation was truly never meant to be about us at all, but about our relationship and connection with Jesus. Our transformation is merely the thing that God uses to draw us closer to himself, but the moment our heart’s focus shifts from the cross to our own accomplishment, legalism takes root. Galatians 5:1 encourages us that it is for freedom that Christ has set us free and warns us to stand firm, then, and not let ourselves be burdened again by the yoke of slavery. We must not forget that Jesus reserved some of his harshest words not for those who were obviously living in sin, but for those whose focus was on their external expression of goodness and holiness, the religious leaders of that time. “Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You clean the outside of the cup and dish, but inside they are full of greed and self-indulgence. Blind Pharisee! First clean the inside of the cup and dish, and then the outside also will be clean.” (Matthew 23:25) These words should cause us to pause and pray the words of Psalm 139:23-24, “Search me, God, and know my heart; test me and know my anxious thoughts. See if there is any offensive way in me and lead me in the way everlasting.”
When I look around at our culture I see people who are obsessed with outward beauty. Our houses have never been bigger or more grand and yet our families have never been more disconnected and broken. Why is this? Could it be that we are looking to clean and beautify the outside, while the foundations are crumbling and unstable? We can see this not just in our homes, but in our culture’s focus on personal growth. Again, there is nothing wrong with the desire to better ourselves and seek to be healthier physically, mentally, relationally, etc. But I believe the danger lies in the mirage that we can truly better ourselves. We must not lose sight of the fact that God is the source of our help and our transformation. There is no “self help” at the foot of the cross, only grace, mercy, and the surrender of our earthly strivings so we can place our gaze on eternity. We see this in Galatians 2:20 when Paul speaks the truth of every follower of Jesus, “I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me. The life I now live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.”
Although we should always be seeking to be renewed and transformed, we must never forget, we are simply the clay in the hands of the Potter (Isaiah 64:8). Our transformation is going to feel painful and uncomfortable at times, but if we believe that our beauty lies in abiding safely in His hands, then even with our imperfections and cracks we can be vessels of His love.