As I’ve gone through this cancer fight, I’ve had in mind a training metaphor. I truly have been in training, and not always a good learner. As I watch my husband work on some small remodeling projects, I see metaphors there, too. Since I am unable to help him, I have plenty of time to contemplate metaphors!
Over the last 10 years, we have been in one project or another, working on this old farmhouse (if you’re thinking I’m the old farmhouse in the metaphor–ouch! And yes.) We have run the gamut of remodeling, from simple paint jobs to changing the floor plan. Each project has been individual to this house, this room, this wall. Nobody else in the world has this same set of circumstances with which to work.
So it is with the Lord’s remodeling of people. Every person, every personality, every trait is different from anything anyone else is or has. And just as there is no shortage of people willing to advise about home renovation, there is also no lack of people offering suggestions about even the very private corners of others’ lives. Too often, I am one of these.
Generally speaking, when the floor plan is being changed, it’s pretty obvious to everyone around. It’s hard to hide exposed studs and outlet boxes. Onlookers see destruction and chaos, but it’s also clear that new and better things are coming, and that brings with it anticipation.
Though exciting, this is a long and weary process. Each step takes time and can’t be rushed if the desired results are to be achieved. This means crumbled plaster. Dust. Scraps. It’s a mess. And bit by bit, it starts to come back together. The mess gets cleaned up and new construction starts. Lumber scraps. More dust. Drywall mud. Paint. Trim. More mess. In the end, if the builders are patient, the result is well worth it. Though it’s been a difficult project, it finally looks clean and new, and the old is forgotten.
So it is when the “floor plan” of a life is changed. Sometimes this change is voluntary, but more often it is thrust upon a person by circumstances beyond his or her control. Illness. Divorce. Loss. All of these things cause a stripping down–an exposing of the very framework of someone’s being. The wiring and supports are in plain view. The dust and rubble can cloud the vision and obscure the end goal. This is an excruciating and vulnerable place to be. The whole world can see the process, and some doubt the job will ever be completed.
Everything changes, though, when the Master Builder is invited to the scene. Though He orchestrates every detail of every life, He is often not allowed into the process. People decide that He is to blame for their circumstances, and shut out the only One who can make beauty from the ashes. They continue on, unqualified for construction, and often abandon the project half finished. You know the people I mean. They are sad and lonely, and so full of potential–but afraid to continue on. They desperately want and need someone to invest in them and to introduce them to the One capable of making all things new. Sadly, many of us see the mess and turn away, unwilling to get involved.
At the other end of the construction spectrum is the touch up work–fresh paint here and there, and maybe a little patching. Often, we only see someone for their irritating habits or their apparent sin. We see dirty paint and hairline cracks. We walk past, silently judging what we think we see. How different would our community, our church, our family be if we were to invest the time in a little painting? Above all, love one another deeply, because love covers a multitude of sins. 1Peter 4:8 Does that mean we slap some paint on and ignore what’s underneath? Sometimes. Because sometimes, every one of us needs someone to just love us through a rough patch and not nitpick about our shortcomings. And very often, when a person is treated as the precious and perfect person God created, they rise to the occasion and live up to their potential.
I don’t know. These thoughts are half-baked. I’m thinking and processing as I sit, thinking of ways that I am on both sides of the remodeling process. While I am being worked-over myself, I am also alongside others under construction. I don’t want to be absorbed in my own project–I want to be aware enough of others that I can simultaneously walk beside and encourage them to not abandon the work.
Unless we are building, changing, growing, we are stagnant. Those are the only choices. We’re moving or we’re stuck. Lord willing, we aren’t moving backwards, though I suppose that is also an option. Open my eyes, Lord, that I may see Your work in others and be willing to be used in their lives. Keep me from being lost in my own process. Keep my focus on the Master Builder, the perfecter of my faith, and keep me grateful for those who walk alongside me.