I like my house. I like where I live. I like my neighbors. But our house needs a lot of work. It’s mostly cosmetic and minor flaws, but things that remind us daily that we have work to do. Bathroom floors, hardwoods under old carpet, a few holes in the wall, an old deck … PLUS, a garage filled with stuff to sell at the Garage Sale that we keep postponing, landscaping to do, projects untackled, unfinished lists … and so on …
I’ve had this Christianity/Building a house analogy thing rattling around in my head since I read the passage in Mere Christianity in the chapter titled “Counting the Cost” … It so eloquently says:
“Imagine yourself as a living house. God comes in to rebuild that house. At first, perhaps, you can understand what He is doing. He is getting the drains right and stopping the leaks in the roof and so on; you knew that those jobs needed doing and so you are not surprised. But presently He starts knocking the house about in a way that hurts abominably and does not seem to make any sense. What on earth is He up to? The explanation is that He is building quite a different house from the one you thought of – throwing out a new wing here, putting on an extra floor there, running up towers, making courtyards. You thought you were being made into a decent little cottage: but He is building a palace. He intends to come and live in it Himself.”
OK, so basically, God starts to help me with the basics like the roof and the pipes. I am super glad that my roof is fixed and I have hot water. These things seem quite necessary for a “comfortable” life, not even a “special” or “charmed” life at all – they are just basic everyday survival things. We need food, shelter, some clothes, etc. But then he starts knocking down some walls and really changing things around.
But while God is trying to build new wings in my house, I continue to throw spackle on the old holes. I seem to be stuck here. I throw spackle on everything. I try to “fix” things a “little bit.” If I drink a “little less” or go to bed a “little earlier” or have a “little more” grace with my husband, then that’s good, right? I get to take credit for being a “little better” than I was, or a little better than the next guy. But where am I really? “MY” efforts result in a crappy house, built with spackle, that will likely crumble in the next storm.
PLUS, I can’t really get to know God because I feel like a hypocrite. All those temporary “fixes” that I think I have control over make me feel LESS in control, and more guilty, and more ashamed, which lead to a feeling of “I have too much crappy stuff that I need to fix before I can really even look for help.” Gotta get “right” first.
So here I am, toiling daily on the little stuff, the spackle stuff. Off in the distance, I look forward to walls knocked down, towers erected, and courtyards built because walls and towers and courtyards sound much more “Godlike” and worthy of His efforts so that He can come live there with me. It’s an obvious progression, isn’t it? You work on the small stuff, purge the badness, and cross things off of your “do to” list so you can get PAST the “fixing holes” phase and TO the “building things” phase?
MMMM. No. WHY? Why do we feel like we must “get things in order” BEFORE letting God in, when he is always there in the first place anyway, gently guiding us towards His will (if we are smart enough to listen). He knows this is the small stuff, AND he knows that WE THINK it’s bigger. He probably gives us dozens of gentle nudges away from our consuming desire to fix things in the order in which WE deem them important.
But we don’t listen… Yet He persists (repeated from above…) “… He starts knocking the house about in a way that hurts abominably and does not seem to make any sense. What on earth is He up to? The explanation is that He is building quite a different house from the one you thought of.”
OK, he’s not just fixing stuff, He’s making NEW things here. That was NOT the (my) plan. I just wanted some new flooring in the bathroom and maybe a new back deck. What is he DOING? I’m not ready for the towers and courtyards yet. I WANT to be there, but I am still relying on my stupid human brain and thinking that I have control over the destiny of my leaky faucets and deck. God is standing there saying, “Dude, I can CHANGE YOU. And YES it will hurt, but if you stop worrying about your leaky faucet and follow my lead on these towers and courtyards, YOUR LIFE WILL ABOUND.
Again, why would we not GO TO HIM? Because, it DOESN’T MAKE SENSE. He is trying to build me a NEW HOUSE, but I keep getting stuck on the old crappy house that I just need to fix. I am attached to my old crappy house. It is familiar, filled with memories and habits. Filled with the things I don’t want to let go of. And so, I keep fixing those things and drowning in my “to do” lists and tasks and things I “think” I want. He says, “My daughter, see what I can show you in your NEW house, the one you will live in with ME.” I naively reply, “I’ll be there someday, but right now I’ve gotta go get some spackle.” Really?
I still go get the spackle. I still have a shaky foundation that makes me feel unstable. I have poor insulation that makes me feel unguarded against the cold of winter and the heat of the summer. I did get new doors and windows (Nehemiah's walls & gates?) that are much more energy efficient. They are better at keeping out the elements, and letting in and out the people (and influences) that I should have around. The problem is those are still MY choices. I can open those doors and windows. I can let bad stuff in. I can let good stuff out. I make ungodly choices, because I am not allowing God to live here. ALL THE WAY.
It is a transition. I think God knows that. First he has to fix some stuff. Then he goes a little further and adds a wing. Pretty soon, you FINALLY realize that it has been Him all the time guiding your transformation. He has been making YOU ready, not your house. The glorious abundance of your NEW house is filled with God. I guess that’s why he doesn’t just build palaces for everyone in the first place.
The broken-down house is unrecognizable after the transformation, as we all are once we finally trust in God fully. I know this to be true. I yearn for it. I just can’t stop obsessing about getting another bookshelf and fixing the bathroom floor. I need to let go of whatever is broken, because I know that the healing (or building) won’t begin until I do. Stupid human nature.