We are modest do-it-yourselfers when it comes to house repairs. There exists an obvious upside to the facts that my husband is handy and we are cheap. He built our bathroom vanity and our front porch swing, and with a newborn baby in tow, we built our deck. There is, however, a more subtle downside to our arrangement: the persistent reality of ongoing renovations.
At any given point in our home, there are two to three mostly finished projects and a laundry list of smaller, imminent projects. Thankfully, these are minor undertakings we can work on in a nocturnal rhythm when the wee ones are sleeping. Our kitchen remodel, on the other hand, was a complete gut job. For two weeks, which felt like two years, our house was covered in plastic tarps, surrounded by a sea of tools and buried in a thick layer of dust and dry wall particles. Being a lover of order and stability, I cried a few times a day during our renovation. First world problems, I know.
Seriously though, living in an ongoing large-scale renovation project is challenging, even when one has a clear blueprint of what will one day emerge from the mess.
Living in the process of sanctification is analogous to living in a construction zone; only in this spiritual remodel situation, we are called to trust a Master builder who has drawn up plans we have yet to see.
Walls are coming down, tarps are going up, pipes are being soldered. At the beginning of walking with the Lord, the excitement of being made into a new house covers over a multitude of discomforts; however, somewhere in the middle of the process, it often seems that things have gotten worse, not better. Piles of parts and rubbles have replaced functional walls and rooms. Often the progress is painstakingly slow. Maybe we shouldn’t have signed on for such a grandiose project? After all, the house was working fine before, right?
So many images masterfully drawn by C.S. Lewis have forever impacted the way I view the Lord, but none more deeply than his living house illustration in Mere Christianity.
“Imagine yourself as a living house. God comes in to rebuild hat 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 those jobs needing 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 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 going to be made into a decent little cottage; but He is building a palace. He intends to come and live in it Himself.”
Lewis borrowed this image from George MacDonald, a writer and thinker that deeply impacted him in the way that Lewis himself has impacted so many others.
In his book of poetry entitled The Diary of An Old Soul, MacDonald uses the house image to remind himself of the mystery that is sanctification.
Too eager I must not be to understand.
How should the work the master goes about
Fit the vague sketch my compasses have planned?
I am his house – for him to go in and out.
He builds me now- and if I cannot see
At any time what he is doing with me,
‘Tis that he makes the house for me too grand.
The house is not for me – it is for him,
His royal thoughts require many a stair,
Many a tower, many an outlook fair,
Of which I have no thought, need no care.
Where I am most perplexed, it may be there
Thou mak’st a secret chamber, holy-dim,
Where thou wilt come to help my deepest prayer.
We are His houses, we have been bought at a great price (1 Corinthians 6:20). God gives the earnest money, the deposit and seal of His Spirit, to each of His purchased parcels to prove His happy intentions to finish every project He undertakes in love (Ephesians 1:14-16).
The perpetual construction of sanctification is underway in the lives of each of His children. Often times, it seems that the houses will never be completed, that work has been delayed indefinitely or that the plans must have been written up in error. The neighborhood that is the Church contains a myriad of houses in process: dump trucks are ubiquitous, scaffolding abounds.
Yet God is building a city of houses far more grand than the most talented human architect could ever draw up. He is the Master builder. He takes His time, paying great attention to the smallest details, because He is a God of perfection. Good enough will not do for him; He must have the best.
Take heart in the midst of the construction zone and the confusion that is sanctification. He is building something far more grand than you or I could ever dream up. Oh, for the day of the great unveiling!