Spiritual Life

Imagine yourself as a living house that God would like to rebuild

I jumped into our home improvement project with an all-night frenzy of ripping out carpet and tacking strips, prepping for a full day of mistakes installing a new wood floor. My wife, Kris, and I had decided that new paint and trim were needed to brighten the rooms, doors needed updating, and the carpet had to go.

It was a big enough job that we thought about hiring a professional. However, I fought my aversion to any kind of work on any house ever, and recklessly said no, let’s do this, together! So we (Kris) designed, chose materials, tested a hundred shades of paint, and dug in.

We quickly found challenges waiting under the surface. Sub-floors squeaked and curved. A simple overlay of new stair treads turned into a complete stairway overhaul, leveling sub-treads, stabilizing railing, and adding trim; in short, fixing stuff we didn’t know was broken.

I’m sure you’ve been there. DIY folks know the joy of ripping out an old surface and subsequent agony of discovering deeper problems.

We find the same kind of thing in our life of faith when we’re in pursuit of our true purpose.

Christians understand our true purpose to be nothing less than perfection, to which God calls us (Lev 20:7, Matt 5:48) and promises to bring us (Phil 1:6) with a good measure of suffering (1 Peter 1:3-9). When we start asking God to make us better versions of ourselves -- end our addictions or bring peace to our marriages, for example -- we find that his work uncovers deeper wounds that are desperately in need of attention.

We are often more broken than we imagine.

Years ago, I realized that my anger too often injured the people I love. When I finally decided it was time to make a change, God’s grace conquered my tendency to lash out. I still blow it from time to time. But more importantly, that first “remodel” revealed a deeper cause: “that old sinful habit of always expecting to get your own way” (1 Peter 4:1, MSG).

Defeating the cause demands dedication to a lifetime’s work of grace, and it is painful. Had I known what I was getting into, I might not have begun, but now I eagerly anticipate the promise: “Then you’ll be … free to pursue what God wants instead of being tyrannized by what you want” (1 Peter 4:2, MSG).

In Chapter 4 of Mere Christianity, C.S. Lewis borrows from George MacDonald to tighten the remodeling analogy: “Imagine yourself as a living house. God comes in to rebuild …” and we welcome good results at first. “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 answer: God is making a palace where we only asked for a “nice little cottage.” Lewis suggests that God is saying, “The only help I will give is help to become perfect. You may want something less; but I will give you nothing less.”

Counting the cost of inviting God to remodel us -- just a little -- we may be tempted to turn away in fear. But the perfection he offers is the deepest desire of our hearts and his, and we must remember the constant refrain of scripture: do not be afraid, for God is with us.

Invite him in.

Ken Jarman is a scientist at Pacific Northwest Laboratory and member of Christ the King Catholic Church in Richland. Questions and comments should be directed to editor Lucy Luginbill in care of the Tri-City Herald newsroom, 333 W. Canal Drive, Kennewick, WA 99336. Or email lluginbill@tricityherald.com.