It's the strangest thing--how you can be content with something for years and years and one day, wake up and decide it has to change.
One Saturday morning over a holiday weekend, I woke up early, hit the gym and returned home with the energy of a Roman army. (A most unusual experience.) I packed up my kids, hit Home Depot and bought materials to build a shelf, make a chalkboard and paint my oak dining room table a smoky black. It was a daring and dramatic undertaking--considering my limited skillset, but I was inspired and sometimes that's enough. However, this story isn't about inspiration or my living room's epic transformation from hodgepodge to industrial vintage. It's about a plain old cabinet that was in the wrong place at the right time and was forever changed as a result.
The cabinet wasn't on my laundry list of to-dos that fateful day, but after completely changing the room's vibe, the 10-year-old Southwest style cabinet that housed our printer, modem and other boring yet vital computer components, looked dated and out-of-place. I had upped the ante in the room and this cabinet just wasn't living up to its potential. I decided to paint it red.
"No!" my son bellowed. "Please, not red!" His aversion to crimson was surprising, but since I didn't currently own red chalk paint--and was happy to avoid another trip to Home Depot, I obliged. I painted the cabinet black. Then spray painted it red.
After visiting a couple vintage stores and watching YouTube tutorials about how to properly "distress" furniture, I was drawn to pieces that revealed multiple slices of coated-on paint--layers upon layers of contrasting colors exposed by deliberate sanding. The main color might've been turquoise, but the piece evidenced yellow, black, red and wood grain with all the eye-catching and conversation-starting uniqueness I sought. I planned to do the same with my cabinet: black with red layers of weathered paint. I already had a can of barn-red spray paint--in fact, we used it on the cabinet's hinges, so why not?
You're probably assuming I totally botched the process. Especially after noting my handiwork in the photo above. But that's not where I'm going. The cabinet--though not nearly as red and distressed as I hoped, emerged as a smoky charcoal, grainy conversation piece with scuffed red hinges and subtle red hues that peak through. It is industrial vintage reclaimed awesomeness at its best. A boring cabinet mass produced and sold by a major retailer transformed into a one-of-a-kind piece of art custom-finished to match the room in which it sat.
And I did it by completely destroying the finish--not once but three times. After the piece was unrecognizable I took to it with a heavy hand and grainy sandpaper, scarring the edges of the door frames and side panels. I scuffed the newly painted crimson hinges so they wouldn't look so newly painted. After all that abuse, I turned my sander on its side and made deep gouges in the top door panels.
The end result was beautiful though the process, wasn't. You see where I'm going now, right?
There is a master carpenter who--unlike me, knows precisely what his end result will look like. He's fashioning his beloved to image the glory of Himself--specifically seen and perfectly modeled in His son, Jesus Christ. By the power of the Holy Spirit and the tools of adversity, loss, suffering and anything else He so chooses--because all things exist for His glory, He takes the life of an ordinary person who called by that same spirit stakes their hope on Him--and begins the work of a lifetime .
Removing, refinishing, replacing, restoring, rebuilding. He sands away rough edges--or distresses the façade with the precise hand of master builder who knows the degree of renovation needed by a soul to image His love. He may leave the surface unscathed or allow deep gouges to penetrate the veneer, forever scarring what we thought was good enough. His vision is far above ours, His purposes are vast, yet from the perspective of those of us wading through the mire of tribulation it often seems incredulous, villainous. Trust isn't cheap and faith in a God you can't see isn't easy. The process of becoming beautiful can seem cruel and arduous and it might be--but the finish and all the relief and joy it brings, well that will so far exceed our suffering--it won't even be worthy of comparison.
We know that's true (and oh what a truth!) because we believe the Bible. The Apostle Paul, in his masterwork, Romans, put it like this, "For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing with the glory that is to be revealed to us."
Personally, I've endured several minor heartbreaks and about three really significant ones that lead me to question the veracity of Paul's words and the goodness of God's intentions. I've had loved ones endure even worse. Sometimes there's an answer that brings peace, but many times the reasons are elusive. To us. Right now.
I don't know why God allows the pain he does into the lives of his people. But I also don't know that He should bear the brunt of our blame. All of creation, which includes us, according to Romans, has been subjected to meaninglessness, because of our rebellion against the source of Meaning. The imprint of God's image--though greatly marred, still sparkles within and so we desire that which now seems elusive: enduring love, significance and everlasting joy. C.S.Lewis says it best in Mere Christianity, "If I find in myself a desire which no experience in this world can satisfy, the most probable explanation is that I was made for another world."
Indeed, we are made for another world where all our righteous desires will be sated and fellowship with our Creator will be fully and finally restored. And Time, that relative restraint that ushers in our days and nights--will give way to eternity. In that way also, our 80 or 90 years of turmoil here won't be worth comparing to everlasting joy, there.
Becoming beautiful, namely imaging the glory of Jesus Christ the way we ought, begins here, on this side of the finish line. It takes a lifetime of Spirit-lead renovation to bring us to a place where we're finally ready to stand before him and experience the elation of our faith made real.
Be hopeful and patient because the finish line is approaching--and it will be here before you know it.
For the creation waits with eager longing for the revealing of the sons of God. For the creation was subjected to futility, not willingly, but because of him who subjected it, in hope that the creation itself will be set free from its bondage to corruption and obtain the freedom of the glory of the children of God. For we know that the whole creation has been groaning together in the pains of childbirth until now. And not only the creation, but we ourselves, who have the firstfruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly as we wait eagerly for adoption as sons, the redemption of our bodies. For in this hope we were saved. Now hope that is seen is not hope. For who hopes for what he sees? But if we hope for what we do not see, we wait for it with patience. Romans 8:19-25
"Lay aside every weight and the sin that so easily entangles and run with endurance the race set before you. "