When We Want a New Look, but Need a New Heart
All I wanted was a new kitchen floor. What I got, or actually what my husband got, was a multi-step process of pulling up several old layers of flooring before the “real work” could begin.
Our sixth-month search for an acreage had resulted in a property that was all I had dreamed of, paired with a house that needed some work. The most pressing need was in the kitchen, where our young family would spend a lot of our time. We thought we could simply rip out the grimy carpet and lay ceramic tile.
What we didn’t count on was what lay underneath the carpet. There was a sort of soft tile that needed to go. When my husband began to pull it up, plywood came with it in jagged pieces. New subfloor had to be laid before we could start the tiling process. What we thought might take a day or two required two entire weekends.
It’s a struggle familiar to most homeowners. When it’s time to remodel and we invest in the process, we want results that we (and others) can see. We want to find pillows to match our new paint colors, not call the plumber.
But the unseen often has to come first.
It’s true in our homes, and it’s just as true in our hearts.
For many of us, it goes something like this: We know it’s time for a change. We may want to be a more gracious friend, patient mom, or companionable wife. Or we might long to lead at our workplace or to contribute something of value to a ministry.
Though we know better, we want to brush on a quick coat of personality to fix the problem. How wonderful it would be if we could scatter a few laughs or a couple of kind gestures like throw pillows, and freshen up our relationships. It would be a breeze if we could change a behavior or two, and launch the updated version of ourselves without a hitch.
But, like it or not, the groundwork can’t be skipped. Deep heart work has to be done.
Oh, how I dread facing the dark corners in my spirit - the pride, the critical nature, and the selfishness.Yet any makeover in my work, in my service, and especially in how I get along with my people, depends on it.
Jesus made this clear when he taught the crowds that gathered to hear him. Many of the religious people of his day focused more on following rules than living out genuine love for God and others. He warned them with these tough words, “For the mouth speaks out of that which fills the heart. The good man brings out of his good treasure what is good and the evil man produces out of his evil treasure what is evil.” (Matthew 12:34-35 NASB)
His words hit the mark just as truly for me today. I am in yet another round of renovation in the “storeroom” of my heart, and slowly coming to embrace the process. Along the way I’m learning some things about extreme heart makeovers.
We don’t want, or need, to do it alone. What we long for is a friend who can see us honestly, and still love us fully. Thanks to God’s great grace, Jesus is exactly that friend! We can confide in him the changes we want so desperately to make. When it gets tough, we can ask him for strength to root out what is rotten. And when we have lost our tempers and loosed our tongues for the third time in one day, he is there to comfort us. As a beautiful bonus, the more transparent we are in our friendship with our Savior, the more ready our hearts are for the other friendships he brings our way.
It is likely to get messy. It’s one thing to desire a thankful spirit. Yet when disappointments come, that old habit of mentally rehearsing why life is unfair rears its ugly head again. The goal to extend grace fails to hold up to our well-worn pattern of nursing grudges. We will likely blow it a few (or many) times along the way. And even when we feel our hearts softening and see our responses changing, there may be no visible results at first. To stay the course, we will need to remember why we started the remodeling job in the first place.
Saying “I’m sorry” will probably be part of the process. Neglected work in our own hearts leads to hurting others. It is tempting, because of pride or fear, to avoid making apologies. It seems more comfortable to simply smooth over conflict. But we can find relief and release when we bring out in the open what was never really hidden anyway. The hard humbling is followed by the sweetness of real restoration.
It will be worth it. Progress in remodeling jobs is almost always slower than we would like. In our homes, function has to come before the fun of picking out cabinets and countertops. When it’s all finished, though, the added safety or usable space, and the more inviting environment make the hassle worthwhile. In our hearts, patience, kindness, thankfulness and wisdom will also be hard-won. But if we cooperate with Jesus as He transforms us from the inside out, the true and lasting beauty will more than outweigh the pain of the process!