It is a sad and silly admission, but my wife and I love DIY shows. The whole process of watching a dilapidated old house rise like a phoenix from the ashes of disrepair to its former beauty is mildly addictive. We can’t seem to get enough.
One of my favorite parts in these renovations is to see what is uncovered from beneath the years of decay. Layers of paint and wall paper; half-hearted attempts at adding on or covering up; tacky or kitschy approaches to trendy redecorating…all of these cover what was once the manifestation of a designer’s dream.
To find the beauty of that original design usually means stripping things back to raw studs and vintage construction.
What these people find underneath the accumulated layers of living is sometimes a thing of beauty. Pristine hardwood floors. Classic spindle stair rails. Flawless wainscot. Undamaged bead or clap board. Stone fireplaces and cedar closets. Jeweled chandeliers and brass hardware.
Other times what is unearthed is gross at best, toxic at worst. Piles of rat droppings. Soggy molded wood. Cracked ceramic tile. Sinking foundations and leaking roofs. Rotting asbestos insulation and rusty lead pipes.
Either way, what is underneath tells the story of what has happened to the old places…the long-term wear and tear results of everyday living.
To the untrained and inexperienced eye, these rescuers of the ruined seem just a bit off their proverbial rockers. What do they envision in this rubbish? How do they have any hope for a pile of rubble? Where do they see beauty in these ruins?
Because their eyes see beyond the damage and beneath the surface, these wise wizards of renewal are empowered by the vision of what can be instead of being paralyzed by the view of what is.
Of course, the best moments are the big reveals. The wow factor goes into hyper-drive with the perfectly staged unveiling of weeks or months of hard work which literally scream from the hearts of those remodeling wizards, “Look what I did!”
I have begun to wonder what fascinates me about these shows and captivates me about the uncanny rejuvenations.
I think maybe I see myself in them.
I am one of those restoration projects screaming “make me beautiful again!” Like these old houses, life has rubbed me raw and worn me thin…the long-term wear and tear of everyday living.
Years of self-help remodeling have left me with layers of attempted refreshings that are at best ineffective stabs taken at covering the mess with a more presentable surface.
Like the rehab experts, I know there is still something of the original design underneath the disjointed accumulation of veneer and façade, so I set out to unearth and restore it. But here is the big difference: I am the restoration project not the restoring pro.
I can’t fix the broken down house, because I am that dwelling.
Instead, what is needed is simply submission and surrender to the architect of original design and His completed work in me. Nahum, in the Older Testament, beautifully pictured it like this for his generation, “The Lord will restore the splendor of Jacob like the splendor of Israel, though destroyers have laid them waste and have ruined their vines.” (Nahum 2:2)
To the untrained and inexperienced observer, this Rescuer of my wreck seems just a bit off His eternal rocker. What does He envision in this rubbish? How does He have any hope for a pile of rubble? Where does He see beauty in these ruins?
Because His eye sees beyond the damage and beneath the surface, this Wise Wizard of renewal is empowered by the vision of what can be instead of being paralyzed by the view of what is.
Isaiah predicted it of broken Israel’s future: “‘They shall be rebuilt,’ and of their ruins (He says), ‘I will restore them,’” (Isaiah 44:26)
So the He dives into rebuilding my life with intense passion. And this Restorer moves into the house while He is remodeling it.
He lives in the mess He’s fixing!
Jesus promised that when He had gone to the Father to oversee the renovation, the Project Manager would move into the house to guarantee its full restoration! (John 14:17)
The real work of Jesus is simple: uncover the original beauty and majesty by unearthing His original image and intention in me. The old prophet heard God’s promise from afar: “I will restore David’s fallen shelter— I will repair its broken walls and restore its ruins— and will rebuild it as it used to be…” (Amos 9:11)
But it is no easy job. This is no DIY project. I know. I’ve tried.
In the Kingdom, DIY is an epic fail.
But there is a Restorer…and He is very good at what He does.
“I will restore them because I have compassion on them. They will be as though I had not rejected them, for I am the Lord their God and I will answer them.” (Zechariah 10:6)
One day, when His work is all done, Jesus will stand before His Father and looking over the restored ruins of my life (along with multitudes of others) smilingly declare, “Look what I did!”