One of my guilty indulgences is watching home renovation shows. My favorites are the ones where they go into an old house and attempt to restore it to its original beauty. In the beginning, a viewer sees the before shots of peeling paint and wall paper, broken windows, sagging floors, damaged everything, but the person restoring the home sees the beauty of the build. At the end of the show, viewers are often treated to all the after shots of the home in all the beauty it possessed.
Many times, these renovation shows like to show people as they live in the house during renovations (and often try to take on some of the tasks on their own, even though they have never done anything like that before.) During that 35 minutes in between the before and after, the viewer is treated to scenes of chaos, frustration and exhaustion. But, as a general rule of thumb, the closing scenes show the homeowner gushing over the changes and reveling in the beauty of their new abode.
At the end of these shows, viewers can garner a couple lessons: 1. An old, damaged home still possesses the ability to be beautiful. 2. Restoration and renovation can be painful.
I have a painful history. My story has been marred by the effects of generational sins and the cruelty of some of the people that have crossed my path. While I was spared from some of the severe casualties of childhood, I have had my fair share of suffering and pain, including some events that would come as a surprise to many. My story is not unique, except in the details. In many ways, the things that happened to me as a child and adolescent have damaged this "house" of my mind.
I have struggled (mostly quietly) for years in a battle against depression. Though on the surface, for the most part, I can manage happiness in a moment or string of moments, deep down I have longed for the type of joy that is unmarred by circumstances. When I speak of joy, my Christianese wants to speak up and say, "that joy is found in Christ alone." This is true and I know this, but there is something deeper.
Not long ago, I was reading my Bible and crying out to God, "Lord, why can't I just be happy. I know you are the source of joy, but why can't I feel it for more than just a moment? I just want to feel joy and be okay." Then, I read (for the umpteenth time) Psalm 23:3: "He restores my soul," and God gave me a vision of an old house like I described above. Sure, He could slap on a band-aid of "happy" like one could slap on a fresh coat of paint or lay down some new flooring, but if the damage underneath the band-aid wasn't restored, it would eventually reappear: the new floor will begin to sag over the old, the new paint will peel, my moment of happiness will fade into one of bitterness or resentment.
In that moment of revelation, God helped me to understand that, for some (like me), it isn't as easy as slapping on a new coat of paint and going forward with life. Some of us have to go back and deal with all the damage that has been done before we can embrace the potential beauty of joy.
I am deep in the throes of this restoration process. And, like the poor souls on TV who are living in the same home that is being restored, I am having to live in the chaos this restoration creates. The flooring was ripped up to reveal an issue with the foundation, a wall was torn down and revealed electrical issues, there is dust everywhere, and the garbage pile just keeps getting bigger. Going through these old hurts has brought about a new pain. Things I had forgotten or pushed from my memory have resurfaced and I am having to deal with them for what feels like the first time. Most days, I don't want to feel these things and feel so overwhelmed with it all that I want to run and hide under the covers (or put this place up for sale and go find a newly built Condo!) But then, I remember the vision and the promise: He restores my soul.
God is like those crazy homeowners on TV. He looked at this broken, dilapidated house and saw the beauty that was inherent in the build. I imagine this in-between phase of chaos, frustration and exhaustion will take much longer than the 35 minutes the TV shows allot, but I am also quite confident that the "after" will be even more beautiful than any TV renovation and I will be shining with His beautiful glory.