I have always loved old restored homes and cars. The love and dedication it takes to takes to do this is astronomical, but the end result is so wonderful the work is completely worth it.
Take a beautiful old Victorian home. There were several in the town where I went to college. Cheap, ugly paint was slapped coat over coat to cover stains , carpet was laid over beautiful hardwood floors and cheap laminate tiles were placed over the original ceramic tiles. For many people, the work needed wouldn’t be worth the effort, but then someone who sees the true bones of the old architecture – who understand the original intent and concept of those homes- takes the time to strip those new additions away and the beauty unveiled is worth every drop of sweat.
Of course these days, there are many who believe that just tearing old things down and replacing them with something new and shiny is better. It typically costs less, often takes less time, and you can create something state of the art rather than something that still relies on push-button light switches and radiator heat.
As Christians, we are often like those looking to tear down the old and replace it with the shiny newness. After all, isn’t that what the Bible promises? Paul promises in his second letter to the Corinthians that anyone who is in Christ Jesus is a new creation. Doesn’t that mean that once we “become a Christian” the old, non-Christian is wiped away and is replaced with a shiny new version?
Well, I hate to break it to you, but at least in my opinion, this is not at all what happens or really what Paul was even trying to say.
Since all of us were created in God’s image, that means that good, bad, or indifferent, we all have the same “bones”. God made us so therefore we are good.
So why do we have to change?
We need to change because like that Victorian home, time events change what God created. The struggles of live covers each of us with layers of dirt and grime that hide the beauty of the work of God. All we are able to see is the brokenness; the hurts, anger, disappointments and struggles that have added layer after layer of grime which hardens and becomes like rock that is unmoved by our tears or the love and affection of other humans. The only way we can return to our former glory – the image of God – someone has to start chiseling away at the negative outside.
Now here is where it gets a bit tricky.
I don’t believe that this work is done by God, Jesus or the Holy Spirit. Rather, we as spiritual beings must take the hammer and chisel to our ourselves and break down the barriers that keep us from the full understanding and knowledge God.
To me, as I look at the way many people practice their faith these days, it seems that they believe if they pray enough for God to create in them a clean heart, the work will be done for them; that God will remove those thinks that keep us at a distance from Him and all we have to do is pray and wait.
I personally don’t believe this to be true and here’s why
One of the most difficult things for us to understand from our mortal perspective is that for God, all that is, was, and is to come has already occurred. He isn’t living our daily lives with us in the way that we are. As the old saying goes, God’s time is not our time. It is not that He has already chosen our paths, but rather, He has seen what choices we will make and has already created the paths that will lead us back to Him. His work is done.
Yep. I can hear those little wheels spinning. You’re thinking, so if everything is already done, why do we have to be restored to God at all? Why put myself through all of the hard work if the end is already determined?
While it may not sound like it, this is actually the best part.
God did that for us.
God could have created us so we would not fail. He could have created us so that we never had a relationship with Him. He could have created us in such a way that we would never realize what love is and be able to grasp all the wonders that surround us.
He didn’t do this, but instead, created us so that we do fail and have to pick ourselves back up and try again. He created us so that we can understand the glorious ache that is love as well as the stabbing pain of loss. He created a desire in our hearts to come to understand our distance from Him, what it was that separated us from Him, and the desire to be restored to a place of community with Him. And then in His great mercy, gave US the tools we need to work on that rough exterior so we could start to see what He already sees – that beneath all of the dirt and ugliness is something truly beautiful.
We are God’s diamonds in the rough. Our soul is a precious gem that is waiting be revealed to the world. It is our job to recognize the good “bones” of our being and begin the work of restoration in ourselves because only in doing the work ourselves will we fully understand the degree to which we kept ourselves hidden from God and then realize the true beauty that He created.