Yesterday I was telling you about a much-delayed home organization project that I was working on this weekend, organizing the books on our bookshelves. In the middle of the project it hit me that while the room was messier and it sure felt like there was zero progress being made, I was actually closer to the final organizational goal than when I began. That caused me to question the validity of the phase, It's gotta get worse, to get better. You better believe there's a Spiritual application for this! That is what I'd like to share with you today.
Not much different from being in the throws of a home renovation, we can find ourselves in the midst of a heart renovation with the Lord. He begins showing you things about yourself that He wants to change, and it's painful - painful to face and painful to walk through the transformation. You might begin to wonder if you really are a Christian, with all that nastiness being revealed. Or worse, have you ever been a Christian if that is still part of who you are?!
As I worked on those bookshelves, all I could see were the books in disarray on the floor, not the handful of shelves that were already beautifully arranged.
As God works in our hearts, we sometimes see more ugly than beauty.
Like the bookshelves, you were probably okay as you were, but the Lord has something even greater in mind. You're rolling along just-fine-thank-you-very-much, until there's a twinge in your conscience, followed by a desire to do and be better, chased by a sense that there might not be any hope for someone as awful as you. You and your sin, in a stare-down. Who will look away first?
The fact of the matter is that, no matter how much you've matured or how long you've been walking with the Lord, you have not attained His level of holiness. There's always going to be another level to which He wants to draw you. A related fact of the matter? You're far worse and more desperate than you think you are, but His grace is always enough to bridge that gap. And that grace becomes increasingly more amazing as we move along and He draws us into sharing more in His holiness. (Yes, check that link, the Bible says that God wants us to share in His holiness! Can you believe it?! It leaves me speechless when I think about it.)
God disciplines us for our good, that we may share in His holiness.
Last week, our books were on our bookshelves. Practically speaking, they did not have to be rearranged. But for months it's been bugging me because, while functional, it wasn't what it could be! I knew those books could be sorted out by topic to make items easier to find. I knew we didn't need all of them on those selves, so we could have space for other items. I knew it did not look nice but could, if the books were arranged by height.
I imagine the Lord looks at me in love and thinks, Alright, the time has come. It's gonna be a little painful for her, she's gonna have to take a look at things in her heart that displease me and are keeping her from growing. But it. is. time. Spirit, start nudging, because we can't let her alone any longer. We've got something much better for her.
So as I lamented the mess I'd made on the floor of our school room that we needed to use in 36 hours, I was comforted by the fact that it was not worse than before. Yes, the floor was messier, but a couple of shelves already looked like this:
Oh the joy! All stories and novels lined up by size. Be still my heart!
If that's how I feel about two shelves put right,
imagine how the Father rejoices to take us through a little bit of mess,
to set something right in our hearts!
I have not come up with a catchy alternative to it's gotta get worse to get better. But I do pray that somehow, from this jumble of text, you're taking away some hope. When we walk with the Lord, He's going to take us through some "reorganization" at times, involving repentance, self-examination, and discomfort. But oh, the cross of Jesus, and how it sees us through so we don't despair, but can trust that the mess we're in is not things getting worse. Oh no! Because you're not going backward. You are NOT going backward. The mess is part of the movement forward to "the better", which for the Christian is sharing another little bit in God's holiness.
Oh praise you, Father, for taking us through messy places so we can move into better places! Help us, Holy Spirit, to be strong and courageous; remind us of Jesus and the cross, and bring us faithfully through. Amen.
* * *
For the curious, the project is not done (books need to be donated, Colin has to decide about some of his things, and I need to consider how to best use the freed-up shelves.) But here's where we are; I do so wish I'd taken a 'before' picture!
I don't know that I'll be able to look at these shelves from now on, without thinking of the verses I linked to above, Hebrews 12:10-11.
Our fathers disciplined us for a little while as they thought best; but God disciplines us for our good, that we may share in his holiness. 11 No discipline seems pleasant at the time, but painful. Later on, however, it produces a harvest of righteousness and peace for those who have been trained by it.