You might walk through our home today and think it looks good (or maybe not). I think to really appreciate how much change occurred you would’ve had to walk through it before it was ours. When it was just a house. To really engage all of your senses in the state of this house’s disarray. Pictures are good, but not 100% the full effect. You can’t smell a picture or feel the damp, dank air. A picture doesn’t let you touch the dirt and grim. You can’t even see all the details, like bugs, dust bunnies, stains and cobwebs.
There were only a handful of friends and family who got to walk through the house before demolition began. They got the full on “before” experience. Even though we were in the house daily during renovations it is hard to remember the state of our house pre-transformation. A vivid memory I do have in the process is me crouched down in the back yard taking “before” pictures. Crumbling under the weight of this project I sat and cried. Hopeless tears poured out and released my worry. What are we doing? What have we gotten ourselves into? Overwhelmed and uninspired I truly felt like this house would never be livable or clean, much less a beautiful home. But, we rolled on. Sleepless nights, a burglary, bad contractors, good contractors, selections, roadblocks and grand graces later here we are. Our home is actually clean (well, kind of), critter free, with doors, windows and walls. It has a sweet spirit that I never expected. The kitchen takes the cake for the biggest transformation. No small coincidence it is the hub of our home. This room is where all the action takes place. Friends gather here, we cook, eat, do homework and live most of our lives out loud in this kitchen. This humble abode has been a great gift to us.
When I think of some of the best before and after transformations that really matter, Paul is on the top of my list. His story is told in the book of Acts (his conversion specifically in Acts 9). This man persecuted, arrested and cheered on the murder of Christians. On his way to do more harm he was stopped in his tracks by an encounter with Christ. This encounter led to his acknowledgment of Jesus, his repentance, his acceptance of the grace Jesus gives and his dedication to live for God’s kingdom. He goes on to live an amazing life serving our Lord. I believe what makes the work he did even more unbelievably awesome is the stark contrast it was to his “before” life.
I have known Jesus most of my life, but I didn’t walk with him fully until 2008. I consider pre-2008 my “before”. My life was teaming with selfish, poor choices. My relationship with Christ was one of convenience, at best. People from my school days would be the ones with the best before pictures of my life. They got to witness so much of the self depreciating, careless and reckless behavior I walked in. The stunning truth is that those days are now hard for me to remember. Not because I’ve blocked them out or pretend they never happened. Forgiveness has made those memories fuzzy around the edges, faded and subdued. I have to really put effort into conjuring up the dank dark miserable places I so often threw myself into. That, my friend, is the essence of grace. God met me on my own Damascus Road. I have layed those yesterdays at Christ’s feet and walked in freedom ever since. It took a while. I am not going to lie. So often we look at our past or even present self and think, “if you only knew this or that about me, you would never let me_____.” Fill in the blank…teach bible study, be your friend, work here, take me seriously, join your club, etc. Been there, done that. Grace says differently. Every single bad before leads to a more glorious after. All the best stories involve great transformation, refining through fire, lessons learned from firsthand experience. Those past events that hold you captive contributed to you. They taught you something, good or bad. They molded you. God can use every last drop of your story for his glory. Think about it. No blockbuster movie or New York Times bestseller ever got there without a story of action. No one is interested in a book about nothing. The before and after make the award winners.
Once you really lay down your baggage and accept the forgiveness Jesus freely offers, you can start living your glorious after.
My prayer is genuine. I want you to put purpose to your past and walk away from the chains of it. Life is so much more rich on the other side. Your purpose will surface. Reliving the bad will cease. God will make those memories fade just enough. Enough that you won’t forget and lose perspective. Enough that they aren’t the daily demons you live with now. I know it feels overwhelming, like your life could never be clean and beautiful. It can.
But how? Where do you start?
On your knees for one. Talk to God. Pour it out. Confess. Repent. Ask for his help. Accept Christ as your savior.
Next surround yourself with good Christian counsel. Friends, bible study, church, therapist – whatever forum you need. Paul did it. There is no way we could have put this house back together by ourselves. We needed help. You do too.
Get in the word. Open your bible and pray for understanding and knowledge.
Then just walk. One day at a time. In His grace.
I would adore the honor of praying for you, I already am. Just let me know how I can more specifically.
Please read Psalm 142. It is amazingly beautiful.
to open the eyes that are blind, to free captives from prison and to release from the dungeons those who sit in darkness. Isaiah 42:7
Then you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free. John 8:32
Then you will call upon me and come and pray to me, and I will listen to you. Jeremiah 29:12
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