(I wouldn’t stand too close to me right now. haha.)
One of my guilty pleasures back in the day was watching Trading Spaces. It was that show where they take two couples and they give one room in their house a complete makeover with help from a professional interior decorator and a carpenter. The couples have to swap homes for a couple days and get to work on the other couples’ room and then the grand reveal happens. It was so fun to watch all the changes and creativity that the professional designers came in with, especially when you had the feeling the couple was going to HATE it. (admittedly, I do have a sinister streak in me lurking about.)
I particularly loved one designer, Vern Yip. Yes, maybe it was the Asian connection, but I loved his style. It was clean, no nonsense, using crazy colors I’d never put together in a million years but really worked, and of course had an Asian flair. Some of the couples were not so thrilled. I can understand it. You work hard on someone else’s home for a couple days and then you walk into your home to find something that is less than absolutely fabulous to you. It’s disappointing and frustrating, and I have no doubt that the second the cameras turned off that many of the couples took everything apart and repainted and went to Target to replace everything. You can chalk it up to getting what you pay for – meaning it was free.
So what does this have to do with God? Sometimes, I cringingly realize that I treat God like He’s hired help, like a professional designer I called in and expect Him to make my life perfect. I mean, I invited Him into my life, right? Yes it was at no cost whatsoever to me, but it sure feels like I’m paying for it some times. And I think, well what is He thinking any way? Why would He put those things together? Why would He knock down that wall or paint that wall such an awful color? And (horrific thought) this isn’t what I wanted my life to look like and I can just take it from here, thanks but no thanks for your free services.
We pray to God. We say, here’s what we want You to do. We SAY we want You to change our hearts. We say we want peace and contentment, we want to grow up and mature, we want to know love and grace more and more. We want our families and our spouses to grow up and learn their lessons, of course. We want things to go well. We want everyone to be healed of sickness and disease. We want we want we want. And God says – do you really want me to “show up?”
I’ve always cringed at that saying. I’ve seen it in various places and heard it from pulpits. “God shows up.” It makes me uneasy. It’s bad theology, as my husband says. God isn’t our hired hand. God isn’t about making our lives easier. He didn’t save us so that things will go well and He can bless us with nice, comfortable lives. God doesn’t “show up” for us. He is already there whether we want Him to be or not. And we don’t have evidence of His presence only when things go our way or when He swoops in and saves the day or wins the war or “scores” in the final 3 seconds. God is there. He is working. He is always doing what He does.
In business, it’s like a bait and switch. It’s bad for business to make promises and not deliver. If you’re in sales, you’ve heard the saying “Under-promise and over-deliver.” We sometimes feel like we’re standing here claiming God’s promises of goodness and peace that passes understanding and love eternal and so on. But then something goes dreadfully wrong. Cancer diagnosis. A sick child. Your spouse cheats on you. A house fire steals everything you own. Your son goes to jail for a DUI. You get laid off from the job you thought you’d retire from. There are a million things that happen in life, almost like someone took over your house and redecorated your entire life in the worst possible way. And we look for someone to blame. We look for reasons. We use ill-formed logic and self-absorbed whining to create a false reality – the kind where we look like we should be in charge, where we are the expert designer and where our “help” has failed us. We create an ethos in our heads that we know best and that we can fix it all if God would just do what we ask or get out of our way.
Of course we mostly wouldn’t actually SAY any of this out loud, or actually type it all out in a public blog… :-O
So I come back to the actual reality, instead of my trumped up one, and I realize my assessment of what God promised me and what He delivers on has been sorely mistaken. He promised us that this life will be filled with troubles, but also that He will complete us and work all things together. He promised us that there will be a cross to carry and a burden to bear, but it will be light and that He will carry us. He promised that we will need to die to ourselves daily, even hourly, to humble ourselves and learn the path of a servant, but that He will also give us a new heart, one that will desire deeply to learn his path and find that the greatest, most satisfying joy comes not from everything looking the way we think it should look, but surprisingly, that it looks the way God intended it and not at all what we expected.
Life doesn’t look that way I might have pictured it at my age right now. I’m not exactly sure what I was picturing, but it’s clearly safe to say it wasn’t this. But what God is teaching me right here and right now is that it’s better. It is so much better. And I’m not qualifying that. There are so many areas in my life that are like balls up in the air and we have no idea what will happen next. And things keep happening to make us feel a little bit worse and less in control than ever, and I pray out to God – is this really necessary right now?
And He says yes, this is necessary. It is necessary for me to know deep in my heart that I can control NOTHING. That I am not the expert here. That I can do nothing and am capable of only destruction and pain when left to my own devices. But God… God is in His goodness has stepped down into my mess and He has orchestrated all the chaotic pieces and He continues to restore and defrag the hard drive if you will so that I will see His design – His perfect and other-worldly design – that much more clearly. He is clearing out the muddy gunk that my mind is clogged with, the error in my thinking, the self-absorbed rantings and the crazed and flawed analyses that clutter my brain. He is replacing my heart with His heart, making me want more of Him and less of me and my narcissistic endeavors, my lofty but misguided goals and dreams, my abusive manipulation of others to get my way, and He is pouring into my soul a new creature, a new spirit, one of sheer beauty and grace, one that sees with compassion and love, one that builds up and never tears others down. He is opening my eyes to see Him in a new way, His plans and His vision, so that I stop trying to get Him to serve me and I enter His service for His good pleasure to use and move in any way He chooses.
Oh Lord, forgive me for my selfishness and for actually daring to be angry with You. I repent of my need to feel in control or to demand to know what’s ahead. Forgive me for not truly trusting You with my everything. Remind me that all my fountains are in You and only You are worth having, worth striving for, worth every breath in my being. Help me to have better theology – that I didn’t invite You into my life, but that You invited me to sit at Your table, to feast with You, to rest in You, to join You in Your redemptive work here and now in my life and the lives of those around me. Give me the grace to see Your hand in every area of my life, not just the ones that are going the way I think they should. Let my lips always bless You and sing of Your unfailing love. This I pray.