We bought our house when we were over eight months pregnant with our first child. In hindsight I would say that it was a purchase under duress. We had looked for an entire year in the big city, but whenever we seemed to get close, one of us was uncertain. So when we found ourselves closing in on the due date the pressure began to mount for us to settle quickly. Coming from a walk-up apartment, when we first entered our current home we were pleased. We saw potential, and a big back yard, and that clinched it. God led us that day to purchase it, over an hour away from our closest family and all of our friends.
Over the years I have had a love/hate relationship with this place. Once the novelty wore off, and motherhood settled in, I grew impatient with what I had not seen at first. The lack of closet space, the kitchen built for those who never eat in, the fixtures, and the layout…pretty much everything was now noticeable. It was everything I did not envision it to be. I always wanted land, and a covered porch, and room for the kids to play where their neighbours would not hear their exuberant, sometimes blood-curdling shouts. I wanted space to breathe and to think and to live. I wanted the dream.
The years within our home, with a single income, have brought changes very slowly. Thirteen years later we still have builders’ paint in our front hall, our basement is under constant yet very slow construction, and our neighbours can still hear us sneeze. We could move, but through prayer we continue to hear the whisper “stay”. I do believe the reasons are far more extensive than I can see now, but one of them of course is to teach me patience, gratitude, and simplicity. It is to take my eyes off of where I am and what I possess and onto who I am in Him. He is using this place to train me, to mold me, and to recreate me…and even though I squirm in my flesh, I smile at His faithfulness.
Our hearts are just like this house. When we are first born into new life in Christ, all is wonderful. We have come from the darkness of our prison cell of sin, and the blood of our Lord has given us light and life and hope. There is space to move, and we move more freely than we have ever moved.
Many times with this new freedom we also face the reality that we’ve moved far away from what and who we know. Our mindset begins to change, our focus recalibrates, and the common interest so tightly held in many old relationships starts to strain. This new tension does not come merely from our own perspective either (2 Cor.6:14, 1 Cor. 1:18). Many people, not yet having breathed in life for themselves, find it odd or offensive that we have. Distances can develop that we never thought possible.
Nevertheless we settle in, happy for the new place in Christ, all the while dealing with the growing reality that the separation from our loved ones and friends, no matter how subtle, will greatly impact our life going forward. (Matt. 19:29) We go onward, and begin to walk daily in this newness, until one day, it is no longer new. The grace of the new beginning morphs into endurance, into trial, into hardship. We start to notice, or rather the Spirit starts to show us, that our hearts, although now completely purchased by Him, are not what we assumed they were, or envisioned them to be. Our sin closes in on us, and we wonder just how much of it clutters our souls. We look at our own hearts and see nothing but our limitations, brokenness, clutter, and useless space. We pray hard that we could move out and get a bigger, brighter, more functional heart. At first we may get a sledgehammer and start to remake it ourselves…but as we progress in the matter, we look behind us and realize that in our attempt to change one thing, ten other things have fallen into disarray (Psalm 127:1, Isaiah 64:6). Our attempts at heart remodelling are folly; self-made righteousness can never hold up.
Some of us grow tired of waiting; we know what we want to have, but we cannot attain it. We hunger and thirst for righteousness, but our flesh is not satisfied. We know that nothing good dwells in us, that is, in our flesh. For we have the desire to do what is right, but not the ability to carry it out. We do not do the good we want, but the evil we do not want is what we find we keep on doing (Matt. 5:6a; Rom. 7:18-19). All we see is what we lack. We are clouded in despair. We long for purity, honour, truth, and love, but all we see is impurity, dishonour, lies, and darkness.
Then one day the true Owner of our hearts whispers down the dark corridors and gets us to our feet again. He takes our hands into His and shows us His nail-scarred flesh. He asks us softly “To whom do you belong?”. We answer through gospel-drawn tears, that it is He (1 Cor. 6:20). He pulls us close to Him, and with His hand lifting up our chin so that our eyes gaze into His, He gently reminds us that we hunger and thirst for righteousness BECAUSE He dwells in us, and that one day we will be filled (Matt. 5:6b). He assures us that we are His and that He is not finished with us yet (Eph. 2:10; Phil. 1:6), and that our hearts are being remade.
He directs us to be patient and to be still, and to know that He is God (Psalm 46:10). He sits us down in the middle of our hearts and shows us His throne room, where His Holy Spirit dwells in the infinite brightness of His light (Eph. 3:17, 2 Cor. 4:7). He invites us to know Him, to discover Him, to chase Him, and to renew our minds (Isa. 55:6, Rom.12: 2, Ps. 63:1-8). We stand in awe of His holiness and beauty, but our betraying flesh convinces us to glance back toward the darkened hallways, with room upon room painted in the blackness of sin, looking ever darker beside His great light. We are overwhelmed with sadness, and threatened again with despair. In His passion towards us He grabs our face, more firmly this time, and reminds us that He is King. (Rev. 17:14) He tells us that when we look too long down those hallways we are too easily drawn back into them, and that we were meant to look upon His face alone (Psalm 62:5; Isaiah 26:3).
Like living in my house, with its limits and imperfections, we must submit to the remodeling of our hearts in His timing, and in His strength maintain a posture of quiet trust. We recognize His ownership, His sovereignty, and His faithfulness to complete the job. (Gal. 2:20; Isa. 46:10; Ps. 100:4-5) We know that His ways are not our own, and that our God, and King, and our Master Architect knows what He is doing. We no longer focus on what we lack, but concentrate on Who we have, knowing that He is faithful to complete the remaking of our hearts (1 Thess. 5:23-24). We take off the crown of our own failures, and place it where it belongs, on the Holy head of the Author and Finisher of our lives (Heb. 12:2).
We know that our hearts will never be what we want them to be while we dwell on this earth, but our home is not here, and our hope is eternal. Our hope is in His righteousness–in Christ. In the words of Paul “Brothers, I do not consider that I have made it my own. But one thing I do: forgetting what lies behind and straining forward to what lies ahead, I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus.” (Phil. 3: 13-14).
There is a saying that, “Home is where the heart is”, but I say, “Our heart is where our home is” because He dwells within it. Let us be patient with the reconstruction, trusting in the Great Remodeler, and let us get out of the way and die to our selves so He can do His miraculous work and bring glory to His magnificent name (Gal. 5:24; Matt. 10:38).