I went out to our backyard today with the puppies and took a look at our yard. If you've ever seen the movie, Secret Garden
, then you can imagine what it looks like - it's the "before" shot. We moved into our house over 7 months ago - just days before our wedding (something I don't recommend to couples) and realized very soon that our house had been vacant for some time. Turns out, it was around 18 months.
The Friday we walked in, there was a green film of mold on almost everything, it was musty, dusty and humid. The outside wasn't much better. If you drive by, you can still see that our house has an animal print paint job, with patches here and there. Our acre yard was positively overgrown with all sorts of trees, bushes, weeds, ivy, and grape vines. There were frightening out-buildings, and penned enclosures on each side, and a few of the trees had died and looked like corpses standing in the yard. Our gutters leaked, flooding our basement with 7 inches of water in the first rainstorm.
We spent much of the summer trying to get this house in shape. Tearing down 6-foot fences, hauling out an old trailer, burning brush and a rotten wood pile, clearing out railroad ties along the fence (how Jason and our puppy discovered the yellow jackets). We scaled the roof, replaced appliances, and a toilet, removed layers of wallpaper, patched and painted walls, pulled up carpeting, and removed cupboards. We learned a little about plumbing and carpentry, stain removal and upholstery, painting and refinishing. About enough to get us in some serious trouble.
Some days our house looks pretty good, in a certain light, but sometimes the cleaning and renovation just makes a bigger mess for the time being (like what I've currently done to our hall bathroom
But working on this, our very own house, has given me such a greater appreciation for the necessity of the progression of time to bring about change. It just doesn't happen overnight. I see it's application not just in our house and our yard, but in my life too. Sometimes I feel like my internal development and this house are running parallel.
Being married has brought about a whole slew of new "things" I have to deal with in my heart. Some good things, innumerable not-so-good. I knew that would be the case, but we were so stressed leading up to our wedding, it was easy to look to that date, May 1, as the day that would make everything in our lives finally land in perfect harmony. We didn't realize that it would be the day we had to really start working for it.
I so wanted to be the perfect wife, with the perfect heart responses at all times, proficient in cooking and cleaning, kind and compassionate, angelic really. I tell J, I had these expectations that we'd spend our evenings before a roaring fire playing chess, or reading aloud some classic literature and the Bible. That we'd get up early and watch the sun rise, have matching tool belts and twin drills to renovate our house together at every opportunity, work together to hone our cooking skills. We'd mature into these well-rounded people basically overnight. In our perfect house, where there lives a perfect couple, who are individually perfect people. Surprisingly, it hasn't happened quite like that.
I am pretty impatient. I've prayed that the Lord would help me be that Proverbs 31 woman that all of us are supposed to be on Day 1 of marriage. I wanted the Lord to look at my life, make a calculated inventory of my weaknesses, and in a clean sweep, make them all go away, so that I can live the rest of my years in a state of perfection, kind of like Enoch you know. Slight exaggeration, but you know what I mean.
It's hard for me to have grace for the process, whether it's for myself or for J.May, or for anyone else really. It's so much easier to be absolutely black and white, impatient and legalistic. But I'm realizing that, apart from a few miraculous and instantaneous moments of breakthrough, which are wonderful and I would like more of, most of the work of the Lord in our lives is a process. The problem comes not that He is unfaithful to continue the work of sanctification, but when we grow weary in well doing and in perseverance, and we slip back into our old patterns. We give up on the process because we're looking for some arrival point. But when the destination becomes the city whose Builder and Maker is God instead of an arbitrary point where our spiritual and emotional maturity reach a high point, that's when we can really relax and trust Him.
For me, the challenge is not simply to let the Lord love me, but to let Him take His time. To learn to be patient with myself at my own weaknesses while He goes room by room as a Master Craftsman restoring the brokenness. To not give up when He opens a closet and I see all the clutter inside, or works on the wall to discover 3 layers of ugly wallpaper. To trust Him when He has to take the axe to 37 trees in my garden that have become a nuisance. And when I look back over the last 7 months and look at the progress we've made in this house, (and also see the mess of our hall bathroom) I'm reminded that in time, I'll look back upon myself right now, and see all the glimmers of my own personal restoration.