When my wife and I bought our first house together, it was a cute little ranch-style home sitting high up on a ridge. We loved everything about it except the master bathroom. It was a hideous, dark, Barney-the-Dinosaur purple. We talked almost every day about how we needed to paint it, but just kept putting it off.
One Saturday my wife was gone to work so I decided I would surprise her by painting the bathroom. To get started, I sat a chair in the middle of the bathroom floor, climbed up to do some taping, and one of the chair legs punctured the floor. Sometime in the distant past a water leak – undisclosed by the previous owners and undiscovered by the home inspectors – had rotted the bathroom floor. When I started painting, I discovered it. I began tearing up the linoleum to get at the problem, and you guessed it, the problem was much larger than I anticipated.
A section several feet square had to be cut out. The cabinets had to be removed. The floor joists had to have additional supports put in. The insulation had to be torn out. The leaking pipe had to be replaced. My simple painting project turned into an exercise in demolition involving three trips to the Home Depot, a fair share of praying and swearing, and the assistance and tools of two of my neighbors. When my wife came home late that afternoon I was standing on the ground with my chest and arms sticking up through this four-by-four hole in the middle of her bathroom.
Old plumbing, saws, strange men, and destruction were everywhere. In shock, her eyes bugging out, she asked “What in the world are you doing!?” I answered, “I’m painting your bathroom – the least you can say is ‘thank you.’”
That’s how it is with this Jesus character. “OK, Lord, I admit it: I’ve got a room in my life that needs a little paint. It has been an ugly color for far too long. And there is the issue of the leaky pipe that I’ve been hiding. So, come on in and help me out.” Christ comes in and you are exhilarated and so pleased. Then, you go out to the market for coffee, come back home, and he’s sawed the back-half of your life off. “Lord! What are you doing!” we exclaim. And he answers, “I’m just doing what has to be done to straighten things out.”
That crazy, wild, woman Anne Lamott talks about coming to Christ when she had finally reached the end of herself. She said that Jesus just would not leave her alone. “Everywhere I went,” she says, “I had the feeling that a little cat was following me, wanting me to reach down and pick it up, wanting me to open the door and let it in. But I knew what would happen: You let a cat in one time, give it a little milk, and then it stays forever.”
She finally “let Jesus in,” and says about it, “When you ask God into your life, you think he or she is going to come into your house, look around, and see that you just need a new floor or better furniture and that everything needs just a little cleaning – and so you go along for the first six months thinking how nice life is now that God is there.
“Then you look out the window one day and see that there’s a wrecking ball outside. It turns out that God actually thinks your whole foundation is shot and you’re going to have to start over from scratch.” This is the Christian life, the life of discipleship: It is not striving. It is not trying. It is not working harder, or doing more, or aiming higher. It is surrender. It is trust. It is saying, “Lord, if my life, my will, my future, my heart belong to you, then take it all and do what you will – even if it is a much bigger project than I ever anticipated.”