The office. This room is the only clean, presentable space in the house. It’s the start of our new life here in a foreign country, and this space is finally functioning as it is intended. Tore the outdated wallpaper off the walls, stripped off the under layer, treated the mold, and repainted everything with a fresh splash of color. Deep-cleaned the carpets, put up decor, brought in the desks. One room down, five to go, and it brings me a little closer to God.
We moved our lives to Christchurch, New Zealand recently, after a decade-long wait. Much to our surprise, we were given a house to live and serve out of from our ministry partner—a huge, mind-blowing blessing. But first, before all our hospitality and ministry ideas can operate in their fullest potential, we have to clean house. This place is, well, the definition of neglect.
Not only do we have to adjust to driving on the opposite side of the road, using strange words like "loo" and "petrol," and calculating Fahrenheit into Celsius, but we have this place to come home to after very exhausting days in a strange city. Not exactly comforting. During our first week here, as I surveyed the spider web colonies, water-logged shelves under the leaky sink, moldy carpets, crusted-over pots and pans, paint-chipped doors, moldy and stained curtains, broken light fixtures (I could go on), and as my frustration grew, I was almost brought to tears by how much work there is to be done. Every time I walked past a new problem I felt paralyzed by the task ahead of us. How could this place ever fully be all we have dreamed for it? Could it ever function as a hospitality house for missionaries? Can I ever call this place home?
Then it dawned on me—this must be how God feels about me, about us. We have so much junk in us. The selfishness, the stubbornness, the pride, the pettiness, and the lack of self-control. So much cleaning out that needs to be done before we can be fully used to our greatest potential. I was led to wonder, is He heartbroken over that? Does He get overwhelmed like I did with this one house? God sees the hearts of every single individual on the planet. How does He take on that amount of knowing and dealing?
Yet, it’s one of those mysteries about Him—He can handle it. He doesn’t become paralyzed like I do by how much work there is to be done. He never gives up. God sees that great potential we have, and is there, always cheering us on to clean house, to come to Him, to be stripped down of ourselves, so He can fill us up with pretty, clean things, so we can be better, in Him, for Him.
Yes, there is grace—we will never arrive at perfection on this side of eternity—but our faith requires us to move forward, to die to ourselves and to let God move in our lives. To clean out our rooms, our ghosts, our ugliness, and present ourselves to God to be new creations. Paul tells us in his letter to the Ephesians: "Surely you heard of him [Jesus] and were taught in him in accordance with the truth that is in Jesus. You were taught, with regard to your former way of life, to put off your old self, which is being corrupted by its deceitful desires, to be made new in the attitude of your minds; and to put on the new self, created to be like God in true righteousness and holiness."
After I finished cleaning one afternoon, as I laid on my bed, my frustration began to fade. In the grand scheme of things, comparing our task with all that God manages and puts up with, I realized just maybe I should buck up and step into this role here. To clean this place and present it beautiful for God to use. Maybe with a little elbow grease and several "fizzy drinks" later, we’ll have this place warm and cozy to be lived in and available to share with others. If anything, it reminds me daily of the work that is do be done in me so that God can use me here. Clean us out Lord. Make us new.