Posted by: jefriesen | September 2, 2010

A Major Remodel Needed

I was lying down the other day in a room designed for relaxation. The walls are painted a darker hue, the lighting is less intense and the shades are closed. The space is relaxing, quiet. It is a nice place to go and hide when the phone is ringing and the kids are playing loudly (is there any other volume at which children play?) and I need a break from the general noise of life. And that is what I was doing. Relaxing. Perhaps napping. Either way, I was in what some would call my happy place. All of a sudden, my state of calm was rudely interrupted by my wife, who walked in and offered an opinion on the state of the room’s cleanliness. Actually, she didn’t offer an opinion, she issued a judgment. “This place is a mess!”

She turned on the lights and opened the shades in order to prove her point. My dimly lit happy place was flooded with light. After taking a few moments so that my eyes could adjust to the light, I realized that she was right. The odd thing is that the room seemed clean enough when I went in. It could have been the dim lighting; some would suggest that the particular combination of x and y chromosomes played a part; but simply didn’t notice the dust dragons, cobwebs or the small mountain of laundry in the corner. It wasn’t until the lights were on and the shades opened (that, and my wife pointing it out to me) that I realized that the room was, in fact, in need of a thorough cleaning.

The same thing is true in our lives. We go on quite comfortably with the dust and cobwebs of our lives, not seeing (and not wanting to see) that there is anything wrong. Over time, we get used to our own imperfections, passing them off as ‘no big deal.’ If we wrong others, it is easy for us to pass it off as ‘a mistake’ or an ‘error in judgment.’ We usually use phrases that imply non-intentionality on our part. Even when our actions towards someone are intentional, we make excuses for ourselves: ‘she started it.’ ‘he had it coming.’ A moment’s reflection would reveal that excuses that don’t work for our children won’t work for us either. When judgment comes, we will be found wanting.

We don’t like to talk about judgment in our culture. Judgment implies that something, or someone, is wrong. We would much rather try to smooth things over with the idea that ‘everyone’s okay,’ and ‘every person has a right to his or her own opinion.’ This may work well on the playground, but in the real world, everyone can’t be right; and there are consequences for being wrong. In the case of our standing before God, God is right and we are wrong. This means judgment. For one of the most elementary truths of Christianity is that God, as Creator, has reserved the right to judge His creation according to His standard.

A question that naturally comes from this is ‘how do I stack up against God’s standard?’ This is not a question we are used to asking. Usually, when evaluating our own behavior, we compare ourselves to ‘our neighbor,’ meaning ‘the rottenest person I can think of’. Against the standard of my neighbor, I probably stack up pretty well. Perhaps I don’t lie, cheat or steal as much as he or she. I like to think that I am pretty kind and generous (and good looking). Compared to someone else in town, that may be true. But we aren’t measured against the standard of ‘our neighbor,’ we are measured against the standard of God’s holiness. According to His standard, I’m in trouble. For God not only sees all of our actions and hears all of our words, He also knows the motives of my own heart. “Nothing in all creation can hide from Him,” the author of the book of Hebrews writes, “everything is naked and exposed before His eyes.” When God’s light shines upon the darkened corners of my life, everything is exposed. And it is not just me. “We have all fallen short,” the Bible says, of God’s standard of absolute holiness. God will one day open up the shades of our life and turn the light of His holiness upon us. We will then see clearly how dirt-filled the room of our life actually is.

On the negative side, this realization will probably take us from our ‘happy place.’ There is no joy in an honest evaluation of our failures. But the full evaluation would reveal that our lives are so dirt-filled that a thorough cleaning will not do. What we need, is nothing less than a major remodel, performed by the Master Builder.

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