See Luminosity

Renovation

Renovation

It’s been months since I’ve written.

The first year and a half after Dominic’s death were consumed with the need to document, to process, to wrestle with the feelings, thoughts, and realities that permeated my world after the loss of my son. It was an all-encompassing, obsessive drive to pound on the door of heaven and wrap my mind around this new and devastating world in which I was living – to reconcile the God I thought I had with the God who really is.

It was feeling, and writing, and yelling, and searching and weeping, and philosophizing, and shifting from the image I had of my Lord into the reality of the I AM. This God whose primary goal is not to make us happy, but to make us like Him. This Savior who doesn’t always rescue us from the fire but walks with us through it. This Lord who uses pain and suffering as the tools to carve out beauty that could never otherwise exist.

Those months, my greatest challenge became this:

Do I make my theology fit my experience, or do I make my experience fit my theology?

I have chosen the latter. And I am now in a new place.

The process of grief is long and wave-like, and while there are still more hurdles to cross…I no longer live in devastation and depression. My days, now, are not only characterized by acceptance, but – miraculously – by hope. In contrast to those first months of wrestling, the most recent months have been about learning how to live in relationship with my new understanding of the world and of my Lord. It has been a time of leaning back into His arms, breathing deeply, and feeling the freedom to simply rest in who He is.

If I could write a banner over where I’ve come in recent months, it has been: “Cease your striving and know that I am God” (Psalm 46:10).

But let me back up. Because before I got to the “cease your striving” part, there’s been a precursor that is kind of important. I think of it as…

Renovation.

Some months ago, we purchased a new home in order to make more room for my mother-in-law, who now lives with us. We found a great deal on a house that we absolutely loved – except that it was a foreclosure and needed a lot of work. So we rolled up our sleeves and did it. For four months I left the kids in the care of my mother-in-law, left the house at 7:30 a.m., and became project manager as well as painter for our new home until about 8 p.m. every night. We took out nasty carpet and had new hardwood flooring put in. We took out old appliances and installed new ones. We repaired major yard drainage and foundation issues.

And I painted.

Yes, I painted every. single. thing. Cabinets, doors, baseboards, crown molding, walls, furniture. Just me, with some periodic help from family members. Can anyone say, “striving”?

It was striving, but it was that striving that led me to being able to rest in Him. In many ways the house renovation time was incredibly cathartic. I had hours upon hours, three inches away from the wall while painting a line, to let my mind relax, and to pray. My hands stayed busy but my heart and mind were able to decompress from months of incessant spiritual and emotional grappling. Instead of doing so much processing (and talking and writing), I did more listening. More listening, more thanking, more loving this God who is so much more magnificent and whose plan is much grander than merely giving me momentary happiness. The house renovations provided me the perfect opportunity to mentally and emotionally rest, to worship, and create beauty – and out of it came a newfound love for my Jesus.

Isaiah 58:11 says, “The Lord will guide you always; he will satisfy your needs in a sun-scorched land and will strengthen your frame. You will be like a well-watered garden, like a spring whose waters never fail.” He has strengthened my frame, even in my sun-scorched land, and I am able to face the future with joy. I see the bigger picture, now, and my vision is no longer confined to simply life on this earth. I approach each day with an awareness of eternity and of God’s phenomenal love and grace that I never had before. I am no longer working so hard to reconcile God’s truths with my experience; I have been released to rest within those truths.

The physical labor of a home renovation was simply the next step of a process that began with Dominic’s birth and death, in Christ’s renovation of my heart. 2 Corinthians 3:18 says, “And we all, who with unveiled faces contemplate the Lord’s glory, are being transformed into his image with ever-increasing glory, which comes from the Lord, who is the Spirit.” As we are transformed into His image, be it through suffering, pain, or anything else, we experience ever-increasing glory. No, God doesn’t exist to make us happy. But He seeks to give us so much more than mere happiness –

He seeks to give us a share of His glory.

It is a share of His glory that allows me, a little more than two years after my son’s death, to wake up in the morning thanking Him rather than wallowing in self-pity. It is a share of His glory that brings me to revel in the time I have with the two children I have, rather than grieve over the loss of the one I don’t. It is a share of His glory that gives me hope in the future even though we have not conceived any more children. It is a share of His glory that fills me with assurance of God’s fundamental goodness and loving sovereignty, no matter what I may face in the future. Glory is better than happiness. And, I am learning, glory comes to us most effectively through suffering.

Our new house is now complete – the renovations are finished, and I couldn’t be more thankful for my beautiful home that we were truly able to make our own. We now have the space we have needed, and every detail is just the way we want it. The space reflects our interests and desires, and we can rest, relax, enjoy one another, feel secure, and create memories. Months of difficult renovations have provided us with the space that perfectly meets our needs.

But there has been more than just a physical home renovation going on in my life.

Psalm 127:1 says, “Unless the Lord builds the house, the builders labor in vain.”

I will admit it, I have had more than a few issues with the way The Lord was building my house, along this journey. I’ve even fought to prevent His construction. And certainly the house isn’t done yet. But it’s been renovated enough that I am beginning to glimpse, now, what it’s going to look like when He’s finished – and I’m realizing that this house is ever so much grander than I could have possibly imagined. It is, in fact, breathtaking beyond my wildest dreams.

I’m better about letting Him build the way He wants, now – painful hammering, wall destruction, and all. Why? Because I see that every house must go through renovations to become useful, to become beautiful, to reach its full potential.

And because I know the glory that awaits me in this house, when it’s finished – will truly be worth it all.

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