My wife Susan loves the TV show, Fixer Upper. Partly, at least, because she’s been on this “rehab” project working on me for the past 41 years. Partly because she loves all the new decorating ideas. Partly because Chip and Joanna Gaines are the sweetest couple, with the cutest kids.
This Lent season we have been studying together Jacob Armstrong’s book “Renovate”. He uses the metaphor of the “fixer upper” to help us think about the processes we go through to retool, or rebuild, or rehab, or “renovate” our lives. It has been a fascinating study based on the Old Testament Book of Nehemiah - it’s own “renovate” story featuring the arduous process of rebuilding the wall, the temple, and the city of Jerusalem. Following years of exile in Babylon, Nehemiah leads the Hebrews back to their homeland, and back to the foundations of their life - their Jewish Religion.
In the sixth and last chapter, Jacob fills the pages with the steps that culminated with the new wall, temple, and city being finished, dedicated, and celebrated. Just as the celebration commences, he instructs the folks to put aside their partying for a time, and go gather sticks, branches, and palm leaves in order to construct temporary shelters, or tents, or booths. As the people moved into these rustic temporary shelters, their minds and hearts were taken back to the time when they had no homes, when they lived in Egyptian captivity. When they traversed 40 years on the way to the promised land. This Festival of the Booths, helped remind the people exactly where they have been, exactly where they are now, and most importantly, that their journey is not complete. There is more yet to come.
Listen to how Jacob described this event from Nehemiah. “We celebrate what we have built. We remember where we came from. We revel in the present goodness. And then we turn to where we are going. After all, what we have built with our hands, no matter how beautiful, is not permanent.”
The season of Lent is not dissimilar to the Festival of the Booths or Tents. We spent time in personal reflection, repenting from the sins that so easily distract us, and the habits that so often destroy us, and the hurts that so often derail us. We celebrate God’s faithfulness and forgiveness. We remember from where we’ve come - we were lost, but now have been found. We revel in the present goodness of a grace-filled God. And with all the turmoil in our world, our nation, and our church - God is still God, God is still in control, and God is still good. Lent and Easter help us remember and re-mark those precious foundations, and the renovations God is still working in our lives.
At the end of every Fixer Upper show, just before the final credits there is the “Big Reveal”. It is dramatic and often tear-filled. There are, “oohs and aahs”, and more than one “Oh my goodness”. But with each new image of the newly remodeled or renovated space, there are the before pictures, to remind us where we’ve been, how far we’ve come, and the present goodness of this redesigned space and place.
On only a few shows do they show the family moved in, and enjoying their new home. I wish they did that on every show. Because the “big reveal” is not the end! It is merely the gateway to the “now what”. And then, after this huge reveal - we turn to where we are going? We go back to our “why”. God didn’t save us just so we’d be saved. God didn’t forgive us, just so we could go to heaven. God didn’t fix up the mess we’d made of our lives, so we could be comfortable or safe, or happy. God did all that so that we might join God in the grand adventure of sharing this Good News Story with the rest of the world so desperately in need of similar renovation.
It is never just about us. It is never just about the “then” and the “now”. After the tearful and joyous “big reveal”, there is the moving in, the moving on, the living life, inviting friends, and including others. Easter may seem like the “biggest reveal”, and in so many ways it is. Yet it's also just the gateway. The grand invitation for us to join God in realizing and fulfilling our “why”. The invitation to join God in making disciples who will become Apostles, who will transform the world. Let’s get on with it now shall we?
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