By Bethany Riehl
In the last issue I wrote about a big move coming up for our family. In an effort to ease some of my husband’s daily struggle with multiple sclerosis, we traded our two-story home in Kuna for a single level in Meridian. What a contrast those houses are! We left new, comfortable, clean, and modern for old, stinky, small, and outdated. Thankfully, the sale of our Kuna home provided enough money to fix up the Meridian home a little. We had to wait three days after we moved in for paperwork to be completed and weren’t able to do much more than clean and wait at first. During that time, I wouldn’t let my kids sit on the floor or go anywhere in the house without shoes on. It was that bad, my friends.
Our community rallied around us, dropping off dinners and chocolates and (my favorite) a big, lemon-scented candle that I burned down to essentially nothing those first three days. Finally, the checks came and we got to work. The dumpster in our driveway was a great ice breaker. Curious neighbors brought us their stories of this house and its former residents. We discovered a family of believers right behind us who also homeschool like we do. Our kids have taken to playing catch over the fence until the mom and I can get our schedules to slow down enough to let them play face to face.
As the kids stayed distracted in a backyard bigger than they’ve ever known, my husband, myself, and at times friends that would pop in to volunteer some muscle got to work inside. We pulled up old carpet, painted walls, replaced appliances and toilets and sinks. We hired an incredible painter to fix the exterior. He said our house was one of his biggest challenges because it had been in need of attention for quite some time. One morning while out discussing options with him, a neighbor sauntered over and we talked about what the paint would look like. She was just thankful that the investor had finally sold it and she complimented the work she saw. I looked around at the big trees, the primed house, and bushes I had just trimmed and said, “You know, this place just needed someone to love it.”
Those words struck me in a different way as we continued our renovations. With each application of Kilz (oh, the questions that I don’t want answers to of what happened all over this floor!), and each swipe of the paintbrush, I played those words in my heart and thought of how the same is true for us. We are all falling down, rusted out, warped little shacks without Jesus. We might be painted up pretty; we might look just fine on the surface. We might be faking it really well, and we might have plenty of people to love us, but it’s Jesus and only Jesus that can properly get down in the grime that is hiding underneath all of our layers and make us new.
As I write this, I’m sitting at my table on a bench my husband made for our bay window in the kitchen, looking out at the transformed 1,500-ish square feet that just months ago stung my nostrils and clogged my throat with carefully restrained discouragement. Piece by piece, layer by layer, we removed the old, tossed it in the dumpster, and made it all new. Knowing that Jesus does more for us and then sits back to watch it in wonder is humbling.
I wonder and marvel at this home not because it stood up and did great things, but because with my own two hands I made it what I wanted it to be. It’s wood and nails, drywall and paint. It’s just a house. But now it’s my house the way I envisioned it.
How much more should I remember that my worth in Jesus is not because of me? It is all because of Him. I am unworthy of such love, and it’s important to remember that. Not in a form of self-loathing, but in a state of supreme awareness of Who He is.
It seems that everywhere I look, there is some article, meme, Bible study, book, or coffee mug telling me how great I am. All in Jesus’ name. “Fight for your God-given potential,” is the cry. What is my God-given potential? What should I be doing? Hustling? Creating perfect squares on social media to inspire others? If I follow the world, yes. Yet, when I turn to the Word of God and see how those who have come face to face with His awesomeness responded, I wonder if that’s really what He has for us. Confidence and success.
Job said, “I have heard of You by the hearing of the ear, but now my eye sees You. Therefore I retract, and I repent in dust and ashes.” (Job 42:5-6 NKJV)
Isaiah said, “Woe is me for I am ruined! Because I am a man of unclean lips, and I live among a people of unclean lips; for my eyes have seen the King, the LORD of hosts.” (Isaiah 6:5 NASB)
Peter, realizing Who Jesus was, said, “Go away from me, Lord, for I am a sinful man!” (Luke 5:8 NASB)
None of that sounds like men strutting away to find their full potential. Could it be that we’re to humble ourselves before the Lord and then work to glorify Him in the way that He commands?
I said in the last issue that it was silly, how much moving made me feel like I was on holy ground. There are simply seasons of our life that we are so aware that the Lord is moving we can’t help but sit back and watch it all unfold. I knew this move was something that I would be able to point my kids to when they’re older to remind them that God provides. Even more, I’ll be able to remind them, “Remember how smelly and ugly and dirty that house was? Well, my darlings, that is how we are when Jesus first reaches out to pull us to Himself. Once He’s finished making us as He intended, He watches over our days with joy and pride. Not because of us — make no mistake. But because we are His creation.”
“For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand so that we would walk in them.” (Ephesians 2:10 ESV)
Bethany Riehl loves to write stories and articles that explore the complexities of relationships and encourage readers in their relationship with Jesus. She joyfully serves in the children’s ministry at her church, teaches at a homeschool co-op, and drinks more coffee than necessary to keep up with her only-slightly-crazy life. She is the author of four Christian fiction novels and now lives in Meridian with her spunky kids and very handsome hubby.