I painted the walls of my house yellow. Not the pale, sunny yellow that was all the rage some years ago. No, this yellow is more of a mustard, much darker than in my designer dreams. By the time the painters had completed all the walls of my downstairs, including the two-story walls of the living room, it was too late. No going back. I’d like to blame the color choice on pregnancy brain, but the truth is I’m no designer.
Many yellow years later, it’s finally time for a change. In fact, more than just the yellow walls are due for a facelift. It started with mold in the shower and reached a breaking point when water began pouring from the ceiling during a particularly intense storm. At this point, nearly the whole house is getting some kind of update. As I sit outside, escaping the dust and cramped quarters of our temporary living arrangements, I’m reminded that we have to journey through this messy middle for any great change.
The messy middle is essential if we want a true transformation.
Sure, I could have just called the painters back to repaint the yellow walls, but that would only have covered up the other issues lurking behind those walls. Now I’m releasing my dreams and ideas into the hands of experts. A designer who knows how to choose colors and design a room. A contractor who can plot a course to complete the work and guide us through the detailed decisions. Craftsmen who are skilled at the work needed to complete this project.
I have some ideas of what the finished product will look like. I know it will be more functional and definitely more attractive than what we started with, but I don’t have the designer’s eye for the future state. I get lost when I try to skip ahead too far in the process to start imagining finishing details. Yet it’s that idea of the future to which I cling in this messy middle. It’s the anticipation of the end state to which I hold fast, even as I’m packing a few more boxes and preparing for much more mess in the days to come.
The process of transformation isn’t as simple as the decision to change.
All transformations have this messy middle. We make decisions in our lives – some we thought were good and others we knew weren’t – that lead us to this place. This place where a change is needed. This place where God, the great architect and designer, steps in and begins his renovation of our life.
It can sound so easy to give your life to God. You have a moment of clarity with God and say you’ll give your life to him. But, the change isn’t as simple as the moment. The change can take a lifetime.
The change requires stripping your life down to the studs and thoroughly rebuilding each room until each functions according to God’s purpose and to his glory.
The change is messy and difficult. It requires getting your hands dirty to address the neglected areas of your heart. It calls for hard work and the help of experts.
It requires living through a messy middle, not really knowing what the end will look like. It requires trust in the Master to make the design decisions this time and rebuild with proper craftsmanship.
Change requires letting go of the past, in order to embrace the future.
I got a text this morning from our contractor outlining the work scheduled for the day. I’m at work, so won’t get to see any of the progress until I get home later tonight. I’m excited about the progress and moving one step closer to the end result, yet I find myself strangely nervous about each next step. I almost wanted to push the ‘pause’ button, a remote tinge of doubt if we’ve made the right decisions. It’s too late, really. The house is already torn up and there’s no going back to the way things were. So, why the hesitation?
When I got home, I paused as I went up the stairs. They’d patched the hole the kids made in the wall sliding down the stairs at our first cookie decorating party. Memories flooded across my mind of the kids as preschoolers, the laughter of that afternoon, and the joy of time with friends. I know I can’t keep all the holes and well-worn furniture, though. As much as we tend to collect scars and wounds as we travel through life, at some point we need to let them go and allow the Great Healer to make them whole again. I’ll always have the memory, but it’s time to let go of the hole and allow the craftsman to make it new again.
Real change requires a messy middle and trusting God with the design.
Change is hard. Whether it’s remodeling your house or renovating your life. Each change we step through requires getting messy, trusting in God and in the process, and being patient through the necessary steps to reach the other side. Change isn’t without doubt, regret, and grief – even when it’s a change we desire. We still have to say goodbye to the old and hello to the new.
Where are you in the process?
Are you still in the ‘before’? Living with mustard yellow walls but trying to convince yourself they still look stylish?
Have you begun the process of transformation and feeling overwhelmed in the mess? Stepping over remnants of your former life, not sure what repair is scheduled next?
Are you in the messy middle wondering when this will ever end? When will life return to normal and the dust settle?
Or, have you seen the transformation, experienced the “big reveal”? Have you witnessed the transforming power of God and trust in his workmanship?
No matter where you are in the journey, remember that change is a process. (Even though the roofers may complete the job in a day, I’m sure I’ll be picking up nails and debris for months.) Lean into the changes God wants to work in your life. Allow him to lead you through the messy middle, knowing he’s designing an even more beautiful end result for you.