by Sharla Fritz
“Should we watch another?’ my sister asked. When I spent a weekend with my sister in her Tucson home, we passed some time on her new reclining sofa in front of the TV. Although we walked at a botanical garden and hiked in a national park, we also relaxed by watching a marathon of HGTV home makeover shows. Whenever I witness the process of taking something old and worn and making it beautiful again, something in my spirit also experiences a transformation.
As we watched, I noticed that some of the renovators stripped the aging homes of everything old and installed brand-new flooring, walls, appliances, and furniture. These houses now looked completely different. Although I had to agree that the home looked better, the drastic change made me wonder if the old building wondered, “Was I really that bad?”
My favorite shows featured ancient buildings that needed a tremendous amount of work just to make them functional again. But while the renovators repaired the leaky plumbing, updated the electrical service, and refinished the worn wooden floors, they kept the character of the home. Not everything old was discarded. (Something I appreciate the greater my age!)
When I returned to my home in suburban Chicago, I thought of how the process of renovating a home sometimes resembles the process God uses to refurbish our souls. Sometimes I have felt that I needed to look like one of those perfectly renovated homes before God would slow down, pull over to the curb, and notice me. So I’ve embarked on my own remodeling projects—reading self-improvement books, taking classes, setting goals—so I could look flawless.
Maybe I got this idea from some passages in Scripture. One that has often bothered me is Matthew 5:48 where Jesus tells His disciples:
You therefore must be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect.
I wonder: How is this even possible? Even if I could somehow remodel and redecorate my soul, what still lurks behind the façade of fresh paint would be the equivalent of faulty wiring and rusty plumbing. I can never “be perfect.”
I decided to seek out a little more information on this verse. And I learned that in the Greek the phrase “be perfect” uses the future tense and so a literal translation would be more like, “You shall be perfect.” Because of this tense, it looks like a command, but it’s also a goal and a promise. Stay with me here. This little grammar lesson will give you hope for your own soul renovation.
The NIV Application Commentary explains:
“A present imperative, ‘keep being perfect’ or ‘be continually perfect,’ would place an impossible demand on Jesus’ disciples. Instead, the future tense holds out an emphatic goal that is to shape the disciples’ entire life — they are to set nothing less than the perfection of God as the ultimate objective of their behavior, thoughts, and will. Furthermore, the future tense also implies a promise, because the Father is not only the divine goal but also the divine enabler.”
This tells me that, yes, God wants me to pursue that renovation plan. I shouldn’t settle for rusty pipes or scuffed floors in my soul. But He promises that even though I might not see the perfection I desire in this life, someday I “shall be perfect.” In heaven, all my scuffs and holes and peeling paint will be gone. And even while I still live in the neighborhood of now, the Holy Spirit gently works to renew my heart. I can’t complete the rehab project on my own.
This gives me hope. “You shall be perfect” helps me look forward to the time when I won’t have to struggle against my sinful self. When I will look like one of those perfectly renovated homes—inside and out.
But even while I still struggle against my desires for attention, control, and too much chocolate cake, I take comfort in the fact that God’s rehab project has already begun. And I think His renovation program doesn’t look the HGTV shows where designers completely demolish the old home’s character—declaring anything timeworn as passé. I picture God more like the rehabbers who enter an old home and marvel at the beautiful woodwork or the stained glass windows. His restoration program preserves the beautiful aspects of my character—after all, He installed them in the first place—but, in Christ, exchanges my brokenness for wholeness.
The Father loves me as I am yet continually works to fill all the holes in my heart and the dents in my soul. Grace and love are the foundation of His renovation program.
Sharla Fritz is a Christian author and speaker who weaves honest and humorous stories into life-changing Bible study. Author of God’s Relentless Love: A Study of Hosea, Sharla writes about God’s transforming grace. Sharla lives in the Chicago suburbs with her amusing pastor husband. Connect with Sharla at www.sharlafritz.com