Whether it's home improvement or weight loss, wardrobe overhaul or cleaning project, there's nothing like a great set of before-and-after photos. I love the sense of accomplishment, the clear evidence of hard work paid off, the beauty of a stunning transformation.
Six years ago, Steve and I bought a house built in the 1930s, and we've been tearing it apart ever since. Projects have included knocking out walls, moving a staircase, adding two bedrooms and a bathroom, and now gutting the existing bathroom. You'd think by now we'd have a lot of before-and-afters to proudly display.
Instead what we've got is a bunch of "before and in progress" examples. Case in point: the nursery, which I got to show you in this post shortly before Elijah was born. It's further along now than it was in these photos; the built-in bookcase and dresser are installed and painted, with trim around them; the closet has a curtain; a new door has been made and hung. But nearly five years later, it's still not actually *completed*. The door hasn't been painted; the light is a bare bulb, no fixture; there's no baseboard, and the trim around the built-ins needs to be redone. Not to mention the carpet desperately needs a good steam cleaning.
See, we have this tendency around here to dive into a new project, get it to the point of being usable, and then move on to something else. That would be why the stairs still have rough treads...why the guest room features a mattress and box springs on a carpet remnant...why the upstairs bathroom has no flooring...why the trim we tore off our bedroom windows and closet in July 2006 just got replaced within the last year...and why we decided to demolish our downstairs bathroom instead of working on any of the above :)
And this isn't a dig at my hardworking husband--I haven't mentioned the countless doors and pieces of trim I need to paint...or the number of months I've had paint chips for the bathroom but haven't selected a color, much less painted the walls...or the photos I've haphazardly printed with the intention that someday I'll get a collage wall up in our living room...or the boxes of vintage blue and green glass that I bought, oh, almost a year ago and never bought shelves for...need I go on?
I love our little house. It is nothing if not a "work in progress." And I'm excited about the improvements we're making! But sometimes I just want some AFTER pictures.
It occurred to me recently that my home-improvement-impatience is similar to my life-improvement-impatience. I read all those reassuring verses about how God will complete the work He began in me. Sometimes I can even see how He's changed me--I look back and realize who I was a few years ago, and where I am now, and I'm thankful for the progress. But my heart is still very much a messy construction zone. And I whine: Lord, can we please have some "after" pictures? Can't I conquer this struggle once and for all and proudly display the evidence that I have arrived?
I have a really hard time imagining some future day when our house is "finished" (my guess is that will only happen when we have to get it ready to sell, and even then, we won't have gotten around to all of the improvement projects we know are merely pipe dreams). But I can, and must, cling to the hope that there WILL be a future day when God's work in me is brought to a beautiful and satisfying completion. What I have a hard time coming to grips with is the reality that that won't happen in this life. "After" pictures of my heart aren't coming next week, or in five years, or when I reach age 75, if I would happen to live that long.
I will experience progress in that time, yes. But until I die or until Jesus comes, my heart will be under construction. It will be messy and rough around the edges, not magazine-worthy. So I am asking for grace to cooperate with the remodeling rather than whine about the never-ending work, and to believe that God's way of completing it (unlike the Kannel method of house remodeling) is never haphazard, delayed, or abandoned. He WILL complete the good work He began in me--and when He does, I will be finally set free from pride, so I won't even care about the "after" photos. I'll be too busy worshiping the Savior whose image I reflect.
What He Desires, That He Does
The Really Amazing Thing