We just bought a new house. I know, hooray! Right now it’s empty because we have a ‘grace window’ in which to get some works done before we move in, which is great, but we find ourselves with the impossible task of knowing how to juggle which jobs have to get done, with looking after two small children, with few people able to help and work because of coronavirus restrictions…and Christmas.
A couple of the key jobs we knew we’d have to get done prior to moving in (or at least as early as possible) involved booking a plumber and an electrician. The boiler was creaking, banging, rusting, a relic. The wiring insufficient for the needs of a modern property. Right now the electrician is working there alone to reconfigure things, add sockets, change light fittings, etc. The boiler man, of course, had an assistant who tested positive for Covid, so he won’t be coming until after we’re in now.
But having these bookings helped us prioritise what was most necessary: the guts of the house. Those jobs, plus some urgent need for skirting board and wallpaper in two rooms, are at the top of our list. While it’s tempting to look at the decor of the rest of the house and wish it were all a bit brighter, it seems a wise approach to sort out the guts first.
Guts, then glory.
It’s the approach I take when mixing a song that I have (or someone else has) recorded. Before you can really make it sound ‘sweet’, you generally have to fix a lot of things first. Take out a cough here or there, eliminate some fuzz from the bass track, choose the best guitar take. All this and quite a lot more. The mix will never really sound ‘sweet’ without first dealing with all that cruft, cleaning up the guts of the song first before giving it the glory treatment – all the poppy shine you hear on the radio.
Jesus excoriated the religious leaders of his day, calling them ‘whitewashed tombs’. They looked great on the outside, but inside they were ‘full of dead men’s bones’. He accused them of cleaning the outside of the cup – the bit you see – but not the inside – the bit that actually matters, where you drink from. It’s instructive imagery.
God is into glory, beauty, finesse and excellence. But he’ll never beautify something he hasn’t first fixed up from the inside. Aren’t most of the failures we have seen from Christian leaders due to something ‘hidden’, twisted guts covered over by something seemingly glorious? Isn’t the greatest promise of Christian hope the idea that God can fix what is wrong with us on the inside, looking towards a future when our resurrection bodies display the glory we have already seen within?
I won’t bother artfully plating up a gourmet meal I haven’t first spent a great deal of time working at chopping, marinating, frying, basting, roasting or boiling.
Function, and form. Guts, and glory. Try thinking about other processes in your life in this way. And let God work in your guts (‘behold, you desire truth in the guts’ – is that Psalm 51?) everything that needs to be fixed up inside you, in anticipation of the day when you too will share in his glory.