I live in a big city. At least, it's big for me.
After spending 19 years of my life in tiny little towns, residing in Calgary's inner city is a bit of a culture shock.
This place is always moving. There's so much energy, so many people, and constant growth.
This city is always expanding. And not only is it expanding, it's also being improved. Roads are being widened, bridges built, overpasses constructed, bike paths extended, traffic lights installed, old buildings demolished, and new buildings erected. It's always busy, bustling, and hustling.
And while construction may be good for the city and its people, I think all traffic-haters will agree: Construction sucks.
Construction backs up traffic. Construction makes us late for work. Construction makes us get to our appointments flustered, and get back home frustrated. Construction makes people honk their horns, rev their engines, and throw up their hands in defeat. Because it's just so slow.
When any bridge or overpass is being renovated, drivers know that it's bad news for them. It means three lanes become two lanes, and two lanes become one lane. It means a 70 zone becomes a 50 zone, and speeding fines double. It means big, slow, impassable trucks and machines hogging the road. Plus, it's hard to even appreciate the work the builders are doing when all you can see is scattered machinery, piles of rubble, uneven pavement, and pylons surrounding everything. It just looks awful!
And the worst part is that you don't know how long it's gonna take. 6 weeks? 4 months? 2 years? How long will you have to take that awful detour? How much longer will you have to leave an extra 20 minutes early just to get anywhere?
So for weeks upon weeks and months upon months, we grind our teeth in agitation as we slow to a crawl on that notorious stretch of road. I'm sure you have one in mind. It's slow and aggravating, and all you can think to yourself is, "Gee, I can't wait till they finish this...."
It's funny how something so useful and critical can be such a pain in the neck. But what I find even funnier is that once a project is completed, nobody ever seems to remember that it was once under construction. Once the road opens back up and the speed limit returns to normal, people cruise through without a thought, forgetting that it was once the most painful part of their commute. People forget how terrible traffic was before they built that giant overpass. People use the new-and-improved traffic circle, forgetting that it used to be the most poorly planned intersection ever. Once it's completed, people always forget. It's like it never happened.
But isn't that the same with you and me?
We're always under construction- or at least, as believers, we should be. There's always something we have to work on. We've got flaws to be straightened out, weaknesses to be strengthened, and issues to be resolved. There are those nagging sins and habits and addictions that simply must be dealt with. Our construction goes on, because we aren't in Heaven yet.
So as we walk along this narrow path, learning to abide in Christ and discovering the meaning of divine discipline, new issues bubble to the surface and flaws we thought we had nailed down come barging in on us again. Ancient habits hide around corners, waiting to ambush us. They're constant reminders that we aren't finished products yet.
You may be unbearably ashamed of that habit you can't kick. You may be overwhelmed with the guilt that has weighed on you your whole life. And you may feel like banging your head against the wall every time you fall back into that sin that so easily entangles you... but just take a moment and step back.
Look at your life. Look at your life before Christ, and your life after. Think about the sins of your youth and the struggles of your childhood. Think about the troubles of your teens, or the mistakes of early adulthood. Is there anything that once plagued your mind, that now never even crosses it? Is there anything that used to ensnare you daily, that now you hardly remember? Is there anything that once tormented your conscience, that is now a distant memory?
I know there are a lot of things like that for me.
Since I accepted Christ, there are so many wrongs that He's righted. So many problems that I thought I could never fix, He fixed them. And now, I hardly ever think about them. The days are long gone when those struggles cast a shadow over my life.
The sins that used to haunt me and keep me up at night, now I can hardly even imagine what it was like to be stuck in them. The things I used to worry about. The things I used to lie about. The things that used to discourage me, and the things that caused my temper to flare. There are so many things that were once my most troubled prayer requests. I used to beg and beg that God would help me. I pleaded for Him to change me.
And He did.
He did it like those construction workers on the bridge do their work. Slowly. He did it deliberately. He tore down my problems brick by brick, and dealt with the roots of my issues with painstaking care. He fine-tuned my heart and cleaned it up so meticulously that I hardly noticed it happening. In fact, I don't remember when I stopped praying about those things. I've tried to recall the "big moment" when God flipped my heart upside down and made me a different person... but there really wasn't one. It all happened slowly, painfully, and purposefully.
And while He worked, I drove through yelling and cursing and honking my horn, asking what was taking so long and wondering if anything was even happening. He chiseled away at my calloused heart, broke up the gravelly areas, and paved over the rough patches. He swept away the dust and beautified the area.
And once He was finished, He removed the barriers and red tape. He opened up the road and cleaned up every trace of construction. Now, I drive through without a thought. At normal speed. Comfortable, and carefree. The areas that for years brought me so much grief, the areas that I tried to fix by myself so many times, I drive through it all now without a thought. It's as if there never was a problem.
Do you have any areas like that? New bridges and freeways that were 10 or even 20 years in the making, but are now complete? If you know the Lord, then I'm sure you do. It's what He does. Demolishing our wills, excavating our vices, and building a new creation.
I take you on this trip down memory lane with the hope of encouraging you. However old you are and whatever season of life you're in, there is bound to be construction going on somewhere inside of you. You're like a city. Ever growing, ever developing, ever improving. Where one street closes down for repairs, another one opens back up, better than before. While that one intersection may drive you crazy, another one is being renovated. And it's happening all in His time, all by His methods, and all for His glory.
So don't lose heart when you give in to temptation, yet again. And for your own sake, never tire of coming back to the Builder for forgiveness. Your guilt and your shame will never put Him off from the masterpiece He's making. Keep praying for His help and asking for His transforming power, for it is His desire to give it to you! Charles Spurgeon puts its beautifully:
Freely commune with the Lord as friend speaks to friend, or as a child addresses his father. You are not now before your judge, you are not before an enemy, you are not before one who will harshly criticize you, and pull you to pieces. The Lord is all love and gentleness to those who seek His face. Open your mouth wide. What is it that you have done? What is it that you want? What is it that your soul is craving for? What is it that drives you to despair? Open your mouth wide, let all come out, hide nothing from your God. Let your very heart come marching out at the open doors of your lips, for God is waiting to hear your petition.
Don't give up, my friend. We've all got problems and we always will, as long as we have breath. But as long as we've got problems we will also have hope, as children of God. Hope of change, of growth, of strength, and of maturity. For He that began this good work within you and me will carry it through to completion until we see our Lord Jesus. (Philippians 1:6) The One who first called you to this life of holiness and righteousness, He is faithful. And HE will do it! (1 Thessalonians 5:24)
Hebrews 12:1-2 - Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a huge crowd of witnesses to the life of faith, let us strip off every weight that slows us down, especially the sin that so easily trips us up. And let us run with endurance the race God has set before us. We do this by keeping our eyes on Jesus, the champion who initiates and perfects our faith.
You're not the builder, so don't stress over the construction. Your Father has the blueprint. He has the tools, the skills, and He certainly has the time. He's got a picture in mind for the person He is shaping you to be. And according to His plan, it's gonna be good. Ours is not a God of stagnancy but of movement. He is a Lord of prosperity, and not complacency.
And to those who long for His power to
transform their lives, He is the ultimate architect.
Keep on praying. Keep on trusting. Keeping on honking if you must. But remember the old crooked paths in your heart that he straightened. Recall for a minute the wrinkles that He ironed out and the stains He whitened and the potholes He filled in you.
Remember them the next time you have to slow down for yet another construction zone.
And know that He's doing the same thing again.