Surface repairs

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The home which God has given to me and my family is one for which I am deeply grateful. However, as with cars, computers and bodies, home-owning is one of the great demonstrators of entropy. In my case, though, it also happens to demonstrate something a little more.

The chap who owned the house before us was a bit of a DIY (for Americans, read "home improvement") freak. I don't know that you could touch the chap for zeal, but the evidence suggests that his attitude stank. Indeed, he could easily have been a partner in the home decorating firm Bodgitt & Runne (sister company to the esteemed landscapers, Hackett & Scarper).

So, for example, we recently had a very capable gentleman in to do some fixing that was beyond my time, capacity and competence. One of the problems was a bathroom ceiling which - despite my repeated attempts to repaint it - kept peeling. It turned out that the fan in the bathroom, designed to keep the moisture from the shower from wrecking the joint, was (a) not set to run long enough to clear the air in the room, (b) not sufficiently powerful for a room of that size anyway, and (c) not attached to anything at the other end, thus merely re-circulating the moist air into the roof space and increasing rather than decreasing the dampness of the ceiling. Sadly, I was not surprised, for this was precisely the approach taken to the extractor fan over the oven, well-fitted and fully-operating . . . oh, except for that extraction bit, the fumes being merely drawn through the fan and expelled at the top, there being no conduit from the fan to the outside world - all sucked up and nowhere to go.

It was shortly after moving into the house that we recognised this principle at work. Floors tiled to the point at which they disappeared under the washing machine, but not beyond; tiles grouted to the point at which they disappeared under the oven, but not beyond; bathroom walls tiled down to the rim of the bath, the floor veneered as far as the eye could see, but stoop down and there is bare plaster and board underneath the otherwise very attractive bath; built-in cabinets built in over existing carpets and other fittings; leaks addressed by simply daubing silicon paste over the problem, thus redirecting the water into unseen and therefore far less unsightly channels.

In short, the gent in question - and anyone who worked in cahoots with him - was concerned for what could be seen, and he made significant efforts to ensure that things appeared to be well and properly cared for. Unfortunately, he was significantly less concerned for what could not be readily seen, or would take some discovering. He was happy with the mere appearance of things, entirely satisfied with surface repairs.

All of which seems to echo far too readily the way too many of us go about the process of sanctification. Walk into the rooms of many lives, and a great deal of effort has been made to render them attractive. As far as the casual eye can see, there is order, beauty, completeness. We have managed to massage our behaviour into the appearance of holiness.

The problem is that a more deliberate investigation reveals that behind much of the apparent beauty there is ugliness, beneath and under some of the seeming completeness there is significant unfinished business. Perhaps the work seemed too hard. Or perhaps the conclusion was reached that no-one would look that closely, and so there was no need to be too extreme. Enough to appear attractive would be sufficient, but structural soundness, thorough labour, and toil to completeness were unnecessary evils.

Or it may be that there is a deep rottenness in certain areas, the inheritance of sins committed by us or against us. We have managed to get a coat of paint over the mould, but the material is compromised. We have managed to get some paper over the cracks, but the wall is falling apart. We have stopped the rodents or the roaches coming out, but they are still living in the fabric of the building.

We do it ourselves and we do it with regard to others. Pastors can be satisfied with church members who manage to be in the right places at the right times and behave the right way in public, but who neglect the putting to death of sin and the putting on of righteousness in the secret place. Parents are relieved when we secure the outward compliance of the child, the well-mannered brood who give the appearance of order and control, forgetting the cry of the true father, "My son, give me your heart" (Prv 23.26). Friends are content for us to keep up appearances, and are satisfied to let the deep waters of the heart go unstirred (Prv 20.5).

All our experience of sanctification, in one sense, is a work in progress. However, the problem is when what ought to have been done or what needs to be done is left undone, when either we are more concerned with what can be seen than with the hard labour of completed work, well done, in the nooks and crannies beyond the eyes of men, or when we try to cover over - or allow to be covered over - what needs to be addressed. We slap on the make-up to hide the ravages of disease, rather than taking the medicine to cure it - and too many of us then commend one another on how beautiful we are looking. We are too readily satisfied with a merely cosmetic Christianity.

Let us not excuse ourselves on the basis that no-one will see and no-one will know. Let us not imagine that a veneer of behaviour will remove the rottenness beneath. Let us not hope that no one will look too closely and see what is really there. We must delve deep to expose and address what is rotten, for our own sake and the sake of one another. We need not a change of appearance but a change of nature. True godliness within is what secures true righteousness without. We must not rest until we have faced our frailties, considered our iniquities, assessed our tendencies, addressed our temptations, and are labouring daily to put to death our sins. Surface repairs are not enough.
Posted October 5, 2012 @ 3:15 AM by Jeremy Walker
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