Painful Preparations

Painful Preparations

“Lord, prepare me to be a sanctuary; pure and holy, tried and true.”

Preparations.  I do not like them.  I like what they lead to, but I find myself wanting to rush through them to get to the “fun stuff”.  I like it when company arrives and the house is welcoming and the scent of prepared food is wafting through the air.  I like it when walls are transformed by a fresh coat of paint.  I like it when a closet door is opened and its contents don’t fall out but are neatly arranged on orderly shelves.  I like that part, but the cleaning and cooking prior to the arrival of guests, the spackling and sanding that precedes painting, and the pulling out and sorting of closeted things is not gratifying.  I’d rather just jump right to the enjoyable part without having to pass through the valley of preparations.

Last week I was painting our patio furniture and I was reminded of my dislike for preparations.  It took longer to prepare each piece than it did to paint all of them.  The sanding and taping off was frustrating and, at one point, I wondered if it would really look that bad if I just spray painted the whole chair, mesh seating and all.  I contemplated this long enough to visualize the sprayed chairs, complete with the eventual cracking off of paint and the inescapable sticking of peeled paint to articles of clothing.  It was enough to cause me to persevere with the paper and tape and continue the arduous task of separating the painted areas from the non-painted ones.  That’s when I started thinking about how much I didn’t like preparations and, I wondered, did God ever feel the same way?  Did God ever wish He could skip over the preparation process and go straight to the transformation?  When it comes to working on me, I bet He does!

When I was young, I burned my leg on a piece of wire fence which was close to a fire.  As a result, some ashes were embedded in my leg and my Mom thought they should come out.  She tried her best to get them out, but being a less than cooperative child, her efforts were curtailed.  For some reason, she thought I would be more complaisant with a doctor, so she took me to our family physician and, to her disgrace and his dismay, I behaved no differently.  I flailed and screamed and pitched such a fit that the doctor finally said, “I don’t think the ashes will hurt her, but they will leave a scar.”  We left with Mom’s attitude undone but my ashes intact.  I think about that incident because, spiritually, I think I act in much the same manner when God attempts to prepare me for what He knows needs to be done.

A verse in Scripture that has been especially meaningful to me lately is Isaiah 30:15; here the prophet writes, “In returning and rest, you shall be saved; in quietness and confidence shall be your strength.”  I underlined the words quietness and confidence in my Bible.  I want to be that way when God works on me; I want to be still and allow Him to do whatever preparations are necessary for the work He is about to do.  I want to have an abiding and abounding confidence, trusting that God knows exactly what He is doing.  I want to be the one who doesn’t flinch, who doesn’t fight, who doesn’t flee from the sanding, the sorting, or the stripping off that precedes a transformation.  I want to be this way, but in my spirit I am too often still like that child who fought off the doctor and who, incorrectly, thought she’d won the battle.  (Yes, the ashes did leave a scar, but I pridefully carried them as a badge of victory.  Silly child!)

As I thought more about preparations and my adversity for them in spite of my need of them, I thought about the preparations Jesus made.  He sanded on the disciples for three years as He prepared them for their future role in the spreading of the gospel.  He pulled out rusty beliefs and filled the resulting holes with doctrinal putty.  He shown His light on legalistic walls so that imperfections would become evident and the caulk of grace could be applied.  He scraped and taped, then He draped and reshaped until “all things had become new” (I Corinthians 5:17).  And, when the time came for Him to return to His Father, Jesus spoke these words to the disciples, “I go to prepare a place for you. And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and will take you to Myself, that where I am you may be also.”  (John 14:2-3).  Even in His leaving, the need for preparations was made clear.  Jesus had completed His work on earth, having prepared the path for believers to follow, and now it was time for Him to go and make preparations for those who would follow that path.

Knowing how tedious the preparation process can be makes me even more grateful to my Lord for His willingness to prepare me for my arrival to His home and to prepare His home for my arrival.  I can’t quite wrap my head around this.  I tire of taping and sanding, but my Lord never tires of tending and mending me.  He alone knows what the finished product will look like and, in His sovereignty, knows the necessity of the prep work.  How thankful I need to become of His loving touch, even when it peels away old layers, even when it leaves me patched and spotty, for it is then that I am that much closer to the transformation that is to come.  Soon He will recover me; soon He will make all things new; soon He will complete that which He has begun; soon I will look more like Him and less like me.

So now, in light of God’s practice of preparation and of my great need for it, I will try to look at the preparation process in a more positive light.  And when I feel the spiritual scraping and sanding begin again, I pray that my response will be as follows…

Lord, prepare me to be a sanctuary,

Pure and holy, tried and true.

With thanksgiving, I’ll be a living,

Sanctuary for You!