He turned water into wine, made the blind see, and cast out demons. Jesus is in the business of doing miracles. Every time he comes around, someone gets healed. And in Revelation 21 he lets us know that he makes all things new. New is good, right? So, as much as I tried, I couldn’t figure out why my life didn’t become a beacon of goodness once I became his girl.
Why didn’t Jesus fix my life?
Despite the stories I’d heard from revival preachers and televangelists, I did not instantly stop craving attention from guys and my home life was still a tumultuous war zone. Following Jesus didn’t fix my problems. In some instances, he made them worse.
Pursuing holiness won’t make you many friends. The word holy even means “to be set apart,” so loneliness quickly became a familiar friend. I have vivid memories of being made fun of by other girls in my Sunday school class, simply because I could recite that week’s memory verse. I skipped class the next week – roaming the church halls while my parents were in Big Church – but my folks found out, and I got grounded. As if that weren’t enough, I actually had a guy tell me that he wasn’t interested in me because I seemed “too innocent.” For a preteen who just decided to buy into the Jesus life, this was all a little jarring.
I decided to attend a Bible college, and hoped that things would finally go right for me. Wrong. My undergrad days were riddled with toxic relationships, major health issues, and abuse.
I knew Jesus urged us to “count the cost” but no one said it would be this hard.
In one of his poems, William Yeats wrote:
But Love has pitched his mansion in
The place of excrement;
For nothing can be sole or whole
That has not been rent.
The strongest bonds of love are forged in the places of excrement. That’s what I found out. Jesus completely wrecked my life. He dug into every corner of my heart, which was (and still is) indescribably painful. But I have experienced the truth of what Yeats was trying to say: Love is built in the trenches.
It’s not easy, but nothing good ever was.
C.S. Lewis was a master storyteller who wrote about the kingdom of God, sometimes subtly and others times overtly. I’ve often felt that his stories illustrate my own journey with Jesus. In The Voyage of the Dawn Treader, Eustace, an annoying and pretentious boy, gets turned into a dragon – a manifestation of the selfishness that resides in his heart. After much soul-searching, Eustace tries to tear off his dragon skin so he can be a boy again. But no matter how hard he tries, the dragon skin will not come off.
“You will have to let me undress you,” says Aslan the Lion.
Eustace was pretty desperate by this point. Aslan had sharp claws that would undoubtedly cause severe pain, but Eustace agreed to let him peel off the dragon skin anyway. Aslan was his only hope.
The very first tear he made was so deep that I thought it had gone right into my heart. And when he began pulling the skin off, it hurt worse than anything I’ve ever felt. The only thing that made me able to bear it was just the pleasure of feeling the stuff peel off…
Well, he peeled the beastly stuff right off – just as I thought I’d done it myself the other three times, only they hadn’t hurt – and there it was lying on the grass: only ever so much thicker, and darker, and more knobbly-looking than the others had been. And there was I as smooth and soft as a peeled switch and smaller than I had been. Then he caught hold of me – I didn’t like that much for I was very tender underneath now that I’d no skin on – and he threw me into the water. It smarted like anything only for a moment. After that it became perfectly delicious and as soon as I started swimming and splashing I found that all the pain had gone from my arm. And then I saw why. I’d turned into a boy again…
After a bit the lion took me out and dressed me…in new clothes.
I am Eustace. I’m selfish, stingy, and always think of myself first. My heart is hard and it takes the excruciating power of Jesus to break through. But I’m desperate, friends. I’m desperate for healing and clear vision and grace. Jesus took all that I held most dear and smashed it on the altar of my pride. He tore idols – one by one – from my white-knuckled grip. It’s painful, but it’s the work of transformation.
For years I sang the words of Hillsong and begged God to “take it all.” Then he did. It’s true: Jesus wrecked my life. He flipped it upside down and changed my course.
Love built His mansion in the place of my excrement.