We are getting ready to paint our kitchen and breakfast nook. I am quite excited about this as we are going to redesign the breakfast nook as my office – a long overdue change as at the present time I work at our dining room table and constantly need to move everything every time we entertain.
What has amazed me is the amount preparation that needs to be done before we paint. First the walls and cupboards needed to be washed down to remove the dirt and grease of 10 years of cooking. Then the cupboards needed to be sanded. And finally we need to tape the wooden trim on the cupboards so that it doesn’t get paint on it.
What I realize is that the preparation work is far more time consuming and important in some ways than the painting itself. And of course if we don’t do a good job of preparation then the paint won’t stick and we will need to do it all again – with better preparation next time.
As you can imagine, watching this has made me think a lot about the way that God works in our lives. Preparation is so important to our spiritual development. It would be very easy to just apply a fresh coat of paint over the top of the dirt and grime of past sins and hurts, but it doesn’t stick. Sooner or later the veneer of clean and seemingly healthy living peels off and the sin and pain underneath is exposed and we need to start from the beginning cleaning, scraping and preparing our lives so that God can come in and “paint” us with a good clean veneer of paint – one that will stick this time.
I think that part of the reason this has struck me so profoundly is because I have watched as the veneer of seemingly clean and healthy living that so many Christians assume, chips and flakes off because they have not been willing to prepare their lives adequately. And often it is not their fault. Those with natural leadership gifts in particular are often pushed into positions of responsibility long before they are ready for them. They may have good practical skills but the spiritual foundations necessary to handle their positions like mature Christian leaders would, are definite lacking.
I am reminded again of Keith Meyer’s assertion in Whole Life Transformation that we need to make spiritual formation the center and focus of church life.
Becoming a church focused on spiritual formation involves centering everything – our individual an corporate lives, our teaching and preaching, our children’s programming, even the songs we sing- on the kingdom…. Transformation begins in our lives, our relationships with each other and our families. When we enter into whole life transformation, at first nothing in the church changes except for us. We begin by understanding and living the gospel. (p125)
Preparing to paint is a little like focusing our lives and our ministries on spiritual formation and the need for transformation in all of life, rather than on big programmes and growing numbers in church. It is spiritual formation, working deep within our lives that transforms our inner being into Chrisklikeness and our daily practices into kingdom living. And that not surprisingly reminds me of Romans 12: 1,2
And so dear brothers and sisters, I pleas with you to give your bodies to God because of all he has done for you. Let them be a living and holy sacrifice – the kind he will find acceptable. This is truly the way to worship him. Don’t copy the behaviour and customs of this world, but let God transform you into a new person by changing the way you think. Then you will learn to know God’s will for you, which is good and pleasing and perfect.