Therefore we do not lose heart. Though outwardly we are wasting away, yet inwardly we are being renewed day by day...
-2 Corinthians 4:16
I have a ton of respect for people whose professions put them on roofs for many hours every day. It gets really- I mean REALLY- hot up there.
Our house was built in the late 50s, and although we love it, there are times when its age is noticeable. During big storms over the past year, I noticed that water seemed to be flowing directly off our house in all directions. Upon further inspection, small little saplings had begun to grow through the gutter guards that supposedly kept debris out of our gutters. Apparently after a few decades those things need attention?!
So on Saturday morning, I climbed up on the roof and spent 4 hours (mostly sweating, but also) clearing out the gutters.
Step 1: Unscrew the completely rusted screws from the gutter guards.
Step 2: Yank out each gutter guard.
Step 3: Squat on the edge of the house and scoop out the decades-old sludge inside the gutters.
Step 4: Spray out gutter with a hose that attempted to drag me back off the roof.
Step 5: Reinstall rusty screws and gutter guards.
After lots of hours, possibly a gallon of sweat, and about 75 pounds of sludge removal, I climbed down to the sidewalk and admired all the work I'd done.
And as I stared at the house, beaming...
nothing looked any different.
The house looked the same as it always did, despite how much I had done! It was a little annoying, honestly. I couldn't help but wish that I had just powerwashed the house instead. Sure, it wouldn't have impacted the internal stuff that needed work. But it it would have made everything look nicer from the street, it would have been less painful, and it would have been so much cooler (I could have powerwashed my face when I got hot!).
That's the thing about working with the internal stuff. Sometimes you're the only person that knows the work that's been done.
From the outside, folks rarely see the hard work and the effort that personal growth takes. Sure, if they looked really close they may notice that there are less leaves sticking out from the corners of a gutter. And if they had a front row seat during a storm, they'd see that water is flowing correctly for the first time in a long time, and maybe they'd understand how much that will help keep the house foundation healthy. But by and large, this sort of stuff is not flashy.
Are we ok with that? Are we ok with the fact that much of our hard work will just be between us and Jesus? Are we at peace with the fact that God understands how we've struggled, how we've changed, and how we've been changed, even if the growth is mostly outside of public sight?
It's easy to get discouraged today. We look at our world and feel like efforts to do good make little progress. We look at ourselves and growth seems barely noticeable sometimes, despite the work we've put in.
But it's there. As we move toward Jesus, the slow path of discipleship will lead us into a changed life. It may look small, and sometimes it may hardly be noticeable to the untrained eye.
Yet if we let Jesus do his work in us, moment by moment, what's within us will get cleaner and more healthy. And we will function more as the humans God made us to be. And then, though it may go nearly unnoticed in a sea of billions across the world... our little lives will make the world just a little more like God's kingdom.
It won't be flashy or noticeable. But it will be good.
You'll starting seeing others as people and not caricatures. You'll feel deeper compassion, and you'll start to release the need to set everyone straight. You'll walk a few hours more aware of the identity God has given you than the ones you have to earn. You'll care more about the actual lives touched by the debates around you than the debates themselves.
You'll be less afraid.
You'll be kind to strangers.
You'll be kind to yourself.
Who knows what messy, beautiful, internal work God is doing in you. But if people don't see it, remember today that it's ok. And it's still worth it. And you (and the world) will be better for it. So don't neglect what needs to be done. You're not alone.
Jesus, help me trust that you are doing important things in me, even when it doesn't look like much..