Do you know the Jonathon and Drew Scott, aka the “Property Brothers?” The handsome twins are super-stars of HGTV and pros at turning fixer-uppers into dream homes.
I love make-over shows of any kind and confess to occasional binge-watching where experts take old, dilapidated homes and turn them into warm, comfy, or elegant living spaces. I’ve recently realized it’s also what I do in my work as a pastoral counselor and teacher: I help people open the closets and sort through the mess of their emotional and spiritual lives to declutter and bring beauty into those “interior spaces.”
We all need a spiritual make-over.
Who we are—especially how we see the world, what we think about God, and how we relate to him—will physically manifest in the way we live and even the space we occupy.
The saints have called this inner world of heart and mind the “Interior Life.” Mine was once a horrible mess, like some parts of my exterior life: the crowded clothes-closets, kitchen junk drawer, linen cupboard, and trunk of my car were a lot like my jumbled thoughts and emotions. My world was usually clean and neat on the surface, but behind all those interior doors and drawers was chaos, disorder, and over-attachment to people, relationships, and anything else I thought would make me happy.
Those people on TV who want to sell their homes? The show hosts instruct them to get rid of the mountain of children’s toys, excessive junk on the kitchen counters and in cupboards, seventeen types of hairspray, forty-seven face creams, and baskets of old hotel soaps in the bathrooms. Clean out the closets and throw out the useless trash in the garage. You can tell from their faces that the very thought of parting with all that stuff is painful. Most of them resist. Some sneak stuff back in.
Why do we hang on to so much? Because it once brought us pleasure or security or we may need the physical object to keep the memories alive. We also fear that we will never have enough. We do the same with relationships, “hoarding” whatever we think will keep us in control. What tremendous energy we spend to purchase, possess, store, manage, maintain it all, and to worry about thefts, floods, fires, or breakups!
As a younger woman facing my life’s accumulating relationship problems I knew it was time for change. I learned I had to take what some call a “fearless and searching moral inventory” and what the nuns who taught me would simply call an examination of conscience. Like they do on TV, I stood on the lawn outside my own life—with Jesus instead of “the brothers”—and together we began to assess things from the ground up.
God wants to restructure and beautify our interior lives. He doesn’t impose some cold, religious, abstract design on us; he lovingly works with who we are and our own natural desires to bring order from chaos and holiness from… Click To TweetGod wants to restructure and beautify our interior lives. He doesn’t impose some cold, religious, abstract design on us; he lovingly works with who we are and our own natural desires to bring order from chaos and holiness from selfishness.
It’s all about detachment.
St. John of the Cross taught that holiness and, ultimately, lasting happiness come about in two simple and consistent movements of the heart: away from inordinate attachment to things and relationships and toward God. Fear, greed, and lack of trust keep us from moving. Over-attachment to those lesser goods keep us from possessing the Greatest Good of all.
So how do we let go? We must first be convinced that what we seek is more desirable than what we currently hold in our hand.
We must finally get so sick and tired of the mess, the smell, or the disillusions of how we have been managing our life and our relationships life that we look higher. And we must begin to see God’s great beauty and goodness and his perfect love for us. Sadly, God and a life of holiness look far too boring and dull to many people. Like I was for many years, they are happy to live in and decorate their familiar little world where things and relationships only keep falling apart.
God will carry the larger load.
Our Lord wants to go deep but he’ll start small. When you’re ready for a real make-over he won’t demand instant holiness because he knows it will take time. I’ve often I had no trouble handing some things over to God, but others I have long and stubbornly resisted. Like those homeowners who say, “Change it all . . . but don’t touch the (old, grungy) playroom. I like it as it is!” He is patient as we resist, listening to our protests, but again and again showing us his plan for our happiness. He understands our selfish and sinful nature, but he will not tolerate it. Those walls must come down.
Our Lord will take over to finish the job. Teresa of Avila wrote that as the soul progresses in detachment, it stops its active work toward holiness and instead is drawn lovingly by God into his divine life. There’s always a point toward the end of each TV show where the owners stop assisting and the Property Brothers, and they alone bring the makeover to its ultimate, stunning end. Similarly, we initially cooperate with God, but in an advanced stage of our interior makeover we no longer rely on our own prayer methods or techniques. Instead, God, who directs this “show”, will do the most beautiful and powerful work of uniting himself with and transforming the surrendered and trusting soul.
So, let’s wrap up this episode. Take your tips from the saints and maybe also from Jonathon and Drew:
- Make an honest assessment of your life. Open every door to every room.
- Even if you have doubt in your emotions, trust in your will . . . and invite him in.
- Tell him your preferred desires, heart-felt hopes, and greatest fears.
- Consider his blueprints and work with him along the way.
- Give him the keys to your heart, get out of his way, and give him full access.
- Allow him to draw you into himself and make you new and beautiful. He will make his dwelling place in your soul.
“If anyone loves me he will keep my word, and my Father will love him, and we shall come to him and make our home with him.” John 14:23
PS – Don’t forget to teach this to your children!