Many of my childhood memories with my dad are when he was working on a repair or improvement to our family home, and I was invited to “help”. Today we call that DIY (Do It Yourself) projects. Back then we just called it “work”. As a kid those times were bittersweet: we didn’t play ball together but I got to hang out with my dad doing “work”. Among the many (and endless) projects, Dad and Mom converted the attic into a very large bedroom for my brother and I. The transformation was remarkable. I still remember the details of that colorful room, and how it was created out of a dusty, dark and unused space. It was like a living in a castle.
I bought my current house about 16 years ago. Over the years I have worked on all my houses. Repairs, mostly. A labor of love, some might say. I call it “the glamour of home ownership”. There’s always something to do. At some point the extensive repairs were complete, and then it became obvious it needed significant improvements and remodeling. As a 30+ year old house, things were outdated and worn out.
My dad helped me work on my house. More than once. That was even better than my childhood; mostly because I could actually pay attention and do stuff. Each time I embark on a house project it brings up those childhood memories with my dad. Fond memories.
So far (with some help from others) I put in a fence, expanded the patio, remodeled the kitchen, renovated both bathrooms, upgraded the garage, and tiled the front porch. The laundry room was reorganized for function, and the kitchen pantry was converted to pull-out shelves. I painted all four bedrooms, the living room, and the exterior. Several times. I laid 1,000 square feet of tile, and replaced the carpet in the rest of the house. This weekend the windows are being replaced, and a deck and landscaping are planned for the near future. Labor. Of love. Yeah, let’s call it that.
Of course I’m not really writing this to talk about home improvement and renovation. In the book of John, Jesus tells us that His miracles, His compassion, His expressions of love and grace are all found in the Father:
“Truly, truly, I say to you, the Son can do nothing of his own accord, but only what he sees the Father doing. For whatever the Father does, that the Son does likewise.” John 5:19
One of the reasons I work on my house is because that’s what I saw my dad do all those years. Every project reminds me of a time when I was invited to work alongside him, even though I didn’t know what to do or how to do it. I learned how because he showed me by example and instruction. Working side by side with Barry The Builder taught me that no obstacle is too big to be overcome, no matter what my first (horrified) impression might be. No project is too big or too small, as long as it is an improvement.
Since I met God through Jesus, I now recognize that Jesus exemplified God’s love for us daily; in patience, mercy, obedience, passion, creativity (I imagine that water-to-wine thing was something to see), power, authority, grace, forgiveness, devotion, healing, raising from death, unconditional love. Jesus wasn’t just trying to impress us with these actions (though we duly are). He was constantly pointing to the Father as His source, His example.
My heavenly Father invites us to work alongside Him on His improvement projects. His projects have names and faces and hearts and souls. Unlike my houses, His projects are eternal. They are His creation, facing real challenges, disappointments, fears. My Father is undaunted by seemingly hopeless projects (I was one), in fact He seems to take great delight in the hard cases. Also unlike my projects, God’s handiwork is spectacular, brilliant, perfect. The transformations are remarkable; often I am left scrambling for words to describe them.
Both my Father and my father have shown me that DIY work is often messy, grimy, difficult work that is frequently dangerous. The old must be torn out before the new can go in. But in the end the labor of love is worth it, and it brings joy. Being invited to work (Neil The Walking Concordance calls it “co-operate”) with God on His projects is special, sacred, inspiring, humbling.
The beautiful results of a DIY improvement project are for everyone else to see and appreciate. But the glory and the joy is for the one that dreamt and thought and planned and worked it to completion. I hope that God’s work in me brings Him glory and joy.