HGTV’s “Fixer Upper” is my favorite show on television right now. A husband and wife duo (Chip and Joanna Gaines) renovate homes and flip houses in and around Waco, Texas. In addition to his construction and realty responsibilities, Chip serves as the entertainment, constantly making jokes about his weight and doing something outlandish for the sake of a laugh (read: eating cockroaches). Joanna contributes the direction and creativity as she designs the layouts of the new homes, instructs Chip and the construction crew on how to proceed, and concludes the renovation process using her breathtaking interior design skills. Somehow, they manage to balance their three extremely successful businesses, their thriving marriage, their four growing children, their own ongoing renovation project at their idyllic farmhouse on Magnolia Farms, and even ever-multiplying farm animals. What these two accomplish throughout each episode is truly astonishing, taking what seem like hopeless houses and transforming them into jaw-dropping homes for their eager clients.
One particular episode got me thinking. In the first season, Chip and Joanna take on a true fixer upper for their friends Clint and Kelly Harp. Built in 1913, the five bedroom, three bathroom, two story project grabbed everyone’s attention, but not in a positive way. The outside of the house was decorated with bullet holes, a dilapidated screen door, and trash strewn across the yard. As the daring foursome entered the ominous house, they swiftly regretted it. The rancid stench forced them to hold their breath as they proceeded inside, where they found garbage lying everywhere, rotting ceilings and collapsing floors, graffiti-adorned walls, a rodent infestation, and dirty clothes, baskets, and various broken-down appliances. The house looked more like it needed to be condemned and demolished than renovated. With fear in her eyes, Joanna said it looked like a crime scene, while Chip joked that it would require more than just demolition – it needed an exorcism. Chip and Joanna lovingly named this house “The Pit.”
The more I thought about it, the more I could relate to this nightmarish property. Much like “The Pit,” my heart is a landfill of garbage, drowning in decay, rotting from the foundation, reeking of disappointment and disaster, seemingly helpless and hopeless. In fact, throughout the Bible my heart is described as desperately sick, impure, evil, wicked, wretched, immoral, hard, impenitent, foolish, deceitful, slanderous, and murderous. In short, there is nothing good in it. It would be easy to stop there, consumed with the destitution of my heart, just as it would have been easy to dismiss “The Pit” for all its decay. However, beneath all the mold and rust, Chip and Joanna envisioned a second chance for this house.
While the recognition of our total depravity is critical, there is so much more beyond the wickedness that must not be ignored; there is mercy, grace, forgiveness, and then restoration. We can’t ignore the bad, but the bad makes the good even better. As Pastor Tim Keller puts it, “We are more sinful and flawed in ourselves than we ever dared believe, yet at the very same time, we are more loved and accepted in Jesus Christ than we ever dared hope.” The more we understand our destitution, the more beautiful Jesus and His saving grace will be to us. We will understand what a truly magnificent work He has done, both to rescue us from the relentless entanglement of sin and restore us through sanctification. Clint and Kelly’s new house would not have seemed so gorgeous if it had started out clean and in need of a few minor repairs. Because we know where it began, we can deeply appreciate the value of their restored and renovated home.
As you start 2017, maybe you need a second(or millionth, chance). The truth is that we all do. God is sanctifying us daily, but sanctification is a process, and we remain sinful. In Romans 7, the Apostle Paul laments, “I know that good itself does not dwell in me, that is, in my sinful nature. For I have the desire to do what is good, but I cannot carry it out. For I do not do the good I want to do, but the evil I do not want to do — this I keep on doing.” Maybe you have disregarded discipline and become lazy, or you are ungrateful and have made a habit of complaining. Perhaps you are living in sexual immorality and excusing it by telling yourself that God’s design for sex is outdated and no longer relevant. Maybe you are consumed with greed and allow yourself to steal small things when no one is looking. Perhaps you prioritize social media at the cost of your alone time with God or are impatient with your children and rude to your spouse. These things are not okay, but Jesus still loves you in spite of them. In fact, He loves you too much to simply let you remain in your sin. This is why He offers you second chances.
We have the great privilege of witnessing second chances every day at the Paul Anderson Youth Home. The young men who come to live with us have hit rock bottom; they have estranged their families, hurt their friends, and turned their backs on God. Their lives are characterized by selfishness, destruction, and failure. Many of them are in trouble with the law and facing a life of incarceration, unemployment, and a cycle of unhealthy family patterns. When they arrive at the PAYH, they are given the opportunity to start fresh. We know where they have been, and work to help them turn their lives around through, wiser decisions, healthier habits, and changed hearts. We strive to demonstrate love, forgiveness, and grace to them, just as we have been shown these things by our merciful Savior. We see potential in our troubled young men because we know the Lord saw a redemptive future for us while we were still enslaved in our sins. There is hope for restoration beyond the addiction, deceit, betrayal, and hurt that our boys bear when they arrive on our doorstep. Jesus is greater than it all, and His love knows no bounds. Romans 8 says that nothing in creation can separate us from God’s love; that includes the most heinous crimes, unspeakable habits, and even the Harp’s deplorable pit!
This year, don’t get bogged down in your overwhelming sinfulness. Follow Paul’s example in Philippians 3 – “Forgetting what lies behind and straining forward to what lies ahead, I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus.” Embrace the second chances God offers, and accept the new direction He provides for your life. Don’t look backward at your mistakes or who you used to be; go forward in confidence as the new creature He has made you!
Paul Anderson Youth Home