When my great-grandma died, I came home from college to my childhood home in a state of chaos. My beloved childhood home had been upended—some problem with the supports underneath the house, causing the kitchen to sag. Cooking was difficult. Parts of rooms were scattered everywhere.
Upon reflection, my heart was in a similar state. I’d just made the decision to come back to the Church after years of fighting God. I’d finally surrendered enough to let Him reorder my life. But sometimes, to set things in their proper order, they must be torn apart first. Sometimes total demolition comes before the rebuilding.
He’s been teaching me this lesson once more as we kick off 2023. There was water damage from some leaking bathroom pipe. The bottom portion of my main bookshelf and parts of my desk crumbled apart when we removed them from my room at the start of the demolition process. Every single item I own had to be moved out of my living space, my working space, my reading and relaxing and virtual meeting space—including myself and my cats.
It’s disorienting. Life is supposed to just keep going on while everything is out of place. When I glance up to where a shelf should be sitting relative to my computer in order to recommend a book I can’t quite remember the title of—there’s no bookshelf there. I’m in the guest room (thanks be to God that I live in a house with one of those and that the damage wasn’t worse). I’m supposed to keep going full speed ahead while I can’t even remember which box my blow dryer went into in my haste to clear out the bathroom so it could be gutted.
And in some ways, I am moving full speed ahead, but I feel like I’m going in circles. Books, art supplies, reference materials—everything I own is in boxes or piles or stacks whose organizational system has been lost underneath other boxes, stacks, and piles.
I recently saw a friend posting about day 17 of the Catechism in a Year, and I thought to myself, “No way we’re only 17 days into this year. Surely months have passed.” But it is, apparently, still January.
And God is still good. He is with me in the mess that I’m in, and He’s with me in the mess that I am.
I’ve started the calendar year messy. Not by choice. But I do have the option to choose whether I accept the lot I’ve been dealt or to resist it. I can surrender this moment, second by second, to Our Lord’s Most Sacred Heart. Or I can withhold it from Him, sink deeply into myself, wallowing in self-pity, missing the heart work He’s doing within me.
It’s been fascinating to me to see the house taken apart (again). This is still my childhood home. There’s a note that was written before the first floor was laid when this house was built, telling my grandpa to put the light fixtures and doors in the rooms where they’d be installed. There’s both so much and so little that goes into holding up the structure of a house. So much and so little that goes into making that house a home.
That’s true of us, too. We are God’s house. We know as Catholics that every time we go to Mass and receive the Eucharist, Our Lord makes His home within us. Not merely dwelling in our hearts in a spiritual sense, but in a truly physical sense, we receive the Body and Precious Blood of Jesus Christ.
And sometimes He has to break down our walls. Sometimes He has to open up the floor. Sometimes He has to enact a demolition of our heart so that He can get in to fix a leaky pipe, to restore damage that won’t heal without His intervention, to make sure the whole structure is sound enough to last for all eternity.
For He wounds, but He binds up; He smites but His hands heal.”Job 5:18
Whether it’s a physical space or the hidden places of my heart, a home requires maintenance and upkeep. Even a sturdy home that’s been built to last needs to be maintained. The work of becoming whole, allowing Him to make us whole, requires continual surrender to His will, and continued acceptance of the work He desires to do within us.
The liturgical new year started with Advent, and my theme since then has been surrender. Complete surrender, to the point of totally abandoning myself to the will of God, allowing Him to do what He will with me. I’m not yet good at that. I don’t know if I ever will be. But merely accepting His will instead of fighting it is a step. And it’s a step that I must keep taking, keep committing myself to make over and over and over again.
Because He’s not calling me to be good at surrendering to Him. He hasn’t asked me to be the best surrenderer He ever created, to show off how well I can abandon myself into His hands without a second thought when worldly wisdom says I’m being crazy.
He’s calling me to just do it. To trust Him. To obey Him. To take every step in trust that He will take care of the consequences. In truth, He already has taken care of all of it.
Spoiler alert: He’s already won every battle we will ever face.
Lord, tear down the walls of my heart, and break down every barrier that keeps me from You, everything that keeps me from being totally, entirely, completely Yours. Enter into my messiness, my brokenness, and shine Your healing rays into every shadowy, shaky place in my heart.
Jesus, I love You. Jesus, I trust You. Jesus, I surrender myself to You. Take care of everything.