When I was little, my parents used to always watch home improvement shows, and I used to beg them to switch the channel to anything less boring. I couldn’t understand how watching hard labor for hours and hours could be so amusing. Now I laugh at my unrefined younger self, considering my admiration for all things HGTV. Why are these shows so popular and attractive? I believe that there’s an aspect to them that surpasses any entertainment value. It’s more than just paint color and kitchen tiles. It strikes at our interior longing for restoration of our hearts. It is incredible to watch the same run-down, outdated, even sometimes dangerous house being transformed into a beautifully renovated home. Christ wants to do the same with us. He wants to enter into the broken parts of our hearts--the parts full of suffering and sin--and make them completely whole. Our souls ache to be transformed, restored and renewed by the One who created them.
On a retreat last September, a priest proposed a question that I will hold with me for the rest of my life. He said:
“We are meant to live like Christ, and we know these three things about him: He suffered, he died, and he rose. We know a lot about what it means to suffer and we know a lot about death, but how many of us truly know what it means to rise?”
Christ does not want us to be consumed by the suffering and death that we face. The resurrected king came to bring us into new, everlasting life. It makes me think about Jesus raising Lazarus from the dead in John 11. Christ loves Lazarus and his family, and it is his love for them that moves him to heal. Multiple times in the story it is mentioned how much they are loved by Christ. In fact, when Mary and Martha sent word to Jesus about their brother, Lazarus, they didn’t even use his name. Instead, they referred to him as “...he whom You love” (3). Our identity is rooted in being his beloved. Out of love for us, he runs to us in the midst of our suffering, just like he does with Lazarus’ family. When Mary came running to Jesus, she fell to his feet and said, “Lord, if you had been here, my brother would not have died” (32). At the sight of her weeping, it is said that “He was deeply moved in spirit and was troubled and said, “Where have you laid him?” (33-34). At her weeping, Christ is filled with such love that it leads him to her brother’s grave. With that same spirit, he called Lazarus out from his tomb. The Lord reminds us that “I am the resurrection and the life; he who believes in Me will live even if he dies, and everyone who lives and believes in Me will never die...” (25-26). Out of love for us, he has the power and desire to resurrect the parts of our hearts that are dead and bring us new life.
So how do we rise? How do we seek restoration? I think these home improvement shows can teach us something.
Perform Your Home Inspection
I’m in no way saying that in order to rise like Christ that we have to downplay or dismiss the suffering that we experience. Instead, we need to do the opposite. In order to renovate a house, you have to do an inspection to know exactly what’s broken and in need of repair. In order for us to renovate our hearts, we must be aware of the ways in which they’re broken and in pain. We need to know what our wounds are in order to heal them. When it comes to the restoration of our hearts, we can’t hide or run from our wounds or settle for quick fixes. In the spirit of home improvement, you can paint over rotting wood as much as you’d like to make it look pretty or pretend that it isn’t a problem but neither will stop the wood from putting your house in jeopardy of collapsing. We need to address the root of why we are angry, sad, bitter, jealous, or of whatever is hurting us. For example, am I overwhelmingly upset because I simply failed an exam or does that perhaps reveal a deeper reality that I may not feel like I’m ever good enough? This process can be intimidating, as it calls us to be completely vulnerable and humble. It’s hard to admit that something may be wrong, that we’re not perfect, and that we may need help; but it’s the first necessary step in restoring the wounds of our hearts. After acknowledging our wounds, we are able to fully invite God into those areas so that He can take what is broken into renewal. Ask God to give you the grace to dive into those wounds and the courage to keep seeking out healing.
Use Your Tools and Materials
In renovating a house, after we learn what needs repairing, we gather the necessary tools and materials for the job. In our spiritual lives, God has already given us the tools that we need in the form of the sacraments and prayer. When we enter into the sacraments, we enter into the heart of Christ. Go to Mass to receive Jesus in the Eucharist, as the Catechism states “Participation in the Holy Sacrifice identifies us with his Heart, sustains our strength along the pilgrimage of this life, makes us long for eternal life, and unites us even now to the Church in heaven, the Blessed Virgin Mary, and all the saints” (1419). In addition, run to confession where we encounter God’s abundant and transformative mercy. St. Faustina wrote, “Were a soul like a decaying corpse, so that from a human standpoint, there would be no hope of restoration and everything would already be lost, it is not so with God. The miracle of Divine Mercy restores that soul in full” (1448). In confession, we restore the parts of our hearts broken by sin and restore our relationship with God; thus, we are able to receive the fullness of grace that God wants to give us. Finally, never cease in prayer, as it’s a powerful tool that always needs to be sharpened. Just as we give our hearts to Christ in the sacraments and prayer, he desires even more greatly to give you his heart as well.
Assemble Your Team
Sure, any person can google DIY projects for making cosmetic changes to their house. However, for heavy duty changes that can affect the structural foundation, a team of people are usually brought in to help you like contractors, architects, plumbers, etc. We are not meant to walk our faith alone. I’ve noticed a huge difference in my own healing by being vulnerable with those who I trust and who are striving for holiness in their own lives. Dive into your church community. Seek the counsel of those who lead you closer to heaven. Speak with a priest or another spiritual mentor. In addition, one of my favorite parts about our Catholic faith is the communion of saints. Become buds with the saints and learn from what they have to say about whatever you’re suffering with. Ask them to pray for you, as they can be powerful intercessors for us. Find those that will point you back to the Father during those times of struggle and remind you of your identity as His beloved.
Make a House into a Home
What makes a house into a home? The answer is that someone has to live in it. Let Christ make a home in your heart. Let him remain a permanent resident and not someone who pays rent. He is the only one that can make us whole. Nothing and no one else can, no matter how many times we are tempted to believe otherwise. He wants to dwell within you and transform your heartaches into a healed heart. Christ loves YOU and desires nothing more than to be with you for eternity.
Pope Benedict XVI said that “Jesus came to heal the human heart and to give salvation, and he asks for faith in him,” Daily, Jesus is asking for us to have faith in him, so that he may restore our hearts and bring us into new life. We are not meant to enter heaven as VICTIMS of the suffering and death in this world. Instead, he calls us to be VICTORS over the suffering and death: “But when this perishable will have put on the imperishable, and this mortal will have put on immortality, then will come about the saying that is written, ‘Death is swallowed up in victory. O death, where is your victory? O death, where is your sting?' The sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the law; but thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ” 1 Corinthians 15:54-57. So I say to you as Jesus does, RISE. God is calling you out of the tomb and desires to bring you fully alive into his glory.