My sophomore year, I lived in just about the seediest place imaginable. It looked as if someone tried to DIY an entire apartment with a $50 Walmart gift card and a staple gun. All of our cupboards were slightly off center, our bathroom was eerily lit by a single flickering bulb, and the carpet was so cheap that bits of it would clump together and roll across the hall like tumbleweeds. Aside from the everyday shabbiness and the occasional carbon-monoxide scare, we did our best to make it a home. That is, until we moved back a few of our bookshelves to find the walls covered in a splotchy, gray mold. The discovery was made additionally horrific because we didn’t know how long it had been living on the wall. We called our landlord, hoping they would feel the urgency we felt to evict our unwanted 7th roommate. Instead, they told us that there was mold IN the wall, and the best they could do was paint over it with a mold-resistant paint. At that point, it was so sickening to look at, that their solution sounded like a good one. But a month later, it started popping up again, this time near our couch and in the bedrooms.
It wasn’t until much later that I realized that I treated my life the way my landlord treated our house. I came to college with a heart that was full of hurt, distorted perceptions of myself, unspoken anger, bitterness, and so much fear. But, in my eyes, the issue was so deeply ingrained that it was too late to change. Instead, I looked for “quick fixes;” everything from listening exclusively to Christian music to hoarding aesthetic Bible verses on Pinterest for later use as screen savers. I prayed hollow prayers, afraid to be vulnerable before anyone, especially God. I tried to convince myself that an external solution was enough to manage an internal problem.
In the back of my mind I knew my heart needed an overhaul, but an overhaul is costly - it is time consuming and exhausting to be taken apart. There are moments when you look at all the rubble - the holes in the walls and the plastic sheeting everywhere - and it looks like chaos. Maybe the scariest part is that it is out of your hands. But, the truth is, God knows how to make order out of chaos. Only He knows how make real, permanent changes. Because that's what He does. A painter can never do a job that was meant for a carpenter.
All to say, that God has done a lot of work in three years. He has been a miraculous healer, a wonderful counselor, and a friend in all seasons. He took on the hard work of taking me apart, uprooting the sin and shame that I had let fester, letting light in and giving me the courage to let others in too. As gut-wrenching and painful as it was sometimes, He was always there to carry my burdens and hold my hand (Psalm 73:23). I know what it means to have a “new heart” and “new spirit.” (Ezekiel 36:26) because, from the inside out, who I am is not who I was. Perhaps what I am most excited about this upcoming year is the assurance that He isn’t finished. In 2 Corinthians, the Bible promises that we are “progressively being transformed into His image from [one degree of] glory to [even more] glory, which comes from the Lord.” (3:18, AMP). Even when the only degree I’m focused on is the one stamped with the Berkeley seal, I know that God is faithful to remind me to turn my eyes to the One who knew me and loved me before the foundations of the world (Ephesians 1:4).
There are still so many things I need to do before I graduate. Passing my classes is one of them. Hiking the Big C should probably be another one. But in the midst of it all, I know that God is faithful to continue restoring me until He calls me home. You could say it’s a work in progress.