Several years ago, I watched an extraordinary episode of ABC’s Extreme Makeover: Home Edition that affected me in a big way.
For those of you who may be unfamiliar with the show: the host Ty Pennington and his design team choose a family with a need for a new home – usually a family that has suffered extraordinary loss or made significant contribution to the life of their community. Then, with the help of local and national construction companies and home furnishing manufacturers, they tear down the old home and build the family their dream home.
While everyone’s working, the family is usually sent to Disney World for a week’s vacation. That’s right, one week. That’s how long it takes to complete the home. Just the program’s concept is amazing in and of itself.
This episode featured the Gilliams. One Christmas Eve, Maryann Gilliam was sitting in her bedroom with her husband David watching television when tragedy struck. One moment, David was fine; the next moment, he had stopped breathing. Maryann and her oldest daughter tried to save David’s life with CPR, but they couldn’t bring him back.
The result of the autopsy showed that David died of poisoning from toxic spores, mold. He had been working tirelessly on their family home, which was full of mold spores.
The day before he died, he had said how badly he wanted his family to one day have a seven-bedroom home. That may sound pretty unrealistic until you realize that David and Maryann had six children.
Now, Maryann was thrust into the position of being a single mom with six children, trying to pay a mortgage for a home that could no longer be lived in.
Enter Ty and company. They whisked Maryann and the children off to Florida and in just under 54 hours of straight labor, the house was complete — an Extreme Makeover record.
Of course, the home had everything they could ever have wished for — and seven bedrooms, plus a beautiful memorial garden in the back yard for David. Even better yet, someone paid off the mortgage for the old home. Needless to say, it was an extremely emotion-laden program. I was bawling by the end of the episode. The beauty of unconditional love can be overwhelming to observe.
As I began to think about the show and its concept, my mind kept going back to a message I heard back in my college days. The text was Romans 12:1-2, very familiar.
The point being made had to do with the “renewal of your mind” in verse 2. The speaker brought out the fact that in the Vulgate, the word translated “renewing” was the Latin renovatio, from which we get the word, renovation, today. It carries the idea that we tear out the old, worldly part of our mind and install in its place the new, spiritual mind of Christ.
When you stop and think about it, it’s another beautiful and even deeper analogy of unconditional love. Like Maryann and her six children were unable to stop the tragedy that devastated their family, we, too, were unable to avoid the impending tragedy of death, separation from God and the eternal punishment of our sins.
We needed help.
And in that moment of need, God loved. And even though we deserved what was coming, Christ died for our sins.
There was a moment in time that God’s grace overcame our sinful rebellion, and the atonement of Christ’s sacrifice covered our sins. He paid in full the mortgage we had to Satan; he redeemed us.
Then entered the Spirit. And in no time at all, he began to tear out the old in our heart and build in the new (2 Corinthians 5:17).
And though the battle is still raging in my heart, the spirit continues his work of renovation, every day, one victory after another. When I stand back and look at the work he has done in my heart over the last 33 years of eternal life, I am overwhelmed.
The “house” he is making is far from complete, but it is nothing like it was when he first came in to stay. I’m told that this heavenly house, this temple, will last me for eternity (2 Corinthians 5:1).
It’s more beautiful than I can possible imagine with sin-cursed eyes. In fact, God promises several things about our eternal inheritance that are worthy of rejoicing: (1) it is imperishable; (2) it is undefiled; (3) it is unfading; (4) it is kept in heaven under my name (1 Peter 1:4).
Why? Why does God do things like that for me? Well, at least three answers are given by the Apostle Paul: (1) God is rich in mercy; (2) God loves me with a great love; and (3) God intends to show off the richness of his grace for all eternity through his work in our hearts (Ephesians 2:4-7).
Praise God for his extreme makeover in our souls!
Brian McCrorie is senior pastor of Heather Hills Baptist Church. This weekly column is written by local clergy members.