On Second Thought: From the inside out

Published 12:00 am Thursday, March 28, 2024

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By Marie Harrison

For the Clemmons Courier

At the top of our neighborhood, right off the entrance, there has always been a vacant set of lots. In the 14 years that our family has lived in this neighborhood, the lots from every other street have been purchased and built upon, but one street remained vacant with rows of empty, grassy lots just waiting for a house. And then a few weeks ago as my daughter was out for a run, she noticed several cars parked along one of the vacant lots and people walking around the grass as if they were pacing off a house. She hypothesized that someone was getting ready to buy that lot and build, and soon enough, as the for-sale sign came down, and the lot filled up with lumber and construction vehicles, we knew she was right. We left for school one Monday morning, observing the crews getting ready to start framing the house, but when we returned that afternoon, we were blown away. 

In just a day’s time, the whole bottom floor of the house was framed! The boards were up, you could see the general shape of the house. And by the next day, the whole second story was complete. The roof was in place, the front door was visible, the spaces for each window were cut out: no longer did we have an empty lot, in two days’ time, there was a house! And yet, as fast as the outside was complete, there was still so much work left to be done on the inside. Tile to be laid, sheet rock to be hung, appliances installed, the list goes on and on. I have no doubt it will be many months, maybe even a year before the house is officially complete because the inside work takes time and diligence.

And as I thought about this house and its construction, I couldn’t help but think that that this same philosophy applies to humans as well. It’s easy to fix up the outside. To cut our hair, or buy new clothes or put on makeup, but the real work, the real details: those are an inside job. Doing the work to change our thoughts and attitudes takes time. All the little details that make up our motivations and fears and anxieties aren’t things we can change overnight. Much like building a house, the inside takes work, but that’s where the magic happens. Who we are isn’t really defined by how we look on the outside. Who we are is how we think, how we act, what we choose to believe in and spend our time on. Who we are is an inside job. 

We have all met people who seem to have it all from the outside, yet a closer examination reveals the cracks on the inside. A beautiful appearance can’t hide an ugly attitude. A fancy dress can’t replace anxious thoughts. And so, if we really want to change, really want to become the best version of ourselves, we should start on the inside, because that’s what is most important. In 1 Samuel 16, as Samuel looked for the new king to anoint, all of Jesse’s sons who were tall and strong didn’t fit the bill. Yet, a small boy, with a big heart, and an even bigger faith in God, is exactly who God was looking for. The Lord reminded Samuel, “Do not look at his appearance or height, for I have rejected him. The Lord does not look at the things that people look at. People look at the outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart.” (1 Sam 16:7) Because God knows, the inside is what matters most. 

And if the inside matters most to God, shouldn’t it matter most to us as well? Shouldn’t we be willing to put in the work and examine our hearts and take the time to draw out all the prejudices and fears and bad attitudes that don’t belong? Yes, changing who we are on the inside is hard. Yes, it takes time. But if it matters more to God than our physical appearance, shouldn’t it mater more to us as well? New outfits are easy to buy, but new hearts take hard work and time. Yet when we work from the inside out, it’s amazing how we can take these empty shells of a body, these wooden frames, and turn them into something beautiful.  Much like turning a house into a home, the inside is always where the magic happens.