This past weekend, I had the privilege of speaking at First Baptist Church in Hendersonville, TN. When the event team invited me some six months ago, my calendar was full, but I was intrigued by their proposed theme of “Repurposed.” In their speaker request form, they included the definition of “repurposed,” and I knew I had to accept.
“Repurposed: To use or convert for use in another format or product.”
The event was a Pinterest junkie’s dream come true. Along the pathway to the sanctuary, they staged backdrops of old, refurbished items that had been successfully repurposed for a second life. Trust me, if ever there was a poster child for a repurposed life, I’m your gal. I became a Christian in 1985 at a weekend event for college students. I was a self-professed agnostic at the time and not your likely candidate for a Christian event. (You can read more about my story here.) The first Bible verse I ever memorized in the days following my conversion was 2 Cor. 5:17.
Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come.
I clung to that verse and claimed the promise of a repurposed life. But here’s what I didn’t know at the time: The process of being spiritually repurposed is an ongoing process. It’s not a one-time event. At times, we will slip back into our old ways. And when we do, God, the Great Carpenter stands ready in his workshop to take our messes and refashion them into priceless jars of clay. He repurposes our lives again, and again, and again. It took me awhile to learn that, but alas, I finally came around. The process of repurposing never ends until that moment where we stand face-to-face with him and finally see ourselves through his eyes: Holy. Blameless. Righteous. Our wanderings, long forgotten. Our misdeeds covered by the blood of Christ. Our sins forgiven as far as the east is from the west. The way he has seen us all along — from the moment we said “yes” to him and the great repurposing began.
If ever there was a theme verse for this repurposing process, it can be found in Ephesians 4:
…assuming that you have heard about him and were taught in him, as the truth is in Jesus, to put off your old self, which belongs to your former manner of life and is corrupt through deceitful desires and to be renewed in the spirit of your minds, and to put on the new self, created after the likeness of God in true righteousness and holiness. (Eph. 4:21-24)
When I stumble upon a powerful passage of scripture, I like to pick it apart and look it up in the original Greek to see a broader picture of what’s in play. Here is what I found when I expounded on some of the key words:
put off = to put away; cast off, lay apart.
old = antique, i.e. not recent, worn out:—old.
corrupt = (to pine or waste): prop. to shrivel or wither, i.e. to spoil (by any process) or (gen.) to ruin (espec. fig. by mor. influences, to deprave):—corrupt (self), defile, destroy.
renewed = to renovate, i.e. reform:—renew.
put on = (in the sense of sinking into a garment).
created = (through the idea of the proprietorship of the manufacturer); to fabricate, i.e. found (form originally):—create, Creator, make.
When I look up words in the Greek, I like to fold in some of the additional terms that are used to describe the words and then reread the verses. Like this:
…assuming that you have heard about him and were taught in him, as the truth is in Jesus, to put off <cast away; lay apart> your old <antique; worn out> self, which belongs to your former manner of life and is corrupt <shriveled; withered; spoiled; ruined; depraved; defiled; destroyed> through deceitful desires and to be renewed <renovated; reformed> in the spirit of your minds, and to put on <sinking into a new garment> the new self, created <through the idea of the proprietorship of the manufacturer — i.e. God> after the likeness of God in true righteousness and holiness. (Eph. 4:21-24)*
Take that, Pinterest. There’s not a repurposed craft among the millions that can compare to the beauty of a sinner’s life that has been repurposed by God. Not one. I was reminded of this a couple of weeks ago when I received the most wonderful gift from a pastor and his wife. I had the blessing of meeting the wife last year in the midst of a rather tumultuous storm she and her husband were experiencing. I won’t go into the details because it is not my story to tell. Suffice it to say, this pastor has had step away from the pastorate for a time, due to a moral indiscretion. He is broken beyond belief, physically, emotionally, and spiritually. And by “broken,” I mean in a good way. The kind of brokenness that leads to a godly sorrow and repentance.
During this time of restoration, God has taken him to the woodshop. And when I say, “woodshop,” I mean it literally. He is a very talented wood craftsman and made the beautiful wood lap desk you see in this picture. In the note he and his wife attached to the desk, he explains that the lap desk was created from 200 year-old heart pine from a historic home in Mobile, Alabama. The home was being restored and the old wood was destined to end up in a trash heap. He reclaimed the wood and repurposed it into something useful. What a beautiful picture of what God, the great Carpenter, is doing this very minute in his life. In my life. And in your life.
In the sweet thank you note that accompanied this treasure, he writes, “I just wanted to say thank you for believing that “old things” can become “new” again.” I believe “old things” can become “new” again because I’ve been that old thing. God in his mercy has reclaimed my life from the trash heap, not once, not twice, but many times over. Repurposed for his glory. Redeemed by his love. And I’ve never, ever been the same. At the event this past weekend, I shared that “repurposed lives are passionate about repurposing other lives.” I don’t deserve a thank you for that. I am simply passing along what I myself, have experienced firsthand during my time spent in the woodshop.
Every time I see my new gift sitting on the ottoman of my favorite writing chair, I am reminded that God takes his children to the woodshop — not the woodshed. Oh, the years I wasted sitting in the woodshed with my head ducked in shame! God didn’t put me there — I put myself there. Lives are never repurposed in the woodshed. Jesus took the licks for us, so why do we go there? Or even worse, send others there when they mess up?
Are you stuck in the woodshed? If so, it’s time to walk away. You have no business there. Head on over to the woodshop where you belong. Your Carpenter awaits. Let the repurposing begin.
*Strong, J., S.T.D., LL.D. (2009). A Concise Dictionary of the Words in the Greek Testament and The Hebrew Bible. Bellingham, WA: Logos Research Systems, Inc.
**You can check out more of my friend’s beautiful work from reclaimed wood here.)