During my engagement, I bought a house in a nice area just south of Nashville. I was ready to settle down and decorate and get rid of my beanbags and mismatched furniture. Be a grown-up. Finally! I was eager to move on and focus on things like marriage and making music and coming off the road to a place of refuge and rest that I could call home.
I’d been so excited about starting the next phase of life with a beautiful wife in a beautiful new home. Together we would fill it with the furnishings that would make it uniquely our own. Maybe even start a family soon. But instead of things falling into place, they fell apart. This big house was empty and I was living alone.
My friend Elisha is an interior designer, and she knew what I was going through. She’d watched at close range while my almost-marriage imploded, and she saw how devastated I was in the aftermath. She dropped by one morning to check on me. I was still sitting on beanbags and living out of a suitcase.
“I’m good,” I told her. “Things are okay.”
Elisha knew better, though. She eyeballed those bare walls and peeked into my empty living room. “I’ll get to it one of these days,” I assured her, sliding an unpacked box to the side with my foot. “Just been busy. Gotta leave tomorrow for a conference in Canada and then another in Philadelphia. So maybe after that.”
“Anthony, you were so excited to get this house ready,” Elisha said. “I want to help. While you’re gone, I will get all of this fixed up for you. All you have to do is leave me with a key and your credit card.”
Leave my house keys and credit card with an interior designer? Uh, sure, that sounds like a perfectly reasonable thing to do.
I flew off to lead worship in Toronto and Philly, and when I came back my house looked like the lobby of the Ritz-Carlton. I stood frozen in the doorway. Like, Wow, this is gorgeous! I feel like a king!
Immediately after that another thought came: Wait a minute, who’s paying for this?
Who’d Elisha think I was, Usher? I’m not Usher! Money is definitely an object. I ran around the house making sure everything still had the tags on it so I could take it back. And that’s when I noticed the mirror.
It was huge, nearly covering an entire wall. The frame was made from reclaimed barn wood, covered with rivets and bits of old tin. It was weathered and worn, like it’d been through a lot of storms and come out with a story to tell. I stared at it for the longest time, running my fingers over the steel and grain. Then I called Elisha.
“Where did you get this mirror?”
“There’s this man way out in Franklin,” she explained. “A carpenter. He makes all his own furniture. He hand-makes everything.”
“You have to take me to meet this man,” I replied.
The next day we hauled a load of furniture and decor back to the stores where Elisha had purchased them. On the way, we stopped to meet Mr. Paul, the man who made the mirror. He was rugged and rough—a real man’s man, with scars all over his hands and a leather apron tied around his waist. We made small talk for a while, surrounded by his incredible works of art. I asked how he made the mirror.
“Come with me,” Mr. Paul said. He walked us to the back window of his tiny shop. “Look out there and tell me what you see.”
Not much really. Paul’s backyard was actually quite ugly. There was a rundown old shed surrounded by weeds and a burn pile full of ashes and scattered pieces of trash.
“A shed and some junk?” I answered.
“Look closer,” Paul said.
I scanned the yard again, squinting.
“I see an old woodshed and a pile of burning trash.”
“Anthony,” he said, leaning in. “Look closer.”
I took one more glance. “Mr. Paul, I don’t know,” I told him. “If there’s something else there, I can’t see it.”
He laid his callused hand on my shoulder. “What you keep calling trash are the very things I used to make your mirror,” he said. “In fact, everything in this shop was made from that mountain of salvaged junk.
I stood there staring, thinking about my own mountain of garbage, all the stuff I’d love to hide out back where no one could see. All my secret sins and screw-ups and bad attitudes. All those things I can’t ever seem to get right. All the scattered, worthless junk of my life.
Suddenly my eyes were opened and the Lord spoke into my heart. Anthony, the things in your life that you perceive as trash, I see as art. What you call junk, I call raw material to fashion into something far more beautiful. If you will give them to me, I can take those things that you would rather keep hidden and turn them into something glorious for my name.
“Wow, that’s amazing,” I told Paul. Everything out the window looked different now. But that was really all I could think to say. Wow.
Elisha and I returned quite a few items that day. Eventually I leased that house and moved. Then I moved again. But I kept that old mirror. Wherever I go, it goes with me. When people come into my house, it’s the one thing they are drawn to.
“Where did you get this incredible mirror?” they’ll ask.
Then I get to tell them the story about a man I met who can take junk and make it into something beautiful.
Excerpted with permission from Unexpected Places: Thoughts on God, Faith, and Finding Your Voice by Anthony Evans, copyright Anthony Evans.
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Now we see things imperfectly, like puzzling reflections in a mirror, but then we will see everything with perfect clarity. All that I know now is partial and incomplete, but then I will know everything completely, just as God now knows me completely.
— 1 Corinthians 13:12 NLT
What are those things you “hide out back” so no one can see them? How do you sense God is wanting to redeem the “junk” in your life? We’d love to hear your thoughts in the comments!