I see it everywhere these days.
The destroyed, run down, home...renovated into an epic space.
The tubby overweight guy with the handles of love...transformed into the ripped guy with abs you can grate cheese off of.
The supermodel that isn't as super as she looks until the photoshopping is finished.
Before. and After.
This past Sunday I taught on the before and after that Jesus pulls off in his people throughout history.
We looked specifically at a guy who went from making Christians suffer to living a life of suffering for Christ. His name was Saul...but then it changed to Paul. He went from killing Christians to giving people the saving message of Christ. From trying to shutdown the movement of the Church to being the primary catalyst to expanding the movement of the Church.
Pretty drastic transformation happened to this guy on the Damascus Road.
I've seen some places of pretty drastic transformation in me too.
I was a self-indulgent approval junkie, who found the only approval that would ever really matter.
I was a calloused, stony and dead heart. Then God found a way to make a dead heart beat again.
I could go on and on of the places that God has come into my life and blown up like dynamite.
But something very interesting happened during the church service.
I invited everyone to fill out a card that had on one side a before...painting the picture of where they had been or where they were currently. Then on the other side, they wrote their after...perhaps where God had shown up or where they desperately needed God to show up.
Out of 70 or so cards, maybe 8 or 10 of them had pretty hard "befores" and then did not have an after. The after side was completely blank.
While I knew this meant that people either didn't understand the instruction or, more likely, they weren't sure what God could or would do in their situation.
That may sound sad or stuck or heartbreaking as you read and think about it.
But I see hope.
As I read and prayed through the before and afters I couldn't help but lean with desperate anticipation into what God could do in some folks' lives.
It's not just about the big moment in 1994.
He's the Before and After God now.
Here. In the midst of the mess. Not just on the other side of the mess.
I've been stuck for a few months with what I can best describe as a thick cloud over me. It's hard to escape. When it seems that the clouds are breaking and light is breaking through, all of a sudden, the heavens seemingly shut up again and the weightiness of the cloud returns.
I don't have a before and after story to tell on this one.
I'm still in the before. I know there is redemption and beauty and hope on the other side, but I can''t quite strain my neck enough to glimpse much of it. This place of sadness and indifference and joylessness is a tough and foreign place for me.
But what the blank "afters" on the cards reminded me is of one astronomically important word.
The after hasn't been written. YET.
The story hasn't been redeemed. YET.
The despair hasn't alleviated. YET.
God is not done YET. The best is YET to come.
It's the story of hope friends.
And trust me. The author hasn't finished writing that story.
Hold on to yet.