Pittsburgh is a great city and I love to visit its unique spots — from the strip district to the stadiums to Mount Washington to the Milkshake Factory! I am amazed at the revitalization that has happened from the days of the soot-filled air and streets to today’s gleaming skyline. That’s what made it fun to take a walking tour of the city recently.
The Cultural District also was featured, including the historic Stanley Theater, which is better known today as the Benedum Center. The Benedum has a stunning interior that features 90 crystal chandeliers, and 18-foot tall mirrors reminiscent of the Hall of Mirrors at Versailles (France, not western Pennsylvania). Our guide informed us that in 1977, it was transformed into a rock concert venue and the ornate wall-coverings were painted black, hiding its beauty and history. In 1984, with the rise of the Pittsburgh Cultural Trust, it was restored to its former glory. Interestingly enough, it cost $3 million to build in 1927 and $43 million to restore.
A few days after our tour, the Benedum came back to mind. Someone was talking about their sin and its darkness and how it had kept them from allowing God’s work to be done or seen in them. What a perfect parallel. Sin is a darkness that covers up what God would desire to do in us. In Proverbs we find the lament for sinful people whom we are told, “… have left the straight paths to walk in dark ways.” (Prov. 2:13).
We know all too well the path of the dark ways. We all have allowed something beautiful to be covered up in our lives. Some people claim their life doesn’t have much to offer. Others live in such a way that degrades the value that can be found in them. But because God’s image is stamped on us, we all have value and something to offer. To deny that, or to refuse to let it rise in us, is painting over the ornate details of God’s design with doubt and denial.
It is true that we’re not all we will be one day. The Bible itself points that out. In 1 John we read, “Beloved, we are God's children now, and what we will be has not yet appeared; but we know that when he appears we shall be like him, because we shall see him as he is.” (1 John 3:2). We are not all we will be one day — do I hear an “Amen?” But nonetheless, the basis of what we will be is already in us. John says we are God’s children NOW.
The spiritual life is a lot like restoring the Benedum. When it was created, it was beautiful and ornate and designed as its builder intended. We, too, have been created as beautiful and ornate and exactly as the builder intended. And as we conform ourselves more and more to the image of our creator, we are being restored, remade, and renewed. Every choice for obedience and righteousness rubs off a little of the blackness and reveals the beauty underneath.
What a shame it would have been if the beauty of the Benedum was lost because it was allowed to be covered and hidden. And what a shame it would be if the beauty of what has been created in you is lost because you don’t make the decisions or do the work necessary to let it shine through. What can you do today to rub off a sin or behavior that will reveal God’s design in you more fully?