Do You Have the Guts to Be a Fixer-Upper?

Derek Westra
01/15/21 | 4 min read
If we allow Him to take us on, and to design our lives, we'll find that He—as the Architect, Designer, and Builder—can do so much more with us than we can with ourselves.

You could say I’m almost addicted to all things house flipping (as in: home renovations that fix up a deteriorating property and culminate in a jaw-dropping reveal.)

I love all TV shows in this category, whether it’s the more recent shows or the classic ones. To me there is something noble, beautiful, and irresistible about finding a home that is run down, falling apart, and fraught with issues but seeing its hidden potential and investing the time to “flip it,” restoring it to its former (and future) glory.

One of the most popular of these hit shows starts every episode with the husband-and-wife dynamic duo stating their objective: “We take the worst home, in the best neighborhood, and turn it into our clients’ dream home.” Then they start that episode’s story by asking: “Do you have the guts to take on a fixer-upper?”

I’ve often wondered why these shows are so ridiculously popular. Why are there so many of them? There’s a whole network dedicated to giving us as many house-flipping reality TV shows as we can take!

I remember asking a friend this same question years ago about sci-fi, fantasy, and superhero movies. “Why are we so obsessed with these stories?” I asked. “What is it that keeps us coming back for more?”

My friend’s reply was dripping with the wisdom of someone with decades more time than I have spent in the scriptures (and also within worlds like Asgard, Tatooine, and Gotham.)

“The reason these stories are so popular is because there is something deeply ‘true’ about the fight between good and evil, and the need for a hero to save us. It resonates with our spirits. We’re drawn to these fictions because of their similarity to the very real nonfiction we live every day.”

I recently realized that this same answer also applies to my other question: “Why are home renovation stories so popular?”

I believe there is something familiar about the process of recognizing potential, restoring virtue, and revealing beauty that speaks to our souls.

Isn’t it inspiring when someone can recognize the dignity of something that is so badly broken? Someone with “eyes to see” who can look past the neglected exterior and the injured insides, and with a confident smile can say, “I can work with this.”

Fixing up a damaged and decaying property takes a huge investment of time and labor. Sometimes the foundation needs to be reinforced. Often the roof requires repair. Sometimes there are significant structural issues. Some days are demo-days, where rotten walls and termite-ridden floorboards are ripped out, exposing the home’s fragile frame. Other days are for rebuilding, where stabilizing support beams are placed to strengthen the home and ensure that it remains safe for years to come.

When the bad parts are cut out and cleared away, it’s time for the designers to truly transform the space. They slowly walk through and look carefully at the various rooms, envisioning what they can become. They take notice of the flow, and how the light hits the walls. They visualize the people who will live there and begin to mentally place a fireplace here, a dining table there, and porch swings facing the sunset.

When the home is just about ready, the designers add the finishing touches to make sure every detail is in place: the landscaping is complete, the pillows are perfectly positioned and fluffed, and candles are positioned to accentuate the unique beauty and character of the home.

At this point the designers ask the homeowner, “Are you ready to see your fixer-upper?” The renovation is revealed. Jaws drop, tears flow, and homeowners say things like “It’s not the same house!” and “Thank you for seeing what this home was capable of becoming!”

Do you recognize this restoration process? These stages are similar to the steps of the Atonement of Jesus in our lives.

I realize that it is inappropriate to compare the most precious gift ever given to mankind by the Savior of the world to a home renovation. One is supernal, the other mundane. One is God-given, the other man-made. I do this only to say that on some level we intimately know and recognize this process, and it resonates with our spirits.

The scriptures are replete with examples of the Jesus’s “renovations.” I imagine Him at the Sea of Galilee looking at the rough and impulsive fisherman Simon Peter and envisioning the “rock” upon which He would build His Church. Then with a confident smile, saying, “I can work with this.” I imagine the resurrected Lord seeing the powerful potential of Paul in the small-in-stature Saul, and the yet-to-be-born Jehovah recognizing the determined drive in Alma the Younger that He knew He could “flip.”

The process of cutting away the spiritually rotten and decaying parts of a person is painful. It takes work to create a masterpiece from mangled and missing pieces. I believe the ingredient that makes this possible is mercy.

The scriptures describe this process of investment, love, and work many times. Here is one of my favorites: “And thus did the Spirit of the Lord work upon them, for they were the very vilest of sinners. And the Lord saw fit in his infinite mercy to spare them” (Mosiah 28:4).

Transformations require tools. Mercy, love, and grace are among the tools Jesus uses to renovate our lives. In all the scriptures, never did Jesus turn away from a fixer-upper. Never did He look at a potential restoration project and say, “That one is too far gone.” No matter how cracked the foundation or how abused the interior, our Savior always takes the job. The woman taken in adultery. The blind man. Jarius and his daughter. The woman with an issue of blood. Lazarus. Mary. Me. You.

If we allow Him to take us on, and to design our lives, we’ll find that He—as the Architect, Designer, and Builder—can do so much more with us than we can with ourselves.

Do you have the guts to be a fixer-upper?

Derek Westra
Derek Westra is a husband to one, father to three, and self-proclaimed donut enthusiast to hundreds. Derek loves all things creative, including writing stories, painting (poorly), playing and recording music, and cooking (badly).