Thursday, May 31, 2012

Renovating Space

It’s really exciting thinking about updating a bathroom. Imagining clean new tile, fresh paint, a beautiful new sink (countertop vessel kind!) and fixtures, a much-needed ceiling fan—all color coordinated—really got me excited. My old bathroom had cracks in the floor tile, mold in the shower, peeling paint, and a countertop that drove me crazy—too much grout to keep clean! Warning! You may have noticed the word “thinking” in italics above. That is because the thinking about and the doing are very different.

Have you ever had a moderately old home? Anytime you imagine renovating an old home you must understand that unimaginable things lurk behind the walls and under the floors. And because homes used to be made “out of iron,” they do not come apart as easy as newly constructed homes do. No tap, tap, tap to remove the shower tiles. It takes a renovator in a hazmat suite with an industrial-strength jack hammer to remove them. The tiles on our shower were attached with an inch and a half of concrete in chicken-wire meshing! Who knew? So instead of simply having a few shower tiles to discard, we had tons of concrete to dispose of! I could go on and on. I will not. Suffice it to say that what we thought would be a week of demolition turned into six weeks! Sheesh! What was I thinking!

Having been in ministry almost twenty years I realize quickly when everyday life reveals spiritual realities. This is where life and ministry meet. Between 2006 and 2008 the congregation I now serve renovated the sanctuary. Ay caramba! Changing light fixtures and moving furniture (especially the pulpit!) surfaced passions and beliefs that threatened to tear people apart not just physical space. The renovation of the sanctuary became a metaphor and a catalyst for the renovation of hearts and minds spiritually. The pain and agony of the hard work and cost of updating our facility was matched and exceeded by the same for spiritual work that needed to be done. By God’s grace both ended up bringing glory to God and new vitality to the ministry and mission of the church. But the renovation of the hearts and minds were the primary work. God simply used the physical renovation as a vehicle for his greater purpose to renew us spiritually.

As I sit in my office today I am facing some very serious spiritual work that needs to be done in the hearts of God’s people, mine included. And we are facing major facility costs--old elevator and old air conditioning! Interesting that at this very same time the elders of the congregation have committed to a new period of discerning the shape of our future ministry and mission—more renovation of our life together—organizational and spiritual. I am tempted to fear and thus try to avoid the pain and agony and the cost that confronting spiritual work will require. But today I will choose to trust the love and power of God for his people and that he is totally capable of a repeat performance in both the renovation of our mission and of our hearts so that the end result will be his glory and fresh vitality for our ministry and mission. Between 2006 and 2008 we hung a sign outside that read, “Caution: Master Carpenter at Work.” Guess we need to hang it again.

In your life or ministry what everyday circumstances have been used by God to do spiritual renovation?

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