For Revolutionaries and Visionaries Only

One of the gifts I’ve been given from the construction world is that I understand it takes time to create something beautiful. And that ‘time’ includes lots hard work, sweat, many mistakes, sometimes broken bones, blood, busted budgets, mental toughness to keep the vision in mind when all you see is a mess, and the willingness to keep at it, to do it the right when things get difficult, and not cut corners. I have many terrible stories of what cutting corners does in the construction world… just go out to a new housing suburb and ask a homeowner what issues they have with their “new” home. Good work, beautiful work, takes time and commitment to do things right.

With many jobs I work on, there is demolition that has to happen before we can start actually ‘building.’ Whether it’s digging the footer for a stem wall that is going to hold the bearing load of a building, jackhammering out old concrete and rebar to build something more functional or more aesthetically pleasing, or tearing out walls, ceiling or floors for a remodel. The homes or buildings where demo takes place becomes a dusty mess, full of hazards and is in need of strong labors to tear out and haul off all the junk that is no longer necessary.

It takes this…

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To get to this…

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Or this…

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To get this…

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In life, this struggle is the same. We all want the beauty without the work. We want the resurrected life without the death. We want healing but not the pain. We want the finished product, but not the long journey of demolition and clean up to get to the point where you can actually start building again. We want to live in peace, and run from disorder. We want to ignore what’s broken. We want to cut corners. This is a human desire. I don’t know anyone, who in their right mind, loves pain and waiting a long time for things to become whole. But not loving these things does not mean we can dodge them and expect the beauty we long for.

You see, this work is hard because if forces us to deal with that which we are afraid of: exposure of our shame, ignored trauma and loss, an invitation to grieve, asking others to help us haul off the junk that’s been demolished… This work is hard because it invites us into the truth of the way things really are, and to ‘willingly’ move into our shame and grief seems like a death wish at worst, and stupid at best.

But it is precisely the digging into the shame and moving into the grief that is what creates the beauty. It’s the asking for help and recruiting strong laborers to help with the heavy lifting. But remember, it’s the ashes covered over the forest floor that brings about a plush forest in years to come. It’s the work of sitting in your pain long enough to die to the old ways that have kept you numb isolated, and without passion and intimacy for years. Death must be at work within us for beauty to ever surface in the purest sense.

So here’s to the hard work of creating beauty when there is no clear vision of what it will look like once we get there. Here’s to sitting in our pain (not completely on our own though) long enough to die, and in the tomb of grief, in time, it will turn into a womb. And once again, you will be invited into the pain as you will labor to give birth to the hidden beauty waiting to be revealed.

This is an invitation for the revolutionary, the visionary, the one who is not happy with the way things have been, for those who are not willing to cut corners, and move past the comments that are meant to keep you from feeling and dealing with what’s really going on under the slab. May this encourage you today to stay the course, and as Mumford and Sons puts it, to not succumb when the world is wrapping round your neck. Find your broad-shouldered beasts and invite them in to your shame and grief to share to weight and pain of this journey towards beauty.

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Nothing…

Nothing to hide. Nothing to fear. Nothing to prove. Nothing to lose.

I had lunch this afternoon with a business-man friend of mine who left a lucrative job over six years ago to serve men and women in the marketplace. He’s one of those people you meet with, and you know you’re going to leave the meeting stirred up and challenged. So, as a glutton for punishment, I knew I needed to have lunch with him.

As our time together unfolded over a lunchtime eggs Benedict at the Breakfast Club (downtown at City Scape; great food!), it was clear that my friend was not fooled by my attempt to explain why I am justified in being mad at how God has been ordering life. He’s no stranger to suffering and change.

He very graciously and lovingly leaned over the table, looked me straight in the eyes and said, “Jeff, do you really want to be in a place where Jesus is following you, or you are following Jesus.” I paused, and gave him that look that said, “I’m supposed to say ‘No’ as a Christian, but right now it would feel pretty good for Jesus to follow my plan.” He went on to say, “Jeff, listen to me, there’s no better place to be in life than to be in a situation where if God doesn’t show up, you’re done.”

I have to admit, I hate hearing that, partly because I know it’s true, but also because I hate the unknown, not having clarity, or control. To be in that place, is to be okay with mystery and okay with not having control. My friend closed our time together by saying, “When you can sit with Jesus in the unknown without knowing details or having clarity about what’s next, then you are on your way of having nothing to hide, nothing to fear, nothing to prove, and nothing to lose”; and I would add, nothing to manage.

I am learning to release my weaknesses, inabilities, fears, and identity in this season of life, and it seems to create more anxiety at times… but in a weird way today, I feel relieved again that God is managing my life, and I really do not have control. I feel relieved that there’s much unknown in my (and my family’s) near future. I feel humbled that Jesus is meeting with me in a fresh new way, on His terms, not mine.