Life under re-construction

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The re-construction of Victoria Street began in late June. This average-looking, common-place road in the heart of a small town in Ontario was undergoing a radical change for the better.

Something new was going to be constructed that would mean a better, safer and more reliable roadway, both for what is above and below the surface of the asphalt. In short, something good was going to come out of all the disruption, detours, noise and dirt in my neighborhood.

Perhaps your life reflects times of re-construction. These often disruptive experiences can shake us to the core and may initially feel unwanted, uncomfortable. They can also offer opportunities for growth, maturity and — at the end of it all — realizing a better place in your life.

But how do we get from the rough place to a better one? How can we see the work of re-construction not as a negative but as a positive?

Well, the first thing I observe about what’s happening on Victoria Street is that all the planning and organizing is done with the long view in mind. In other words, re-construction takes time. Though the shovel broke the earth in mid-June, it will likely be late Fall by the time the work of re-construction is completed.

To realize this vision of completion (the biblical definition of “perfection”), the workers need to implement intermediary measures. For example, for several weeks they need to ensure portable generators are in place to pump drainage water through long, large rubber hoses laid along the length of the street. Before any new permanent structures can be installed, time is needed to remove the old and ship in the new.

Life re-construction, if it is to be effective and enduring, requires the long view. It is seasonal, and experiences ups and downs, occasional setbacks, like taking two steps forward and one step backward. It may take some interesting twists and turns before you are done.

In Paul’s letter to the church in Ephesus, he exhorts the people that in order to “speak the truth in love” they must “grow up” (Ephesians 4:15). The phrase “grow up” is often directed at misbehaving children. But this is an directive to adults as well. Growing up in Christ is a lifelong process.

When the prophet Nathan called King David out to confess his sins of adultery and murder, King David found himself at a milestone on his life’s journey (2 Samuel 11:26–12:13a). A significant indication of David’s desire to grow in faith and maturity in his relationship with God and others around him was his honesty; he did not deny his sin but confessed it immediately to Nathan. And it would take a lifetime for David to live out the consequences of his sin. His confession was but a step on this journey of healing and growth.

It is natural to be discouraged by setbacks on life’s journey. But stay on the path. Pray for the gifts of persistence, endurance and patience. Take the long view; transformation is a process not a one-time event.

Another aspect I notice in the re-construction of Victoria Street is the very reason the work had to be done in the first place. Yes, the surface of the road was getting full of pot-holes. But it was more the stuff deep below the roadway that needed a complete overhaul.

You see, Victoria Street runs along the bottom of a ravine. And the road is located in town; therefore this street is connected to all the municipal services, including water and sewer. After torrential downpours anyone living along that street would get sewer back-up and flooding in their basements. Why? Because the culverts and buried pipes constructed half a century ago are not adequate enough to deal with any overflows and demands of the present day.

Huge concrete casings, like giant cement vaults, need to be buried underneath that particular roadway to connect and drain sewer and storm runoff — to solve the problem.

No good talking about the piping and drains under streets up on top of the ravine. No use blaming the rain fall! The problems are on Victoria Street! It’s about the infrastructure underneath Victoria that is the source of the problem, and what needs to be exposed to the hard work. No where else.

In life, reconstruction is about YOUR stuff! No one else’s! In the famous Psalm of Confession (51) where David prays fervently to God for forgiveness and healing, he also confesses something I think we sometimes forget in all our confessing: David acknowledges the “truth deep within me” (v.6), a truth that reveals good things too: wisdom, for one. Confession is not just about opening up to the bad within, but acknowledging the good that is there too.

And we can experience the good when we take ownership of our own stuff. Positive change doesn’t happen until you accept the truth about yourself. As soon as you catch yourself blaming someone or something else for your problems, you are likely missing the opportunity for growth, renewal and transformation in your life.

And that is why it is so important to undertake the journey of reconstruction with others. Reconstruction involves a community. Paul follows his exhortation to “grow up” by offering that famous image of the body of Christ. Growing involves the whole body, “joined and knit together by every ligament with which it is equipped …” (verse 16).

I believe what motivates the workers on Victoria Street over the long haul is that they can envision what it’s all going to look like one day. They can see in their minds eye the final result of all their labour. Therefore, hundreds of people are working on Victoria Street — traffic guides, contractors, town officials, engineers, workers — like busy bees all working together, interdependently.

Whether you see it or not, others can see in you a vision of the new thing God is doing in your life.

Life under reconstruction is not a solitary enterprise, even though our instinct may draw us to seclusion and isolation when bad things happen. Privacy and confidentiality are important to respect; nevertheless beware if these modern ideas provide instead an excuse to hide from others under the pretense of invulnerability. Be open and honest, like David was to Nathan for knowing his darkest secrets. Try trusting others. Find a confidant. Open yourself up to God.

God’s grace persists and perseveres. It may take a long time. Digging deep may even hurt. But the grace and the faithfulness of a loving God mediated through co-travelers will, in the end, bring us to that place of wholeness and healing.

It is also in the poetry of the Old Testament where we read over and over words that communicate what stands out in David’s life: God’s anger lasts but a moment; God’s steadfast love endures forever. The same is true for us.

Thanks be to God!

Amen.

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