Today was the fourth Sunday in our new building.
It is pretty nice. It is comfortable, clean, very... nice.
I hear that there are a lot of new faces in the seats.
Somethings haven’t changed much. Many of us still sit in the same places, as if the chairs and the people in them hadn’t moved, while the building transformed itself around them.
I think people are moving after all. Perhaps the movement around us is helping us to move a little on the inside. Toward Him.
My wife and I have been pretty focussed on our own lives (more about that later). But between those myopic moments when I see nothing beyond my own yard, I see signs of promise in our new church.
For example, I got this in an email from a friend:
Though the new construction has been an immense source of pain for you, many people are finding the new facility a blessing. Over 300 attended the concert Monday pm. People raved about the acoustics of the room, including the 2 musicians who were enthusiastically impressed (sounds better in here than it did at Carnegie Hall after they hauled in $30,000 worth of extra sound equipment for our concert!). For the 1st time in my 20+ years here I have an office big enough to hold groups of people for leadership meetings, staff meetings, Bible studies, etc. For the 1st time ever people stick their head in the door, look around & say “wow, nice office.” I NEVER heard that before. It’s cool to see the youth in their new youth center Sunday mornings & evenings – they are jazzed. I could go on & on. Oh yeah, this is a big one, the new office area, big enough to hold all of us so we have a sense of community, 1st time for that as well. If Satan meant to inspire Jeremiah to do something bad, God has certainly turned it around for good for CAC.
That last part is interesting... “turning it around for good”...
And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose. --Romans 8:28
The old building, with the ancient wiring and undiscovered termite shelter is gone. In its place is a clean, safe, welcoming place. It’s modern enough that young families sit in a space which connects to their own sense of architecture and style. Comfortable enough that old timers feel a sense of invigorating freshness.
There is a reminder of the old sanctuary in the cross hanging on the wall. Large laminate beams supported the vaulted ceiling in the old building. A friend of mine, a craftsman wood worker, reshaped a beam or two into this cross. He selected beams which had been partially charred by the fire that swept through. The burn marks are centered, fading out at the arms’ ends. The symbolism is unmistakable.
The cross bears our sins. All of our sins. The heat and destruction of our selfish acts chars the intersection between God and man. But it does not overwhelm. All our sins fit easily upon the great symbol of God’s love and sacrifice.
That fire burned a lot more than a building of course.
It set a fire in my own home that chewed its way through us all. It affected all of us, but it hurt Brenda the most. She struggled to love Jeremiah. She read passages of love in the Bible; she kept finding new ways to let him know he was loved, half to convince herself.
She turned to me at one point to ask for help in starting a new project to help him. She wanted us to be involved in Special Olympics. I put her off.
To her it was more of a refusal. Perhaps it was.
Since the fire I had been trying to deal with that destruction in my own way. We committed to pledges toward the rebuilding fund which went beyond what we could logically afford. I prayed with and over both boys each night. I spoke with them each night, checking on their fears and anxieties and concerns. Especially Jeremiah. I did everything I could to help around the church, though the sight of the ruined building made me want to weep.
Brenda tried also. But she found herself withdrawing her emotions, her affections, from her family, from me. Her anger grew.
It feels like everything is pretty messed up in my life. That isn’t true of course; there are many things that are going well. But there isn’t any doubt that the heart of a home is the relationship between a man and a woman, and that is very messed up in my home.
In some ways I can see that this whole mess might allow us to see each other in a clearer light, see who we really are. It might allow us to have a marriage that is more honest and real than we could have ever had otherwise.
But it may be that it won’t last at all.
Sitting in the new sanctuary, where everything is clean and fresh and intentionally designed to assist us in connecting our mortal messes to eternal perfection I am glad that the Lord has found a way to bring such good out of such a mess.
It tears at my heart when I think of how close so many of us, myself, Brenda, Norm, Mel, and Tim, came to being terribly injured or killed that day. The image of my friend thrown onto the driveway by the unseen forces of explosive gases, and I believe, an angel, him standing up in the horizontal column of smoke blasting through the door of the old building... holds sharp and clear.
This new building which makes odd little turns to follow apparently senseless wiggles of a foundation designed for different structures seems intentional in the whole, though quirky and capricious in its details.
Those of us who knew the old place well can still see the echoes of the board room, the pastor’s office, the old entrance, the library, the sanctuary. But the younger faces sitting with their younger children see a mothers’ nursing room perfectly designed, fiiting a whole, in the section that was once the board room. They see a beautiful window, its central frame creating another beautiful cross, where the pastor’s office once rested.
I see all these reflections of the old here and there... On Sunday morns when I pray with our pastors, I note the youth pastor is sitting in nearly the exact spot where Jeremiah knelt to coax a flame onto a sheet of paper from a candle.
I hear echoes of the past which hurt my family, hurt me, and I see wonderfully good things.
Brenda thinks that God is capricious, perhaps cruel. That our desire for children was turned against us so that our first child would die, that our subsequent children would be so challenging. I see good. I see children who have had the evil of their homeland stripped away and the best possible lives given to them against the most improbable of odds.
There are many examples of being able to see the bad or the good in so many things which have happened in our lives.
I believe that passage in Romans. I don’t believe God caused the bad things, but I believe He works for good through all things, good and bad, for those who love Him.
I love Him.
Perhaps that is all that really matters.
Perhaps I don’t even need to be overly concerned to see the good in the things that hurt.
Perhaps praying and worshipping and reading scripture and pondering Him through my writing is enough.
I love Him.
Perhaps that is enough.