We are building a bench.
The world may be in chaos around us, but we are building something.
My husband and I treat the wood like a precious stone. This piece of discarded lumber, salvaged from an old barn that breathed its last. “Reclaimed” they call it. And we are breathing new life into its fibers as we sand it smooth, rub oil into its grain until it shines.
It feels good to nurture life. Maybe this is why we have been filling our house with living things lately. It seems that every couple days a new green growing thing finds it’s way on our windowsill, our bookshelf, our tables. We stop by garden stores to run our fingers over waxy or delicate leaves and we nearly always leave with a new friend tucked under an arm.
Every day I see these reminders that life needs tending. Each life is unique with special care instructions, but everyone needs light, breath, and nourishment. While they seem so fragile, I am sometimes amazed at their resiliency.
It becomes a kind of ritual, me with my plants. As I water the prolific prayer plant, the sturdy aloe, the wispy spider plant, I whisper close into their secret-keeping greenery, “We are going to make it, aren’t we guys?”
Creating. We can’t help ourselves. We do it because it is in our nature.
Something out of nothing, life out of non-life. These are themes driven deep into our humanity. The work of creating is ingrained in us because it is what is being done in us.
I felt an inkling of this three years ago when I chose the anthem that would carry me on the most important walk of my life.
All this pain
I wonder if I’ll ever find my way
I wonder if my life could really change, at all
The strings of an acoustic guitar sent the prayer — the plea — into the May breeze.
Could all that is lost ever be found? Could a garden come out from this ground, at all?
I was walking, leaning on the strong arm of my daddy. I was looking, steadily and eagerly, into the eyes of the man-becoming-mine, standing there so surely under a arch of wood he built with his own two confident hands.
I take a deep breath. The air swells with new beginnings.
You make beautiful things
You make beautiful things out of the dust
You make beautiful things
You make beautiful things out of us.
Did I even understand the meaning of these words that beautiful May afternoon? At the time, they sang to me of the brokenness we each were leaving behind as we joined together to make a start of something new, together.
But I don’t think I fully grasped the brokenness. I didn’t realize the pain that was yet to come. Three years later, we still have so much dust to shake off as we push our faces out of the earth and reach for the sun.
Hope is springing up from this old ground
Out of chaos life is being found in You.
God is always about the work of building, creating. Behind the scenes, he is always on the move. I am not the same girl who stepped into billows of bridal white and for that, I praise Jesus. It is remembrance of past growth that gives meaning to my present and makes me cling tighter to faith in the Creator. Oh, afflicted one, storm-tossed and not comforted, behold, I will set your stones in antimony, and lay your foundations with sapphires.
So we, because we (however dimly) reflect the image of the One who made us, can’t sit idle.
It’s a fight some days to find the good. Sometimes we arrive through hot tears and conversations that leave us breathless — because we’ve used every word we have but there just aren’t words enough.
And hear me, this isn’t a depressing place to be. If anything, we’ve seen that in the fight we find deeper and truer joy, even in the darkness we fear. We are reaching deeper depths of love that those big dreaming kids on their wedding day even knew were possible. But that doesn’t make it easy.
We are learning to find peace with our broken beginnings and pick up our imperfect tools and begin to build. We are learning to open our bruised hearts, to let the pan spill out. To reach out and touch the pain in each other. To listen, really listen, beyond the words. Even if we are not sure what we are building — or if we will ever get to see the finished project — still we build. And we are in this together and it will take every ounce of who we are to do this well. We are learning that the passive don’t survive. Or rather, they don’t experience life and love in all it’s fullness.
We want the fullness.
Because when things start crumbling down, space is made for new, better things to grow.
It’s the cellist carrying his instrument — his tool of hope — to the rubble remains of Iraqi bomb sites. In places of destruction, he picked up his bow and sent promises of new beginnings.
When we create, we are taking part in the beautification work of Christ. We participate in His redemption that touches everything from the tiny seeds in dark soil to the deepest wounds of a human soul.
When we create, we are actively hoping in the future.
I place a newly transplanted cactus on our finished homemade bench. “Be brave,” I whisper, “Life is worth the growing pains.”
This image of planting a dead seed and raising a live plant is a mere sketch at best, but perhaps it will help in approaching the mystery of the resurrection body—but only if you keep in mind that when we’re raised, we’re raised for good, alive forever! The corpse that’s planted is no beauty, but when it’s raised, it’s glorious. Put in the ground weak, it comes up powerful. The seed sown is natural; the seed grown is supernatural—same seed, same body, but what a difference from when it goes down in physical mortality to when it is raised up in spiritual immortality!
Quotes in order of appearance: “Beautiful Things” by Gungor, Isaiah 54:11 (ESV), 1 Corinthians 15:42-43 (The Message). Bringing beauty to chaos is happening all around us and one of my favorite examples is the Iraqi National Symphony Director, Karim Wasfi, who played his hauntingly lovely “Baghdad Mourning Melancholy” at sites of car bombings. For inspiration, watch here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Kc7lfPFTqh4&t=117s