“And the Lord will guide you continually and satisfy your desire in scorched places and make your bones strong… And your ancient ruins shall be rebuilt; you shall raise up the foundations of many generations;…” Isaiah 58:11-12
On a regular basis, we passed by the white cottage on the corner, overgrown with shrubbery. The house looked tired and weary: chipped paint, loose chimney bricks, a sunken roof, and a dilapidated porch. Even when we drove by at night, the yellow light inside illuminated the flaws, atmospheric of a bygone era. Yet, I found the house appealing. With a fresh coat of paint, window boxes, and new landscaping, I imagined the house would look inviting and cheerful. I loved the house and secretly hoped that someday I would have the opportunity to buy it.
Three weeks ago, my husband startled me with a warning as we headed out for ice cream, “Sherry, I forgot to tell you. The house you loved is gone.” As we approached the house, he went on to explain that construction trucks had demolished the entire house, including the overgrown foliage. He later saw the entire foundation being filled in with a pile of dirt. Although the dream had been retired because we are planning on moving to a different community, sadness still flooded over me. Today, the land has been staked out for a new house.
I don’t know why the house was destroyed. Maybe its foundation was beyond repair, or the inside was full of mold. Maybe, the new owners liked the location and preferred new construction over restoration. Whatever the case, the demolition crew destroyed the house completely, erasing the very footprint of the house. There was no need for caution as they knocked the walls down, lifting the debris into a truck. Nothing was worth salvaging.
Restoring a house is a completely different process. Typically, the owner looks over the property, decides what is valuable and demolishes what they don’t want. This might mean keeping the beautiful wooden banister of the staircase but getting rid of the paneled walls. It might mean replacing a popcorn ceiling with a vaulted ceiling and wooden beams. It might mean gutting the kitchen and changing the layout of the living room. It’s a process full of costs and analysis, carefully studied and implemented.
The reconstructive journey of my faith commenced on a similar pattern. My foundation was shaky, but still centered on this faith experience I had. I started examining my foundation, replacing any loose stones with truth found in God’s word. My basic doctrine stood strong during this examination, but I felt more structurally sound in what I believed. I kept the commandments of God but vaulted it with mercy and grace. When obedience was combined with mercy and grace, it gave me space to really hear others. I still had principles on which I lived my life, but I changed my response to others. No longer was I focusing on trying to convince people that I was right but instead listened to their stories with curiosity. I also made the choice to be more active in hearing views outside of my small circle of influence. It opened me up to understanding and compassion.
For me, the root of all this spiritual reconstruction started at the intersection of suffering and humility. I couldn’t fix my life with the old patterns of applying spiritual Band-Aids to my problems. Instead, I gutted out my agenda and need for control, seeking God in true humility. Rebuilding my faith on humility led to knowledge, but not in the sense of being on expert. Instead, it put me at the feet of Jesus as a student. It is a position I remind myself of regularly because my own way never leads to abundant living.
It is also interesting to me that this spiritual awakening of storytelling, vulnerability, and curiosity happened during a divisive period: a global pandemic, racial strife, political upheaval and the #metoo movement within the church. In times past I would have probably echoed some of the political perspectives, adding to the noise and confusion of this period. Instead, I practiced listening to all sides of the debates, asked questions, and prayed about my responses. I sometimes even shut down the noise by choosing to curate my social media feed, minimizing the algorithms that are meant to entice you.
Maybe interesting isn’t the right word. Maybe it is how Jesus wants me to respond. Didn’t he clothe himself in flesh during a time when the religious elite were demanding a political response? Didn’t he do exactly the opposite of what they expected the Messiah to do? They expected a battle to rid them of their oppressors, but instead Jesus communed with the truly oppressed, listened to their stories, and led them to wholeness.
This journey started with losing weight. As I lost weight, I got rid of the clothes that no longer fit, finding freedom in new sizes. I feel like my reconstruction faith journey has been similar. I am ridding myself of all the patterns I used that didn’t align themselves with God and His character. Instead, by engaging in spiritual disciplines, I am discovering who God is and how He wants me to live. I truly have found freedom in this posture.
Paul declares in 1 Corinthians 3:10-11, “According to the grace of God given to me, like a skilled master builder I laid a foundation, and someone else is building upon it. Let each one take care how he builds upon it. For no one can lay a foundation other than that is laid, which is Jesus Christ.” These verses remind me that my foundation is Jesus Christ only. I need to be careful how I build upon this foundation. It is important to be part of a body of believers that inspire, encourage, and challenge me in my thinking and conclusions. But ultimately, I am responsible for what I believe. And I need to remain in the position of a humble student, not an expert, at the feet of Jesus.
The house I once loved is gone. But the faith on which my life has stood still stands firm, even if it looks different than it did a few years ago. It’s a journey that I didn’t want to take because it started in a place of suffering, vulnerability, and pride. But as writer Rachel Held Evans said in her book Search for Sunday, “sometimes we are closer to truth in our vulnerability than in our safe certainties.”
This concludes my four-part series on vulnerability. If this is the first one you have read, I encourage you to go back and read the rest. More importantly, I hope it encourages you to be find a safe place to be brave, to share your mistakes, and to be vulnerable enough to grow in your faith. Please feel free to share this post and comment below.