Writing by Faith

Tearing Down to Build Again


The Lakebay Church is a mess. The church building is a mess, I mean. Not the people. The people are, all things considered, doing well. However, as I write this, the building is pretty torn up.

Fifty years ago, the men and women of the Lakebay Church pooled their resources and built a new sanctuary. It was intended as a space for worship, but was also built with the community in mind, to host weddings and funerals, concerts and other events. It served that purpose well.

Lately, however, it has been showing its age. The carpet is worn, the paint fading, the seating starting to crack. Five decades of use left it worn, musty and a little outdated.

In January, we embarked on a renovation project. Construction equipment fills a space more accustomed to singing and prayer. Splashes of paint samples mark the walls. Sawdust and audio wires litter the floor.

Soon enough, though, it will be beautiful again. With windows opening to maple trees, a high wooden ceiling soaring above, fresh carpet and seating, the space will come alive with singing and laughter. It will be ready to hold the tears of funerals, the energy of concerts, the joy of weddings. As the world moves into post-virus normal, this space will be ready.

The Christian story, like many religious traditions, holds room for messiness. Comfort and ease often give way to chaos and trouble. Our spiritual ancestors wandered through deserts as prisoners and pilgrims.

In April we Christians celebrate Easter, the day Jesus came from the grave announcing victory over sin and death forever. Prior to that glorious moment, even Jesus faced brutal assault, humiliation and death. Ugliness preceded glory in the work of healing and salvation.

Our building is in a state of deconstruction, just as our world has been torn apart by a pandemic, financial insecurity and political division. These barren places are a tearing down, a winnowing of the comfort we take for granted.

The deconstruction of desert places is difficult, but it is in those spaces where renewal happens. Before something new and beautiful can be built, the old must be torn down. It is hard, but it is necessary for there to be new life.

For me, our renovation project has become a metaphor for all that we’ve been through this past year. Old systems are falling apart. The dirty stains of history are being unmasked. Our nation has lost over half a million people to COVID-19, and counting. Financial stresses abound. Relationships are strained. Our physical and mental health has suffered. It has been a messy year for everybody.

In the midst of this messiness, with Easter upon us, I choose to believe that something new is being created. As winter gives way to spring, as deconstruction precedes recreation, so does struggle lead to glory. Old ways are passing away. A better world is yet to come.

It is easy to focus on the mess sometimes, which can lead to hopelessness and despair. We forget that chaos can also lead to better and brighter tomorrows. What appears as loss can eventually lead to gain. Remain vigilant but have hope, my friends. As the Psalmist wrote, sorrow may last a night, but joy comes in the morning. If we choose to step forward in faith, humility and love, a fresh spirit may just blow in and restore us to glory.

Award-winning columnist Dan Whitmarsh is pastor at Lakebay Community Church