Friday, September 07, 2007

Under Construction

Every Tuesday a co-worker and I lead a contemplative worship experience for the staff. Normally we meet in our Chapel and have a very quiet reflective time. This Tuesday however we were displaced. The church where I work is in the middle of some major construction at the moment so we often find ourselves without AC or power.

This past Tuesday the Chapel had no electricity so we moved staff worship into the Sanctuary. Now the church Sanctuary here is huge, so it makes having an intimate worship experience for 20 people a challenge. To help make things easier we sat the the staff in the choir loft so they were close to the piano and could feel more connected to one another.

Everything was going well until we got to the silent reflective prayer section.

Outside the Sanctuary they were finishing up one area of construction. The noise of the workers talking, and the sound of tools echoed through the stillness.

needless to say my mind wandered.

When we reached the 'Share what God has laid on your heart' section of worship I made the almost flippant comment about how difficult it is to be prayerful when you are under construction - both externally and internally.

Somehow I'm now speaking on this topic this Sunday at the Contemplative Service!

Fortunately some other thoughts have been resonating with me about this very topic. I'm re-reading "Everything Belongs" by Richard Rohr at the moment (an absolutely incredible book which I highly recommend). In it he makes the comment 'All Spiritual Disciplines have one purpose: to get rid of illusions so we can be present'. Spiritual Disciplines are about Construction - a tearing down of false walls that separate us from our true selves. This construction seems a distraction from the presence of God, but it is in the very place of construction that we find the Divine. This Construction; which for most of us is mainly Destruction, is not a distraction from the Spiritual Life. It is the Spiritual Life

Richard goes on to say 'The edges of our lives - fully experienced, suffered and enjoyed - lead us back to the center and the essence'. It is in the ragged, raw and dirty places that we encounter God. When we deny those places we deny the work of God in our lives.

There are parts of me that I don't like, well the truth is actually I like them and I think that I shouldn't. I want those parts to go, but by continuing pouring hate into them I feed them and give them more power. I deny the construction God is wanting to do in that place instead of finding God's presence there

No, I'm not going to give a raw honest example of what I mean - just a parallel

I love bacon. I love to eat bacon. I know it is bad for me to consume vast quantities of that delicious swine flesh, but I often do it anyway. Trying to create a change of behavior in my life around my 'Bacon Addiction' by trying to persuade myself that actually I hate bacon really isn't going to work. By denying the reality of my passion I give it more power

I watched the movie Garden State last night. In it the main character says to his father "For the first time, let's just allow ourselves to be whatever it is that we are

I guess that's what I'm trying to communicate here. Fully accepting our reality - including embracing all the construction and destruction is the beginning of us touching our uniqueness, the uniqueness God created us to be

It takes a conscious effort to find God's Presence in the midst of Construction, but denying that the building work is taking place doesn't help. As the main character in Garden State says in a deleted scene "Breathing is all it takes to be a miracle."


Rima said...

Nice post (Sir) Peter - it reminds me of the MLK quote:

Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate; only love can do that. Hate multiplies hate, violence multiplies violence, and toughness multiplies toughness in a descending spiral of destruction....


Ginger said...

And what a true metaphor.

When I went to Mexico City - you know, that time when Rich and I were poor college students and decided to get on a bus in a border town and then backpack around (without any sort of plan)just to see what would happen (aka the smartest stupid thing I've ever done)- I had a similar experience to your church construction one.

We were SO tired, and because we had very little money, we were eating "dog tacos" from street vendors and drinking Coronas at every meal, so we were also very sick. We were in our hotel, angry at the idea of a 10 hour bus ride the next day. So when we were packed and ready for much needed sleep, well, that's when the construction started.

We're talking jackhammers. And regular hammers. And saws. And yelling to pass the jackhammer/regular hammer/saw to the guy across the street by the night club.

And then the night club sprang to life and the thump of the bass shook the walls.

AND then, and I'm NOT kidding, came the Mariachis. Because there are always Mariachis that randomly walk down streets, next to hotels across, from night clubs that are under construction, in the middle of the night.(?)

Was this a flipping joke? At the time, we were not amused. And we couldn't ignore the construction et al., and we were restless and angry because of it. I mean, how DARE they interrupt our lives with all of that noise?

It sucked. And being mad about it didn't stop it from happening.

But now that I think back on the whole experience, I LOVE that it happened because perhaps that was the summation of my life at the time - deafening noise and restlessness. And that's forever a part of me.

So yes. Construction sucks at the time, but it is always needed. It is futile to fight against it. But the purpose of construction is renewal - to mend what's broken. And I'm certainly unique because of it.