Over the last few days, my co-pastor and I engaged in a renovating venture at our church. We decided it was finally time to white-wash the rails on the front patio. During the hours of bending over and squatting down and climbing through poison ivy to make sure all of the rails were covered and looking good, I had this feeling there was some kind of faith illustration in the work we were doing. And as I covered up the last of the rust on the last of the rails, it hit me.
I am this rail.
You are this rail. We are these rails because we are rusty and broken down and rather likely to repel people looking for a safe, welcoming space. Sometimes we don’t even realize how coarse we really are until a savior shows up on a random Thursday afternoon to put us back together and renew our spirits. God steps in and covers all of it. Every ding and every scratch and every decaying part of who we are is transformed into beauty and wholeness and strength. There’s really no asking for it and certainly no repaying for it, but it’s just given to us. It’s there on the table for anyone to experience because God loves each and every one of us so much that we each can be saved and renewed and made whole through the blood of Jesus Christ.
Not everyone will notice what it is that’s different about the church entrance. Maybe they won’t notice at all. Just like people often can’t put their finger on what it is that makes us as Christians so different – hopefully so accessible and so real and so comfortable. We are just there, adding to the comprehensive welcome experience in a way that’s typically only noticed if it’s not there or if it’s done poorly. And that’s the way it should be since it’s really not about us to begin with. Our job is to point to the Creator and Savior of the universe and say to every individual we come into contact with, “you are loved and you are invited to experience new life.” Hopefully now that the church entrance is cleaned up, it can declare that same truth.
Interestingly enough, the breakdown of this metaphor is the most beautiful part to me. See, the rust-oleum we used to cover the rails in disrepair is temporary. Hopefully, we won’t have to repaint them again for another 5-10 years, but in the end, the rust will come through again and some pastor years from now will have to paint it all over again. The metaphor breaks down because God doesn’t do temporary fixes. God takes out every last rotten piece and restores the patio with something brand new. And something eternal. We will fail again and we will need saving all over again because we are humans and we are imperfect. But every single time, God steps in and revives our hearts to be completely new.
This is reason number 75938729384 that I absolutely love my job. For all of the soreness and humility and paint-stained hands it brings, it is 1000% worth it. It’s literally my job to point to God in all things and say, “God is working all things for good. Thanks be to God.” And I will say it over and over again every day of my life until my lungs run out of air. God is working in your life for good, friends. Don’t let any rust or brokenness or faltering tell you otherwise. You are being made new for a greater purpose than you can imagine. Celebrate with me in this renovating venture. Amen and amen.