Good Morning Brothers…
The ivy has grown across the front yard, up the front steps and onto the old front doors. The entire north side is covered with ivy, all the way up the gable and crawling along the roof edge. The trees and bushes completely encapsulate this old church from front to back and side to side. There is a hallway (of sorts) cut into the vegetation which keeps the public sidewalk accessible. From the sidewalk, an old cornerstone can be seen bearing two dates with a dash between them, kind of like what we would see on a tombstone. The cornerstone reads: 1889 – 1941
Fighting through the overgrowth, I walk around the perimeter of this old building. I sight the walls for straight and plumb, I examine the roof for bulges and dips, I check the block foundation for evidence of cracks and repairs. What I find startles me and causes me to pause and scratch the back of my head. There is some fresh paint on the foundation blocks in this corner, there is some chainsaw cuts on these trees over here, there is evidence that someone has replaced some of the plywood over the lower windows and painted them over by the side entrance…somebody is caring for this building, but in a subtle way. I call the county and begin the search for who owns this old church building. I take the name of the old church on the cornerstone with the weird date and look them up online. The mystery of the who, what, where’s gets deeper and deeper with every phone call and with every new piece of information. The business entity name, filed with the state, has been delinquent since 1974. The property taxes are current with the county. The owner is somewhat of an enigma. An elderly man without a phone, rumored to be eccentric, mentally ill, hermit like, who rides a bicycle (no vehicle), and may have left town for the winter, to his other house in California.
At this point I am rubbing my temples and asking myself why I get pulled into situations like this. Why do I find myself in the middle of a mystery I can’t let go of…why? Why do I care? Do I want to buy this old church and fix it up? Do I want it to be a church again? Do I want it to be a privately held church building, rent-able for whatever…? Do I just want to see the inside of it because I like old churches? Why am I so invested in something that makes no sense logically or financially? This is when God speaks….”Does every decision have to be measured against logic and money?”
Humbled…I start to think and pray into this situation and the fog begins to lift and I see a story line develop.
We are the old church. We have been created for the very purpose of loving and praising God. We have good bones, our structural integrity is still intact, we have “without thinking” made subtle repairs over the years, but through neglect, have let the world grow up around us. The weeds have turned into strong trees, the ivy looks like a plague of green, and has almost completely hidden us from our true purpose. We have become a restoration project. We are salvageable, only if logic and money are not considered. However, there is a part of us, an old mentally ill man, that holds the deed to the property. He must first be found. He must first be dealt with before any restoration can occur. He represents that part of us that we haven’t surrendered. That part where God still isn’t allowed access. He is the stronghold of the enemy that lives within the heart of the christian. The old mentally ill man has to go…
He is hard to find. He is hard to communicate with, but he is there. He is the face on the periphery of our vision. He is the reason why something looks out of place, like something has been moved from where we last left it. He is the voice of the snicker when we consider ways to grow closer to God. He is the moment of doubt when we think about trusting God with everything. He is the inner man that enjoys the walls we put up of perceived righteousness. These walls shelter him from God’s reach. These walls let him hide in the shadows and recesses of our soul. These walls may look good to those around us, but on the inside they provide him with protection. He loves walls built with religion. He is most comfortable sneaking around the church because who would ever think to look for him there?
Friends…we are the Church. And we need to let God’s light shine into the cracks, corners, and crevices and get rid of this old mentally ill man, because he holds the deed…so the restoration project can begin.