We do love the idea of a new start. January is the resolution month, the etch –a- sketch season where we have a go at shaking off all the ways we stumble and fall and start everything again. Paint a new picture, build a new house, start the race again. The metaphors are endless but their root is all wrapped around the hope that somehow failures can be put right, that we can do better, that there is more for us in this year than what we leave behind.
As I reflect on the year gone by and look into this coming year as we continue on the Riverbank, it would be easy to feel that there are many areas of our ministry that remain unfinished, some barely even started. That we must strive harder this year, do better, increase the numbers, look for better outcomes. It can be frustrating when we don’t see our plans come to fruition; the temptation to shake the etch a sketch and have another go can be enticing.
Unless the Lord builds the house those who build it labour in vain (Psalm 127)
Maybe what I really need as I start of this new year is not a new plan but renewed trust in the builder. The bible, in various places speaks of Jesus as being a carpenter (literally), a potter, a writer, a construction worker and a gardener. Our God is a maker, a creator, an inventor of seemingly impossible things. He makes out of nothing, builds out of ruins, creates life out of dead things.
He is always making things new, He promises me that for each day of my life, there are NEW mercies for the many ways that I stumble and struggle. But this creator, who makes new and all things beautiful, makes them out of the messes I’d rather forget, out of the pains I so desperately want to leave behind, out of the dark I am sometimes so afraid of.
It takes a master craftsman to bring beauty out of ashes. That’s the house that I want, that’s the home I long for. Masterfully built, steadfast and strong, built over a long, long time, so that it might last for a long, long time This house isn’t built in a day, or even a season. This house most certainly isn’t built out of my plans – no one ever chooses this way. This building comes out of rescuing and redeeming all the broken things. Out of all our mistakes, all our fears, all our pain and suffering. These are houses that many would choose not to live in, or choose to wait for, but I believe these kind of houses, built by God, will last for all eternity.
These houses welcome the wanderer and the weary. These houses welcome the tearful and the angry, the abused and cast aside. These houses wrap themselves around the breaking and the confused. Their kitchen tables are long and their pantries are full. These houses are filled with the perfume of kindness and listening ears can always be found here. These houses carry the voices of encouragement and ripples of laughter. These houses welcome again and again, even when their windows get smashed and their jewels are stolen.
These houses are home. These houses are built on relationship and held together by love. Love that bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things. As we face a new year, as we continue to try and reach bleeding and broken hearts, as we search for a home for our community sponsorship project so we can welcome and support a Syrian refugee family, as we run parenting groups and support families with children with Special Educational Needs, as we work with vulnerable children struggling in school, as we look into eyes that so often look away out of shame and fear; in all these unfixed, unsolved, imperfect places, we choose to love. And my prayer for our Riverbank family this year and all the hopes and dreams we carry into it, is that as we love, we will see that Jesus is building, carving, moulding, creating beauty out of all the unfinished, imperfect things.
Ellie Hughes, January 2018