“Can you come meet me by the Braverman house?” No explanation, no details…just my wife asking me to come meet her near a house we often dream of buying, so-named because it reminds us of the family home on the TV show Parenthood. Either it had finally gone up for sale or she’d had a fender-bender.
So I jumped in the car and drove over…no “For Sale” sign in front of the Braverman house, as well as no sign of my wife. I kept driving a bit and then I saw her…and I saw it: a 7’ tall Victorian armoire with a big “free!!” sign on it. And my wife grinning ear to ear.
This is not the first time she’s picked up old furniture on the side of the road, but it was, by far, the biggest piece. 7 feet by 4 feet, but seemingly in remarkably good shape to be out at the curb.
Then we tried to move it.
Ahhhh…so THAT’S why it’s free.
The thing was coming apart. We could feel it separating as soon as we tried to lift it up. At first my wife said to just put it down and leave it, but I knew she’d regret doing so. I said, if nothing else, I could repurpose all the oak on it (which was in pristine condition). So into the van it went…half-in, half-hanging out the back as we drove home.
That’s where the real fun began.
When we went to take it out of the van it literally came apart at the seams. The base shifted and came loose from the top. The top racked to one side and the center door stile popped out, causing one of the doors to crash to the ground. Pieces of wood were falling everywhere. I figured it was a lost cause.
But then I looked closer: ever single separation was along a joint. There were no truly broken pieces; the glue simply gave up. The base had separated from the top not by any disaster but because the ingenious way it was designed: it was made to be taken apart for easier moving. The top and bottom were attached through sliding dovetail joints. I’d never seen anything like it!
This thing has to be close to a century old. The craftsmanship is top-notch, and every single piece was intact, if in need of some love and care. As I began to take it apart and set the pieces aside, I realized there were places where folks along the way had tried a quick-fix with glue or with braces and screws, but the repairs were quite sloppy and not well done. We decided this thing was worth the effort to restore to its original condition (or as close as possible) and we began the process.
I could have ignored the splits, the bad fixes, the gobs of glue trying (and failing) to hold it together and tried to quickly put it back together with some more glue, screws and a Hail Mary. I knew enough to realize that’s not going to last long, especially with daily use. The cracks would get worse, the joints would fail due to inadequate preparation, and the whole thing would come apart again, at which point I could either drag it to the curb (like our neighbors did, and for which I’m thankful!) or I would have to do all the things I tried to skip in the beginning.
So I began to carefully take apart the base of the wardrobe, the foundation if you will. As I was working I was struck by the thought: “This is what the last few years of our lives have been.” I’m not necessarily talking deconstruction (a word that carries some pretty heavy connotations, especially regarding faith and belief) but restoration. I had to take the base apart completely, heat up the residue of failed fixes, scrape the joints clean, re-glue end panels which had split apart at the seam, as well as add some support where needed. I didn’t take it apart to use it for a different purpose, but rather to restore it (or even make it better) than it was when I found it.
That’s the thing about broke stuff…you either fix it now, or you fix it later.
We still talking about furniture, right?
Well, yes and no.
The last few years haven’t been easy or always pleasant. There has been some hard work to be done in our hearts. Things that needed to go had to be heated up, the gunk of the past scraped away, and then “re-glued” in order to be useful again. I’ve written about that process in other posts though this time, but suffice it to say my relationship with pretty much all of life has been like rehabbing this wardrobe:
- What is ministry and how do you do it in a healthy way?
- How can I read the Bible and pray with joy again?
- What is the church? How should it work?
- What is community and why does place matter?
- How can I be a better husband, father, friend?
It all had to be stripped down and, God-willing, restored.
You see, sometimes restoration means nothing more than a fresh coat of stain; it’s simply cosmetic and nothing more. But sometimes restoration means you have to pull a thing apart in order to restore it to usefulness. If something is destabilized at the core, putting a fancy new finish on it without addressing the issues underneath won’t help. It’s only a matter of time before the issues present themselves again.
Quick fixes rarely work for the long-term. They’re like band-aids on a mortal wound. They might slow the bleeding for a bit, but they’re not going to help stabilize things. It’s certainly easier to do a quick fix and hope for the best, as opposed to a complete restoration job, but only one of these options will give lasting results. Acting like a problem isn’t a problem doesn’t make it disappear.
The wardrobe is finished…the work God is doing in me, in you, in us is not. It seems to be an ongoing project, maybe more akin to a house restoration (or maybe a city revitalization). It’s keeps going, and just when you think you reach the end, there’s more work to be done.
But that’s ok. There’s a joy in that process, a peace with knowing the Maker is working, every so slowly, and at times almost imperceptibly. He’s working on the foundation and the trim, the visible and the invisible, with a purpose in mind for it all.
For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them.Ephesians 2:10
And this one, the ever-present reminder of the on-going work of God in our lives:
And I am sure of this, that he who began a good work in you will bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ.Philippians 1:6
I’m glad my wife found this wardrobe, glad to have the chance to breathe some new life into it…and glad of the reminder it serves to me not to skip the hard work…it’s worth it in the end.