There is a building on the road to the scalawag’s school that has been being demolished for the last six months. This has provided endless fascination to us.
It’s not a ka-boom type demolition. This is a–maybe 15 story–building, made of concrete with all its rebar and glorious asbestos, being torn down bit by bit.
I have only one memory of that building before it got boarded up–it has been boarded up for more than ten years now. I remember, all those years ago, my husband and I were taking a run down the quay that is directly in front of it, looking up and seeing an old man leaning out his window smoking a cigar. He waved hello. That’s it. That’s all I’ve got of that building before it became just another blighted eyesore
Finally, in October 2021, things started to happen.
In the first days, the windows were taken out. We had to ask Popeye, that is my retired engineer father, why some of the windows were not taken out, because this honestly seemed critically important to my boys. Why did they skip some floors of the building when it came to removing the windows? The only answer my father could come up with was that possibly those floor were one where there was no asbestos (which was the reason this building was being torn down to begin with.) So there was less danger.
The truth is that, although the demolition began in October, it started in a way that was quite unexciting. Just the windows. We couldn’t see what was happening inside, but it is quite likely that the workers were there in their hazmat suits, carefully removing the asbestos so that the demolition could proceed safely.
We couldn’t see, so we imagined.
It was very, very exciting on the day when the diggers arrived, and started digging around the foundations, creating a deep dry moat around the building. And then these gigantic tongs were attached to the digger, and they started ripping the siding off of the building.
Once the siding was off, they, as my youngest says in the tone of voice reserved for the curious, self-confident grandson of an engineer, “changed the attachment on the digger,” and gigantic pinchers began crushing the concrete structure, from the outside in first, and then floor by floor.
This was pretty spectacular, but even that, after a few days, became ho-hum to my carseat engineers.
Our attention was definitely captivated, though, yesterday, when the top two floors of the building could no longer be seen between the trees as we were going in one direction, and when there was just a big empty space above the neighboring buildings when we were going in the other.
A Spiritual Construction Site
Would I be the philosopher princess if I did not find this extraordinarily spiritual?
I found it quite moving to see the sides ripped off the building. Suddenly, we had a glimpse inside this building, a view on it that surely had never been intended. We could see, for example, the tile walls of the bathroom, as if it were a doll house. We could see all the different wallpapers people had chosen all those years ago. We could see where there had been some water damage on inside walls (and not just a little bit!) We could see where there was smoke damage from a fire (all that asbestos sure didn’t do its work very well.)
For a building that had been boarded up for years, once the façade was ripped off, there was so much evidence of life there.
I wondered, if my life was a building like that, what would it look like if the outer façade was ripped off? What is it that I spend an inordinate amount of time trying to hide that would immediately become obvious if I couldn’t hold that whole exterior together anymore?
It doesn’t sound as spiritual as it felt, every day, watching the demolition happen. But every day, I wondered more what that would look like…to be reduced down to the core of what holds me together.
Every day now, the site gets closer and closer to the core…of the building. Everyday, the place is that much closer to no longer existing. It’s barely recognizable anymore.
There are tons and tons of crushed debris now in the dry moat around the foundation of the building.
This is where it’s going to get extra-spiritual, so put your seatbelts on.
Remember, how I said that I had been truly convicted that if I wanted to start living a life of miracles and excitement again, then I needed to start serving my family with joy?
Remember, how I had said I had come across a verse that talked about “being anointed with the oil of joy?”
Yeah, well, living with joy is not something I can fake, and so far, the “oil of joy” is just a pretty concept. As I discovered yesterday, I can make a conscious decision to block out the negative thoughts that come in to steal my joy. I can even make a point of noticing when I am feeling anything but joy. But I can’t create joy from whole cloth.
One thing that does not satisfy any pre-requisite for joy, however, is pretending. There is no outer façade that is going to make joy possible. It is not something that I can pretend.
So what of this “anointed with the oil of joy” thing? When is that going to happen? How do I get me some of that?
And this is when a thought flitted through my mind.
Oil. What is oil from? Well, I use olive oil, generally, but sometimes sunflower seed oil. Or sweet almond oil for my hands when they get super dry.
How exactly does one get oil from an olive, or a sunflower or an almond?
By crushing it.
Just like that building is being crushed.
This all resonates with me, because, as that building has being demolished, I’ve been watching in a hyperemotive way. The building had asbestos or rot or fire to destroy it? Well, I have unforgiveness and pride destroying me. In both cases, there is no way to crush it safely until that stuff is removed.
So I have been trying to imagine, over the last few months, that at the same pace the building has been being demolished, so is the dangerous, toxic stuff in my soul being removed…through prayer, through forgiveness, through humility. I’m trying. I’m trying my darnedest.
When the crushing started a few days ago, though, that’s when the whole “oil of joy” thing started to hit home. Even as the toxic stuff in my heart was being removed, the work isn’t over. There still has to be a crushing that will happen in order to squeeze the oil, in order for joy to start flowing.
I don’t know what that is going to look like in my life, and while it sounds scary on the surface, I can honestly say that I am almost looking forward to it. Because there will be no oil of joy without the crushing. And without the oil of joy, there can be no serving my family with joy–there can only be playing whack-a-mole with negative thoughts. And without serving my family with joy, there can be no living in constant expectancy of what is going to happen next.
Elizabeth Elliott said, “How much of what we call struggling is actually delayed obedience?”
While there are issues to be had with this sentence, because there are real health struggles, real mental health struggles too…but I know that for me, delayed obedience is the cause of many of my struggles…many of my dissatisfactions. Could I have simply done what was right in the first place, I wouldn’t be struggling now.
But I am far removed now from the place of original disobedience. Now, I may have to get crushed to get back to where the new construction–that exciting life of miracles and God showing off just how big he is–can start.
It’s not something I like to have to pray for. But right now, I am praying that God demolish me, so that he can start building me back right.