One of the greatest of all psychic cruelties is the discovery of being duped. We uncover something we thought to be true only to be shocked into the raw discovery of major fault lines. We unravel vexing relational narratives we thought were something other than what they really are. We realize our best relationships have had little or no foundation, or at least flawed ones. It’s that feeling we get upon realizing our entire speech was completed with our fly wide open and broccoli pasted conspicuously to our broad, spacious smile. Although rare, in some cases, our fondest Jekylls are in fact fearsome Hydes.
Relationships of any kind – familial, friendships, lovers – are always built best on the twin foundations of trust and honesty. Honesty ensures the building goes upward with plumb lines. Trust helps solidify foundations while buttressing against disappointments and occasional shoddy workmanship. It also offers courage against inevitable strong winds.
So, what do we make of buildings erected sideways, askew, leaning precariously over great, urban chasms out of neglect or deception?
Assumptions are made (generally dangerous in most settings) regarding process and building materials only to discover that, instead of pouring concrete we were pasting feathers to toilet paper. One bad shit and it all tears asunder.
Anyone unlucky enough to suffer the shock and indignity of such a discovery finds him/herself pulling feathers and wafer-thin realities from their bruised and bleeding soul. But, if that isn’t painful enough, the hardest work is yet to begin; extracting oneself from the wreckage and getting high enough above it to allow a deep sigh of painful regret and begin the clean-up process.
Therein lies the worst indignity of all. Having worked in the construction industry for years as a painter-decorator I can confidently claim that renovations are considerably more costly and fraught with unseen peril than new builds.
However, people do it all the time. They will insist that “we can do most of it on our own, we just want you to redo the kitchen and bathroom.” Drive by two years later and a half finished disaster of a house that used to be a home sits sullen and dark with a For Sale sign that might just as easily read “we should have listened.”
Still others take the advice of friends and professionals alike and simply tear down to build back up. Throwing self-pity and fear to the wind, the same wind that took down the original structure, they dig in deep once more. Rubble gets cleared. Faulty blueprints are tossed in favor of fresh, new ones. The process begins and hope is rekindled and a strong, stable future is nurtured.
The greatest losers in these things are those who prefer the blindness of remaining face down in the rubble muttering words of safety. Only as such wounded ones call out to rescuers above can they be identified and, in turn, ignite any hope of being pulled out to heal and begin again; of freedom. More often than not, such ones, upon shaking themselves off, come to see that rebuilding is a far better option than slowly smothering to death in dust and darkness. Despite the dangers, the clear, mostly dust free air up above is still so much better than below where one labors under the misapprehension that all is well.
For anyone choosing to remain hidden in the rubble for which they are partly responsible is to choose the ripple effect of ghetto thinking. We all suffer the indignity of that one redneck neighbor whose unwillingness to park his vehicles elsewhere than his front lawn reflects on everyone. The other neighbor whose over-budget renovations have promised a constant parade of contractor vehicles, construction materials, noise, and parking issues, lives just down our street.
Broken relationships are not isolated incidences. The six degrees of separation principle guarantees that, somewhere down the line, our issues become someone else’s. To leave a mess is, ultimately, to force other well-meaning souls to build around us, forever forced to see our unsightly debris from their kitchen window. We’ll face the lawsuits that come from our rusty nails through their feet.
In all our relationships, even as bloody and dirty as they can be, let us strive to fix our messes. We are never insulated against the storms that tear down and destroy. Nor do our messes remain hidden from view for long. Let us not be fooled into thinking we’re less obvious than we truly are.
Hence, to courageously rebuild is not only to reconstruct a simple structure.
It rebuilds entire communities within which our buildings rise or fall.
“…a man [built] a house,…dug deeply and laid the foundation on rock; when a flood arose, the river burst against that house but could not shake it, because it had been well built” (Luke 6:48-49)