We’re in the process of remodeling a room in our house. A room. Singular. It’s a smaller one, too—the guest bathroom (not the one pictured above, but similar size and layout).
You’d think, 45 square feet or so, not too big of a deal. It should be taken care of in a month or two at the most. Well, one thing has led to another and here we are—4 months later-with materials in the garage and lining up labor to get the job done. It has been an ordeal from design to determining what we can do ourselves to trying to schedule estimates and then haggling with those estimates. 45 square feet has really taken up more than we initially bargained it might.
Remodeling, even the more cosmetic features, can become a series of interruptions. For someone like myself, this is a bit of a struggle. I like having plans in place and getting things done. Sitting, waiting, and gathering slowly does not appeal to me. Needing to pivot when something doesn’t work the way we needed it to does not appeal to me. But, at the end of the tunnel/path/journey/roller coaster ride, there will be a newly finished bathroom in our home at a hopefully affordable price, for which I will be grateful and excited.
When I think of a life of faith as we are remodeling our guest bathroom, I wonder about how often faith goes through remodels whether we acknowledge it or not. What are the features of my faith? What needs to stay? What could be swapped out? What is the function of my faith at this point in my life? I remember faith changing at several points in my life but none so strongly as my first religion class in college. When I started college, I was ready to pursue a religion major. I thought it would be like “grown up Sunday School” in my former words. Sunday School was a breeze for me. Even my Catholic school religion classes were no problem. I knew the stories. I knew how to navigate the Bible. College should go just fine.
But then my world collapsed. After my first class, our teacher had taught us about creation mythology and the images of God in Exodus as the people wandered the wilderness. Specifically, I remember him asking “when have you seen fire in the sky?” We were all silent. He yelled, “All these city kids! It’s a thunderstorm! The people in the wilderness were following the rains to make sure they had enough water for themselves and their animals!
Some in my class, including myself, began to wonder if we could trust anything about the Bible, let alone faith. It was as if our guest bath remodel had begun with a wrecking ball. Looking back on that moment from here, however, I recognize there was another approach that our professor was trying to open up for us. He wasn’t trying to take away our faith in God or the Truth of the stories in scripture. He was trying to lead us into the complexities and intricacies of it. He was trying to lead us into the languages and symbols which communicated how the people witnessed God at work in their world and in their lives.
I would call his remodel, in the analogy of the guest bathroom, ripping out the vanity, tub, and toilet. The floor was still intact. The framework was still up. It was still the same square footage, but now we had an opportunity to step into spaces in which we had never had access to before. We could consider moving things around. We still had a trust in the reality of God in relationship with the world as our foundation. We still had the stories of the Bible as our framework. Now we got to figure out how we would move in the space to address the new questions and realities of our religion course. Some chose to put the vanity, toilet, and tub back in the same spot, but they at least had a chance to feel things out all the same.
As Lutheran Christians, we call scripture a living word. This means that the stories of the Bible are not limited to way back when for their relevance, power, or truth. The same Spirit which inspired and caused the stories and events of scripture to be written is with us as we engage with God stuff each and every day. The guest bath doesn’t need to remain static to be good. The guest bath will, at some point, need repairs at the very least. Minor to major changes are bound to happen in our lives of faith.
While the Bible has some conflicting voices on whether or not change is good, it is important to how the prophet Isaiah, the apostle Paul, and John of Patmos (author of Revelation) envision and understand God’s interaction with the world:
See, I am doing a new thing! Now it springs up; do you not perceive it? I am making a way in the wilderness and streams in the wasteland.
Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, the new creation has come: The old has gone, the new is here!
(2 Corinthians 5:17)
Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth; for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away, and the sea was no more.
Jesus was all about change as well. He participated in changing sickness into healing, despair into hope, sin into second chances, and death into new life. Jesus is in the business of cosmic remodeling.
If you envisioned your faith as a room, what would it look like? What would be its function? Would you enjoy dwelling in it? Has anything been remodeled before? Would anything need to be remodeled now or in the near future?