Most city dwellers would tell you with a rueful grin that the shortest distance between two points is always under construction!
The two cities I know best, Boston and New York, are notorious for their downtown construction sites, characterized by the rumble of big machinery, clouds of dust, and debris. Add to that the frustration of detours, delays caused by bad weather, soaring costs, and our inability to visualize the finished product.
Perhaps you've heard of Boston's "Big Dig" - which some have called the largest public works project in United States history - and the years of traffic congestion it is causing. Well, I have a "Little Dig" right next door to my home, and sometimes it feels just as bad. A house that has stood empty for years is at last being restored, but at great cost to my roses and to my peace of mind.
Fortunately, it didn't take me long to realize that the bulldozer they're using next door might, figuratively speaking, be coming straight at me! That is, I was the one who needed reconstruction.
I felt a little better when it occurred to me that conscientious, thinking people are always under reconstruction of one kind or another. Most of us know deep down that we could be better parents, better siblings, better friends, better neighbors, better colleagues. Some renovation, some renewing of mind, would help us to be more loving, more forgiving, more perceptive, more generous, more compassionate - in essence, more Godlike.
The trouble is, most of us are not sure we're ready for renovation. We may know it's part of our growth, yet still protest: "Could we go just a little slower, please? I'm not quite prepared for that step." How much easier, quicker, and less painful it would be if we could participate eagerly, adventurously, in this project by listening to God to learn what needs to be changed in our lives - by being willing to follow His direction. After all, God is all-knowing, all-acting, all-wise, and what He does in our lives is always for our own good.
This kind of reconstruction isn't something to tackle through gritted teeth or with just our own energy. In no way is it an exercise in personal willpower. As the Apostle Paul wrote, "It is God which worketh in you both to will and to do of his good pleasure" (Phil. 2:13).
God never leaves us alone on the construction site. It is always a joint-project. He inspires and strengthens us to exchange limited, self-centered thinking for the understanding that we are made to express His nature. To respond to His leadings and take joy in having others see the divine Spirit at work in us. Christian Science Founder Mary Baker Eddy provided this design for reconstruction: "What we most need is the prayer of fervent desire for growth in grace, expressed in patience, meekness, love, and good deeds" ("Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures," pg. 4).
This passage nudged me to the realization that the more consciously I express these spiritual qualities, the more I find that even in the midst of necessary change I need not be hesitant or lose my cool. "Each successive stage of experience unfolds new views of divine goodness and love" (Science and Health, pg. 66).
Those "new views" were soon revealed to me. I made a special effort to be more patient with the workers next door. I asked them to be more careful because my choking garden had actually been established for the joy of the whole neighborhood. I shoveled snow for the incoming, but as yet absent, owners. And I gave gratitude to God for the beauty of a home being lovingly restored to its Victorian elegance.
The result? Since our Little Dig began many months ago, there has been a change to a more caring, responsible contractor. Special chutes now carry much of the rubble clear of my yard. The owners have had flowers planted to disguise the debris, have made their parking space available to me (something of great value in a crowded city), and more than once have called long distance to warn me when they expected the dust to fly.
So, who or what has been reconstructed? The derelict house? The workers? The owners? Or me?
Does it matter? The renovations next door are already changing and blessing more than one person on the block.
(c) Copyright 2000. The Christian Science Publishing Society