“Under Construction: Patience”
Nehemiah 2: 17-18
Jill A. Kirchner-Rose, MDIV, DMIN
April 29, 2018
This past Monday evening, Brett Waterman from the DIY Network’s “Restored” television program presented “Redlands Restored” through the Redlands Area Historical Society. How many of you have seen the television program “Restored”? The second season of “Restored” had 13 episodes in total – nine of those episodes featured houses in Redlands. Brett Waterman says that he fell in love with Redlands the minute he was exposed to this beautiful city. He loves the old houses in Redlands. His goal is restoration, preservation, and renovation. Returning these old homes to their original charm while meeting the lifestyle requirements of the current owners. Undoubtedly, Redlands is a perfect location for the hit series “Restored”.
Of course, any DIT (Do It Yourself) shows, including Restored, give us renovation at warp speed. Before our eyes, a home in need of repair and restoration is transformed in an hour, and that’s with commercials. We watch with eagerness as the difficult demolition is undertaken. We are there when the unforeseen costs are added to the project. We witness the budget adjustment. We relate to the hard word that is needed. We marvel at the development of the beautiful interior design. We get excited as the finishing touches are added. And then the Big Reveal. The curtain is pulled back and the owner of the home gets to see the finished product. There is often cheering and generally some tears are shed. And all of this happens in 60 minutes on t.v.
Of course, any major do-it-yourself project will take a lot more than 60 minutes. When we rush through a project without careful planning and preparation, this is what can happen:
The entry is almost perfect. The only thing missing from it is an entrance.
This is what happens when you realize that your measurements were off, but starting over is just not an option.
He was in too much of a hurry to find a taller ladder. Not the best sign when your project turns into a balancing act.
First lesson in renovation: water and electricity don’t match.
Not the best idea.
Something definitely went wrong here!
Watch your step!
What came first? The door or this massive pipe?
The ultimate DIY project – ingenious recycling
Painted themselves into a square. How are they going to get out of this one?
Chimney stuck right next to the window. Don’t open the window.
When we rush right through a project remodel, disaster is waiting to happen. We are beginning a new sermon series this morning entitled, “Under Construction”. We, as a congregation, will soon be under construction. And this sermon series will help prepare us, physically and emotionally and spiritually, for the construction that will take place on our church property shortly. (Though we will do our best to stay away from any of the mistakes seen in these pictures.)
This sermon series is twofold really: to prepare us for the remodel of the current facility and the construction of a new building, but this sermon series will also speak of how we are “under construction” as individuals. And the topic I would specifically like to address this morning is patience. The old saying goes, “Be patient. God is not finished with me yet.” We are all under construction. In fact, on Ruth Bell Graham’s tombstone (Billy Graham’s wife), the words literally inscribed are “END OF CONSTRUCTION: THANK YOU FOR YOUR PATIENCE.” True. Those are the actual words on her tombstone. We are all under construction, that is, character construction. God is the Divine Contractor.
Patience is a virtue. But it is difficult to find in our society. We are the society that invented fast food, microwaves, the Concorde jet, drive-thrus, pizza delivery in less than 20 minutes or less, and express lanes at grocery stores. (Confession time: have you ever found yourself counting the number of items of the person in front of you in the express checkout line at the store?)
I think we’ve all experienced impatience at one time or another: standing in a long line, waiting for hours at the doctor’s office, slow service, long sermons, slow drivers in the fast lane. What does George Carlin say? Why is the hour when traffic moves the slowest called ‘Rush Hour’? What happens when we begin to lose our patience? Our breathing becomes shallow, our muscles tense, our hands clench. We easily become irritable and angry, anxious and nervous. We rush. We make snap decisions. Losing patience can cause physical harm to our bodies and can cause damage to our relationships.
The key to everything is patience. We are reminded that you get the chicken by hatching the egg, not by smashing it. (Arnold Glasgow, American humorist)
So how can we grow our patience? First, when we start feeling impatient, take deep, slow breaths and count to 10. This will help slow your heart rate, relax your body and distance you emotionally from the situation. And take inventory of your body. Are you hungry or tired? A simple remedy might be simply a snack or a nap. I know that I find myself most impatient with my 3 year old daughter at night. She is tired and a bit cranky. I am tired and a bit cranky. O.K. a lot cranky. And sometimes Karen has to tell us both to just go to bed. Sure enough everything looks a lot more manageable in the morning.
After we’ve taken the physical steps of addressing impatience, then we may need to dig emotionally a little deeper. Why am I in such a rush? What am I afraid of? Am I afraid that I will miss out on getting the most out of life because of distractions, diversions, failures? Much of life actually is full of distractions and diversions and often failures. Life is not a linear journey from point A to point B. There are many twists and turns to life – much like a labyrinth. How will I meet those twists and turns?
It is important that we be gentle with ourselves and others, recognizing that we are all “under construction.” Patience is not microwaveable – it is developed over time. Developing patience is a journey – we are not born with it. Think of a hungry infant shrieking with its red faced impatient demand for satisfaction now. Developing patience can be hard work, but for the sake of our physical health and our relationships with others, it is well worth the effort.
In our scripture passage this morning, we meet Nehemiah. Nehemiah means “comforted by the Lord.” But his story is not about comfort – but about unrest and impatience. Nehemiah lived during the time of the exile. Jerusalem has been conquered by the Babylonians, the houses burned, Temple lies in ruins, the Jewish people deported to Babylon. They are in exile. Nehemiah, though uprooted and deported, was one of the “chosen ones.” He was the cupbearer of the king. Being cupbearer to King Xerxes meant that, yes, he brought drinks to the king. It meant that from time to time he first taste the contents of the cup to make sure it wasn’t poisoned. But the cup-bearer was also a kind of right-hand person to king. He served. He listened. He offered counsel. Nehemiah had risen to a high position. Life was comfortable for him.
Out of this place of comfort, Nehemiah was called by God to lead the rebuilding effort of the Temple in Jerusalem. He made the long trip back to Jerusalem. And he had a breakdown when he saw the city. He wept. For the Temple was now rubble from arson, the city of God in ruins, the people in disgrace. The story of Nehemiah is an amazing account of courage, hard work, opposition, and a lot of patience. The story describes the restoration of a city, a nation, and a man. It would take 21 arduous years to rebuild the Temple. But they did it and there was a huge celebration in the end.
We, too will be called out of our comfort zone as we begin this building project. Hopefully, it will not last 21 arduous years, but we may be uncomfortable, inconvenienced for some months. We are just in the beginning stages of our building project. It will take courage, hard work, and a lot of patience along the way. There will be construction tape we may need to step around, tools laying around – maybe even on the altar, maybe some dust in the air, unexpected twists and turns, porta potties outside our front doors. Like Nehemiah, we will be called outside our comfort zone. But I believe in you and I believe that we are up for the task. And like Nehemiah, we will celebrate when it is finished. I propose that at that party we have a big sign at the entry door that reads, “End of construction. Thank you for your patience.” Amen.