Saturday, July 08, 2006

What is it with the building analogies, already?

Jesus used them, CS Lewis used them, and now Matt Summerfield of Crusaders is at it.

I don't know why, since I am one of the world's very least DIY oriented people, and I've never built anything more architectural than a website in my life, but I find these building analogies oddly compelling.

Matt's contention is that, just as we can often pass a building site for months, and not know what on earth is meant to be being built, there being nothing but big holes in the ground and messy heaps of mud and materials, so it is with our lives. God has the architect's drawings - he is the architect - but all we can see is the incomprehensible mess.

I guess I'm even less of a tapestry maker than I am a builder, but there's another analogy I find perhaps almost more compelling than this one. It's the back of the tapestry analogy. You've probably heard this one before, but one of the nicest expositions comes in a post in Waiter Rant's blog:

My thoughts drift back to a time when my godfather and I were in a museum. We’re looking at a medieval tapestry. He’s intently studying the back of it. Puzzled I join him.

“What do you see here?” he asks me.

The back of the tapestry is rough and frayed; betraying the handiwork of the person who made it. The colors are mottled and muted. There’s a lot of darkness.

“A mess,” I reply.

“Yes,” he smiles. “I like looking at the back of the tapestry because it’s a lot like real life. A mess. It makes no sense, there seems to be no order or beauty.”

Then, his arms on my shoulders, he moves me to the front of the tapestry. I look at it. Undimmed by the centuries - it’s gorgeous.

“But every once in a while God gives you a glimpse of the other side and it all begins to make sense.” he says gently.

I’m silent. I know something important has happened but I’m too young to understand.

I look at my godfather. He’s a Byzantine Catholic priest. With his beard and flowing robes he really looks like an Obi-Wan – except he’s the real thing.

“No one is unimportant. We all play a part in designing life’s tapestry. You never know what your effect on people is going to be. When you think the world is ugly, makes no sense, remember there is always another side. If you’re lucky God will grant you a peek.”

“Uh-huh” I nod.

“Remember life is beautiful – even when you can’t always see it.”

You see what he's getting at? It just doesn't make sense - how often do we hear that, even from fellow Christians, all too often from ourselves...? But it's not supposed to make sense, any more than a mucky clay pit is supposed to look like a beautiful building, or the back of a tapestry is meant to look like the front. Whay does it have to be like that? God knows. He really does. One day, he'll let us see the front properly, with the lights on. Till then, we'll just have to keep on walking past the building site and wondering what on earth all that filthy mess is supposed to be about.

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