By David Ramos
Last Saturday I watched one of those home improvement shows and it featured a couple who wanted to make their home look like a Spanish mission. They didn’t know how to do it nor did they have the resources to make it happen, however, along came this show that would make their home into their dream home. Their home already had the semblance of a Spanish mission but apparently needed some work. At first the owner thought, it just needed a little make over to give it the look and feel of a Spanish mission, however, upon closer inspection the stucco and wood had dry-rotted and had to go. Much to their amazement, the builders had to tear down whole sections of their home. Shocked, these owners watched as bulldozers came in their front lawn and tore the place up. At one point you could of see the demonstrable anxiety upon their faces when the whole front of their once beloved home was missing.
Lately I’m feeling like those homeowners. God called me into ministry and I thought, “Great, I’m been waiting for this, I’m sure there’s some stuff I’ve got to work on, put together, brush up on.” Man, have I been mistaken! I thought I needed some “detailing,” God apparently has some other plans that I’m just finding out about. You see upon closer inspection God is showing areas of my life that have dry-rotted, stuff that very much like that homeowner, I wasn’t even aware of. God is saying, “This stuff is going to have to go.” To my shock and utter amazement God has showed up to my doorstep with some bulldozers and is tearing the place up! Crash goes my theological assumptions! Crunch goes my esteemed puny categories! Snap goes some relationships! Rip goes my constructed illusions revealing some embarrassing emptiness leaving conviction in its wake! Aaaargh! To be quite honest brothers and sisters—this is quite painful.
Like those homeowners, I neither have the knowledge, skill, or resources to make these changes happen. I am watching in bug-eyed silence watching stuff go down, knowing God is right and waiting to see what will happen. I am suffering loss with a promissory note that things will get better. What I thought was a small job is turning out to be a much more greater and costly job. While this is a painful and arduous process, I am submitting to God’s workmanship, which isn’t much but standing still and trying to get out of the way.
So often we dream and think that we will do some great thing for God, some edifice for God’s glory, however, as when God spoke to King David, he tells us, “I will build you a house.” Sisters and brothers I don’t know what the future holds, right now I’m too busy watching God make the rough places smooth.
“Every valley shall be filled, and every mountain and hill shall be brought low; and the crooked shall be made straight, and the rough ways shall be made smooth.” Luke 3:5
A number of years ago, while at church the Lord spoke the following to my heart, “El pan no se hace pan si no se rompe la masa.” “Bread does not become bread unless you’ve broken the dough,” God is molding us so that we may become bread of life to others. It is never easy and often quite painful. When I graduated from seminary in 1990 I had a lot of romantic notions about ministry, and then I found out that sheep bite! It is good that you are at least aware of the process and are willing to be transparent about sharing it with the rest of us. I commend you for this. Wouldn’t it be wonderful to have a venue where urban ministers could come together and speak not only about their successes, but their struggles and failures as well? God’s peace be with you. Shalom!
The Latino Leadership Circle is actually a small group of urban ministers who gather for theological reflection and support. We have been meeting for over four years. Ever so often we’ll catch a film and disconstruct it (i.e., The Architect, Derrida, Bonhoeffer, etc). Often we’ll go to a diner afterwards or order in chuletas, y arroz con gandules (we keep it indigenous). We have been meeting at the American Bible Society once a month in New York City. It’s an intimate group and for many of us truly a lifeline of authentic koinonia. For more information please contact me at: firstname.lastname@example.org