I look around at this broken down, boarded up house that was once beautiful–I can see that. The beauty. This pale pink modest home, shingles deteriorating and a roof that comes together in mountain peaks. Missing panels mirror missing teeth in the uppermost window where cobalt stained glass catches the sun’s reflected rays. The paint is peeling, the grass is overgrown, the steps to the front door are crumbling.
I call to my mind the light of C’s soul that shines through her eyes. She tells me of her hopes and her vision. She tells me the story. In her words and in her energy, I read the same story that I find solace in from Revelation. What is broken will be made beautiful–will be made new. And we get to be a part. We get to be co-creators.
This vision doesn’t come without some creativity, some dreaming. Some imagining a world that is no longer broken and hard to look at. A world where our neighborhoods are safe–from broken glass and violence and floods. A world where our neighbors are safe–from sickness and feeling alone and abuse. This broken down house–this gift–will become new. It will become a museum. A community garden site. A place to bring people together who might be feeling lonely. To bring new growth and new life. To produce fresh food to nourish our bodies and provide a place for sacred connections. But what about now? What about this waiting time where the funds are not available to begin this big project and this house is just another neglected Third Ward treasure. Is that it? The thing about creativity is it allows us to be in the process. Creativity tells us, “there is always something you can do to create a better world, to make this earth grow a centimeter closer to resembling the made-new-kingdom.” Even if it means spending a few hours one Saturday armed with paintbrushes and paint-coated fingers to fill those boarded up windows of that broken down house with life. With truth. This is redemption. This is resurrection. This is the message I read in the stories and visions I receive with gladness from C.
We’ve been in this same process with our neighbors. I’ve been learning how important and even valuable it is to show up. To be creative in my showing up. The Saturday after we practiced resurrection by painting on boarded up windows, we caught another glimpse of this intersection of art and justice and community.
Our feet move together on the narrow roads we’ve grown to love (not that we love the narrowness, but we love the places and people they take us to). Eyes scanning, minds recalling. Trash piles. Find the trash piles. My heart is heavy even thinking about how extremely easy this job of finding is on our streets.
We lead each other around, taking turns with “I remember one here,” and “look over there,” and before you know it, our arms are full of broken drawers, bottles, plastic containers and our feet move back home.
One o’clock rolls around and our friend D walks over. And then Miss P rolls up in her car. And soon, we are painting and making messes on the porch, on plastic and wood and these things that had been left out as trash. And once again, we take this broken. The left for dead. The mess. And we give it new life. We scoop handfuls of dirt into the bottoms and scatter some seeds. We flex our right brain muscles and laugh and enjoy the gift of presence. I feel the broken, dead parts of my heart finding hope and light and life here in this moment. I hope this feeling, this soul quenching, heart healing feeling, is the feeling that eternity with Jesus will bring.