A few months ago, my husband and I agreed to re-do the roof on the outreach and hospitality house we run for the Parish in town.
We are not inexperienced construction workers. We’ve worked on dozens of houses, tackled problems of every type and ability level, and know this house inside and out. Despite the fact that the roof on this house is quite technical, we weren’t intimidated and decided to take it on.
The entire week spent working on this roof was an overwhelming experience of joy, mercy, love, and the tangible feeling of the Lord’s presence. The fruits of my contemplation on the roof I now present to you in…
Lessons from a Roof
Lesson Number One: Destruction is Easy, Building Up is Not
The first day was spent tearing off the old roof. Fairly low on the skill-level spectrum, we were able to get some volunteers up the scaffolding and ladders and get the old roof in a dumpster. It’s not exactly the easiest job on the planet, but it’s hard to mess up. No one cares how the shingles come off, so long as they do. No one cares if you destroy them. If they are off and the sheeting is ok, you’ve done your job.
Building, on the other hand, is a different entity entirely. The care, precision, diligence, tact, and skill required to make something out of a bunch of pieces cannot be over emphasized. It took 1 day to destroy the roof. It took 14 to put it together.
Likewise, it is incredibly easy for us to tear each other apart. How much easier is it to gossip or snap at another person when we are frustrated? How easy is it for 1 small word or act of injustice to ruin a good day? When we experience evil in our lives, it is easy to allow it to negatively impact or change us for the worse.
Additionally, we know how hard people fight for wellness. We know that establishing health in mind, body, and spirit takes people years – even lifetimes – to accomplish, and how in one instant everything can be destroyed.
So too the same is true of our Lord and the devil. We often wonder why God doesn’t make things right right away when something goes awry. Yet, isn’t it more fitting that it would take time for things to be put right?
The Lord isn’t just putting a roof on a house, He is making goodness out of nothing. He is taking our brokenness and knitting it into His ongoing act of creation; sewing it into His divine plan and making everything right by re-creating joy out of sorrow. Yet this takes time and finesse. We must trust the Lord in His actions: just as rebuilding the roof took two weeks longer than removing it, the finished product was far more glorious than the original roof.
Evil destroys quickly because evil is rash and loud. But the Lord is total peace and tranquility. When something in our lives is destroyed by rash evil, we must return to the peace of creation that will make everything right again.
How much more like God are we, then, when we choose to build up those around us. One kind word is like adding a shingle to a progressing roof. It is a slow process, but the end result brings glory, while tearing each other down is like tearing a roof off. Easy to do, but it leaves the other with nothing but their bear bones, and moreover, it takes years to remedy.
As scripture says:
“Let us therefore make every effort to do what leads to peace and to mutual edification.” – Romans 14:19
“Therefore, encourage one another and build one another up” -1 Thessalonians 5:11
Lesson Number Two: The Communion of Saints Begins on Earth
The guys who helped on our roof are really good guys who work really hard. Since they work really hard and long hours, they don’t have a lifestyle conducive to time spent with our Lord.
This is where an Earthly Communion of Saints comes in. As Paul says in his letter to the Romans: “Likewise the Spirit helps us in our weakness. For we do not know what to pray for as we ought, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us with groanings too deep for words. And he who searches hearts knows what is the mind of the Spirit, because the Spirit intercedes for the saints according to the will of God.” Romans 8:26-27
I was incapable of truly thanking the men for the work they did for us, at least corporally and physically. I could thank them by showering them with prayers of thanksgiving and intercession. I could pray in their stead, ask the Lord to count my prayers as their prayers, just as their work counted for my work.
Lesson Number Three: There Are Things You Can do Alone and There Are Things You Can’t
Even though my husband and I had tackled similar problems in the past, this roof required reinforcements. So too the same applies to the spiritual life.
Confession, adoration, Mass, the sacraments, are not signals that we have somehow failed. They are in place to aid us in our attempt at holiness. Having recourse to them is a sign that we know ourselves and our limitations, not that we have somehow failed at being holy. Calling in extra roofers wasn’t a sign that we were somehow bad at what we do, but a recognition that everyone needs a hand sometime.
Let Jesus be your Simon!!
Finally: We are Corporal Beings
The incredibly physical activity on the roof led us into deep reflection and contemplation, just as any physical experience in the world is meant to do.
Christ made us as corporeal beings. Therefore, it is good, right, and proper that we come to know Him better through our experience of the physical world around us. Do not see the physical world as a threat to holiness, but rather as an opportunity to experience God’s creative genius, artistry, and beauty. The heat, soreness, sweat, (and yes, blood), that came from the roof, served to illustrate God’s mighty power: We slave to create, yet Christ creates in 1 word. We work because of Adam’s curse, yet we have the divine assistance with us in our work. We are tired at the end of the day, and so we rest when we “see that it is good.” All of these things lend us to a deep communion with God. Do not shy away from the corporeal world simply because it is physical. “For God saw that it was good.”
Maybe, He saw that it was good, because it has the very real potential to help us get to know Him better.