I’m in New Orleans right now with a team of students. We’re here doing Hurricane Relief which means we could be doing anything from cleaning out a house of every single possession (mudding out), or tearing down sheet rock and plaster to the original studs (gutting out). Here are four short stories from our first day that I want to remember and to share with you:
1. I was assigned to a team that headed New Orleans Teen Challenge. I had no idea what was in store for us, other than a bunch of sheet rock needed to be hung. We got there earlier than the Teen Mission Staff so my team of five decided to walk around the block to take in the whole scene. Littered throughout the abandoned streets are countless flooded cars, mostly which have been stripped of valuable parts. There was one particular car with a 2×6 pried under the hood and smashed through the windshield due to the force of the flood waters. I walked right into several homes to see what it would be like. All of them were completely gutted-out except for the last one. It was filled with every belonging of a family. The water in this neighborhood was 11-18 feet high which meant that couches, refrigerators, beds, bookshelves, televisions, were floating in tepid, polluted flood water as it slowly settled out in the ocean. This took weeks and weeks to happen which meant that the entire house, floor to ceiling, was covered with mold; the smell was unthinkable. What’s worse–this was someone’s home, someone’s possessions. Everything that they owned was destroyed.
2. My first job was to clean off a brick cutter. This is a huge rolling table saw with dried cement all over it. At first I thought, “No problem, I’ll have this baby sparkling in no time!” and then I began. After two hours of scrubbing with a wire brush in 90 degree heat and 90% humidity, I began to question if I would ever get this thing clean. I began to tell myself–this is good enough! No one will care if there is a little grime left on it.
And then I saw a picture of my heart and Jesus lovingly cleaning it.
What if He said that? What if He just decided to stop because He got sick of cleaning? What about the fact that He never has and never will?
I scrubbed for two more hours.
3. As far as the eye can see, there are abandoned homes with mutilple water level stains visible in a brownish yellow tint. There aren’t that many people around in New Orleans yet, only the determined few who are giving every waking moment to rebuild their lives here. I noticed that no one was doing anything with the outside of their homes. All of the work is starting in the inside.
Consider this: What good would it do if people spent all of their time painting fences, mowing lawns, redoing their siding and there trim, and never spending any time on the inside. The outside would be beautiful but the inside would still smell that musty, dank, putrid smell and there would still be crap growing up the walls.
How often do we pay all of our attention to the our outside–painting and doing maintenance–wanting everyone to think that we have it all put together? What good does it do if we still smell like that musty, dank, putrid smell and there is still crap growing up the walls of our heart?
Aren’t you glad that God doesn’t look at the outside–He probably doesn’t even care that much. Aren’t you relieved that he is constantly “mudding out” and “gutting out” our hearts?
4. A junior named Kevin was telling his story of how ironic it felt to be destroying the inside of a home. He did say that this was one of his biggest highlights because, “Let’s face it, who doesn’t want to thrash the inside of a home?” (His words). As he was talking about this experience, I was overcome by the reality that destruction has to happen first. The only way that anything is going to heal here in New Orleans is if the destruction is completed so that people can rebuild.
This isn’t a new concept–it’s THE concept.
My faith is built upon a God who chose to come and live here so that I could understand an unthinkable love. He was completely and totally destroyed so that healing could be possible. He was “thrashed” as Kevin said, eluding to the inside of a home, so that a relationship with Him could be possible.
We just celebrated the power of His ressurection yesterday.
Total destruction leads to complete restoration.