The boards, though not looking special in any sense, are unique: they come from an old farmhouse that is to be demolished, right around the time we are looking to put flooring down in The Mill House.
“These boards have personality,” we remarked numerous time over the two weeks it took to scrape and clean the boards. And that personality often edged toward the ornery. But we felt, in a disconcerting sense, that we’d truly “gotten to know” this wood over time.
Then comes the painstaking work of actually laying the floor. At times the imperfections seemed too many to manage – but, almost always, we found a way to make things fit. And at the odd times we couldn’t, we’d shrug and say, “That’s the rustic look you’re going for.” The imperfections of the one, shared among the many, become part of the story of the floor.
Now that we can see it, we can tell you: The floor is beautiful! But one of the things that’s striking is that the beauty of the floor is not the same as the beauty of the individual boards… though they are deeply connected. We got to know those boards awfully well… and had cultivated, perhaps, an appreciation of their potential… but none of those boards stuck us with their individual beauty. But this floor is beautiful and, materially speaking, it’s nothing but those old boards!
This has me thinking of the role that each of us as individuals have to play in our communities – we really do all need each other. And as a disciple of Jesus, I think of all of us individual followers, each needing to be shaped according to the image of the Master – yet without losing individuality – and being formed together into something unique. Scripture uses images like a “temple” in which the presence of God is experienced, and a “body,” made up of many diverse, interdependent members, each having their unique role to play. Maybe the function of “making disciples” is not that different from what happened to those old boards.
The floor will still need developing and finishing as a floor to bring out its full beauty. But that’s another stage of the operation… Similarly, when we come together as a community, when disciples come together to form a church, there is an ongoing process of shaping and beautifying that goes beyond what happens to the individual boards. As we bring out the beauty and strength of the whole, we are also fulfilling the best destinies of those individual boards… many of which would have had little meaningful use had someone not gotten the idea into their heads to make a floor out of reclaimed wood.
A key focus of my work in mission is to help the Church grasp the beauty of its organic, global unity and develop a heart to find a role for every member in the task of global mission. We’ve learned a lot about how that works in the last week of toil and splinters.
And it really is beautiful to see things come together…