read Matthew 3 (the Message). Major changes are taking place at the Armory on Park Avenue. Sheer sheets hang from its massive castle-like walls, revealing an architect’s rendition of its new interior. It’s a brilliant optical illusion of a blueprint. According to today’s New York Times, Prize-winning Swiss architects, Jacques Herzog and Pierre de Meuron, have been hired to perform a $200 million renovation.
The Swiss architects see their renovation as a way to explore the very act of transformation. “What is time?” Mr. Herzog is quoted in the Times as asking. “What is history? What are the materials? … We wanted time and the layers of time to be visible… If you renovate, where do you go back to? There is no particular point in history. History is a process. We believe every time and every contribution has its importance.” The project has apparently been distinguished not by large architectural flourishes, but by painstaking research: “one room alone was cleaned with 280,000 Q-tips.” The purpose was to retain the Armory’s aura of frayed grandeur: “All the scars are visible,” Mr. Mergenthaler said, “but they don’t dominate.” NY Times, 10/6/11 C6.
This strikes me as the kind of transformation God can effect in us, if we invite him in. God will affirm our best qualities and redeem our worst. Just as the resurrected Jesus retained his scars when he returned to walk the earth, so we, too, retain our scars when God transforms us. But like the Armory renovation, the scars don’t dominate.
In preparation for the arrival of Christ, John the Baptist urges his listeners: “change your life.” (the Message). The usual translation of this message is: turn away from your sins, and turn toward God.
But why did John the Baptist deliver this message in such strange clothes? Why did he preach from the wilderness? Why did he go vegetarian? My friend Virginia Apple arrived at my apartment today to give me the answer: “because he had to pare down. God has to strip you of the things, so he can give you new things.”
And so perhaps the Swiss architects’ approach to renovating Drill Hall of the Armory provides the best analogy of all for how God changes us. The 55,000 square foot airplane hangar of a space, “will remain unobstructed, so that artists can define it.” NY Times, 10/6/11 C6. The voice crying out in the wilderness challenges each of us to become “unobstructed” by the sins that hold us back, so that the true artist can define us.
God calls us to turn away from actions and thinking that keeps us from realizing our true potential, and to turn to the one who made us to give us the love and affirmation we so desperately crave. We are to “turn away from” the bad, and “turn toward” God. If we create an open empty space, God will fill it with good things.
The good news is that you are not expected to change your life alone. In fact, the Bible teaches that you can’t. Your job is to ask for help. It’s to “hire” the true Architect. You can afford it because Christ already paid the cost. If you do, you receive grace. Then you, too, will hear the words: “you are my beloved child, in whom I am well pleased.” And from that place of total acceptance, you will discover you’re already changed.
posted by Caroline Coleman in carolinecolemanbooks.com