Under Construction: what to remember when you see piles all around you

By Ben Riggs

I recently walked through our old house. No one has lived in it since us. Actually, it flooded the 1st winter we lived in Mexico. It’s a gigantic mess: rusty nails pepper the floor; dust covered everything, holes in the walls, with a claw foot bathtub in the living room (no joke).

As dust coated my shoes, I cycled through the Rolodex of memories and stories. It’s an old home, but it was where we rested, hosted, had a crazy dog, porch sat with our neighbor, learned about life together, and loved on the city of Dayton.

Part of me couldn’t help but relate to the house. In one sense, it was recognizable. In another, it was completely different.

For a good while all I noticed were the piles of nearly petrified floorboard and old nails: a skeleton of what was.

Then I heard the thud of a hammer. You see, my best friend now owns it and is remodeling it. And he’s an expert craftsman.

Which means every ounce of mess is on purpose, even down to the vagabond bathtub.

He’s taking nearly everything down to the bones.

It’s hard to see what’s familiar come down; the safety of what once was making way for the mystery of what will be. But then I’m reminded that the piles of nails, the exposed studs, the mounds of sawdust, are all reminders — little ebenezers — pointing to the work of a careful, committed craftsmen doing something bigger and better. Something new.

As C.S. Lewis wrote, “Imagine yourself as a living house. God comes in to rebuild that house.” And He’s not just throwing up fresh paint. He’s taking things down to the studs. And it’s messy.

We walk the halls of our hearts and sometimes all we see are the piles of the way things used to be — then we hear the sound of a hammer against our hearts and stories.

Remember friends, when all you can see is the mess — the piles of what used to be — let them remind you that you’re in the hands of a Master Craftsman. The hammering may hurt and sound daunting, but as Lewis continued, “He is building quite a different house from the one you thought of. . . You thought you were being made into a decent little cottage: but He is building a palace. He intends to come and live in it Himself.”

You are His workmanship, His handiwork.


Ben and Emily Riggs lived in Cancun, Mexico, pursuing holistic care for vulnerable children in at-risk families. Prior to life in Mexico, Ben was Director of Storytelling for Apex Community Church in Kettering, Ohio. He loves long conversations about grace and justice and is overly attached to C.S. Lewis, commas, coffee, and Friends. Ben and Emily currently live outside of Dayton, Ohio. Twitter: riggswriting / Instagram: riggsyb / Blog: Logline
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A Life Overseas is a collective blog centered around the realities, ethics, spiritual struggles, and strategies of living overseas. Elizabeth Trotter is the editor-in-chief.

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