When I was a young teenager, I was stuck at home one summer during a period of time when my family didn’t have cable. At the time, I recall complaining of boredom more than once. However, my mother assured me there were plenty of books available to read and stories I could write using my imagination. Between reading and writing, I watched tv. I watched cheesy infomercials and public television programming. And televangelists and preachers since that’s what was on. I specifically remember one particular preacher with a strong slightly southern tone who often preached himself into a sweaty mess. Coming from a Christian background with a different sermon delivery style, I found his approach somewhat fascinating. For at least a week his sermon series focused on the same subject matter: Repairers of the Breach.
At first, I had no idea what kind of breach he was referring to as I tuned in. From what I’ve been able to find via old clips on YouTube, he spoke about the chasm between God and man due to the breakdown of society and man’s depravity. However, for some reason, there was something that was expressed that made me apply the “repairer of the breach” phrase to race and economic relations within the body of Christ. From that summer on, one of my goals in life was to learn more about others, especially those coming from a different background than my own. I took French, Japanese, and Spanish in school in hopes of one day being able to communicate with others in those languages. The struggle continues in that area, but, thankfully, my attempts opened up doors for conversation.
In college, I sought out interesting cultural experiences and friendships that would give me an idea of other perspectives. As an adult, I looked for diverse work and volunteer environments, often putting myself in places where I was uncomfortable yet open to learning, open to listening. Through those experiences I have learned that repair work isn’t always easy.
Watching lots of episodes of This Old House with my mom taught me the more extensive the damage, the more involved the repair work. There are occasions when repair work calls for a stripping down, tearing away of the damage with plans to restore, rebuild. The stripping down, tearing away is laborious. It’s hard work that leaves your muscles sore, muscles you didn’t remember you had.
The repair work I’m referring to needs to happen in our world. There are social constructs that linger from colonial times as well as prejudices and preferences extending farther back than the birth of the United States. This old house with its peeling paint from bygone eras, creaks and groans as the winds of change blow through its weathered doors and windows. It will take time to strip away the chipped paint of colonialism. Rugged surfaces of bigotry will need to be sanded, new paint applied while other parts require tearing down, old rotted wood. Difficult conversations about wars, government, capitalism, racism, sexism, and other isms will need to be had.
I may have to admit some lines of my thinking are socially unhealthy or just plain wrong.
This kind of repair work causes me to dream.
I dream of working and serving in spaces where differences are embraced instead of being tolerated. I dream of working with a team of people that actively pursue connections with people who look different than themselves. I want to have genuine relationships with people from different socio economic backgrounds and professions. I dream of having meaningful conversations about their personal stories, faith, and hopes for their families. I dream of being part of a worldwide network of people who truly believe in word and deed that we are all created equal.
It all sounds good on paper, in an expanded Twitter thread or a motivational video, but these dreams involve a consistent rolling up of sleeves for hard work. The reality is that hard work has to be done in between each yearly appearance of January 15th.