Cities + Walls: Notes on the Renovation Process.

Renovation is a messy, smelly, dirty, heckuva job.

I'm learning the true meaning of this as my family is in the process of renovating a 60-year-old restaurant. The building was a bit of a crumbling structure that had been added onto several times and smelled rank.

Before we could get started on our vision for the place, before we could even think about a grand re-opening, we had to tear off the grease-infused wood paneling and knock out a few walls. We had to throw away a bunch of trash and dispose of all the rotting pieces. We had to make way for something new by diving neck-deep into the moldy, greasy, grimy old.

While the men were doing the hard work, like tearing into walls and making a bunch of racket, my sister and I followed behind, picking up trash and making endless trips to the dumpster. We cleaned up messes and stayed out of the way because ripping drywall off seemed like a job for only the strongest.

But there was a whole lot of drywall that needed to come down. So we grabbed hammers and pry bars to start a little destruction of our own. She went first. And she struggled.

“This is really hard.”

And it is. Drywall is about a half inch thick and it is attached my millions of nails up and down the walls.

“Give me that,” I said to her. She had been trying to pry underneath the drywall. I took the hammer and just pounded into it.

It didn’t break right away. But I swung again. And on the third time, I broke through.

We tore into that wall. We were loud and we screamed and at one point she said, “For once in my life, I feel strong.”

It felt so good to demolish something with the force of our bodies. After a while, we were kicking through walls. We didn’t need three swings of a hammer to make holes. We swung once and chunks shattered on the ground.

I stood on a chair, swinging my hammer and tearing… And I kept thinking, “I was made for this. I was made for this.”

It felt so good to do something. To not just sit in a chair at a desk. To not work endlessly on a computer. To not stare at the screen of my phone or TV.

It felt good to use the power and strength I didn’t know I had.

And suddenly I knew.

You don’t know how strong you are until you have to break down walls.

Oh yes, I know a few things about walls. I bet you do, too.

There are much bigger walls we need to be breaking down. But we don't. We won't. And why is that?

Because we can't.

No you don't understand. I can't. I'm not strong.

I'm not smart. I've got too many fears. I'm not bold. I've got too much baggage. The wall is too high. I'm too weak. I'm not very good at this kind of thing. That wall has been there for too long. It's actually starting to look appealing. Easier. Maybe I'll just let it stay. Actually, I really like that wall, I could never let it go.

You don't know how strong you are until you have to break down walls.

If you sit all day long, you're going to think that there's no way you can tear down that monster of a thing. Of course you are. Because you don't know what it is to destroy, to demolish, to act.

Maybe you won't get it on the first swing. And maybe not the second.

But eventually, you will break through. And you'll be dancing and chanting…

I was made for this, I was made for this, I was made for this.

If you had walked into that little diner a few weeks ago, you would have seen a dingy, dirty old building, full of rust and grease and grime. But with all the cleaning up and the taking down walls and the uncovering windows, it looks like a completely different place. I sat in the middle of that space and marveled at how much light filled the space.

It was dusk and the sun was setting and there were orange rays of light touching everything, every unfinished surface and jagged edge. It was like magic. It was like someone had sprinkled hope in every dusty corner. You could feel the possibilities.

I think sometimes, we are just a little shack of a place, nearly lifeless, accustomed to the only life we’ve ever known. Not open to change. Or maybe just unable to see past what is to what could be.

And it takes some clearing out. It takes some demolition and kicking down of walls and a few good victory cries. And light begins to fill the entire place.

Light. fills. the. entire. place.

You don't know how strong you are until you have to break down walls.

I know what you may be thinking. God is the one who breaks down the walls, who broke down the walls.

And I would say, amen. But there are some walls that we have built, that we keep building. Walls that we’ve let the world build around us, walls we’ve let our fears and society and others construct and lock us inside.

And I just think it’s time to grab your hammer and say good-bye. To addictions. To fear. To societal norms. To societal pressures. To lives you weren’t made to lead. To places you weren’t meant to live.

Renovate means to restore to life.

He’s renovating you. He’s clearing out some things, rearranging rooms and removing walls. He's making space and getting you ready for something new. And sometimes the road to that grand opening starts with a lot gutting.

And that's the point.

Sometimes you have to get to the edge of yourself, down to the bare bones of all you are. Just show up, ready, able, and willing, axe in hand. Because you'll find that you swing, but it's God that guides your hands. Oftentimes, you don't think you are strong because you've never tested His strength in you.

He’s restoring you to life. So His Light can shine in you, straight through your sharp places and dusty corners. The point isn't making messes and getting lost in them. The point is that God is reshaping your mess into a vessel for His light.

A city on a hill.




What walls do you need to break down? What spaces do you need to clear? Leave me a note, I'd love to cheer you on.