Breaking down is easy.
It requires only a hammer
and an eye for where to hit
and where to pry.
Building up, now—that takes hours
and many false starts, and
mistakes and extra screws,
and its byproduct is frustration
but its product is
a chair. Just that.
Made to hold a human being,
more precious than all the gold in the world.
Made by human hands,
some in Guangdong province
and some in Silverton, Oregon,
men on a kitchen floor
laughing for the sheer joy
of making something for someone else,
even though it came in a box
and it wobbles like a communist régime
and the screws don’t fit quite right.

How much of ministry
is knowing when to break
and when to build?
How much is simply saying ‘yes’?
How much is nothing more
than being there
when you are broken down
by a stray blow?—
and not to build you back again,
which is beyond the reach
of my only tools,
a screwdriver and patience—
but maybe just to be with you
and make you smile
and read to you
and pray.

How much of ministry is in the spending
of time, or of energy,
strength, money, freedom, gasoline,
ink on paper, words on a screen,
or any other old thing:
poured out like fragrant oil
from an alabaster jar
on the feet of one you love
and not to count the cost?—or if you do,
as I do,
tally up the hours
but lay them down too
at the feet of the beloved
and let them value naught for you.


This is day 30 of LABIA MUNDA, a series of forty poems during the forty days of Lent. 

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