As a school teacher, I always look forward to summer vacation but probably never as much as this summer. This school year felt like three years in one to so many of us. With masks and social distancing at the beginning of the year, then masks but no social distancing, then neither for the end of the year, it has been exhausting. Usually I jump into summer break thinking, “What can I do this summer?” But this year, I am trying to take Jesus’ words, “Come to Me all who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest” to heart. So I am currently sitting in a lovely, little cafe sipping a chai and eating a sandwich, typing on my iPad. One of the reasons I am sitting here is because my house is under construction. We are building a bathroom in our basement and converting our three-seasons room into a deck. Construction is good for my house. When we took down the walls of the three-seasons room, we found that the wood underneath had rotted. Building the bathroom in the basement got us moving on clearing out the old broken tiles and clearing out some clutter we did not need.
The needed construction in my house has led me to think about how helpful it can be to have construction in our lives. Just like my house, some things need to be ripped away while other parts need a brand new start. Science-fiction writer Dannye Williamsen wrote, “Your life is always under construction. It is your job to learn how to untangle the threads and weave a tapestry that matches your desires.”
I know that when I pull down certain walls in my life, the wood underneath is certainly rotted. There are things that I hold on to, hidden in the darkest corners of my heart and mind, that need to be tossed out and built fresh. There are hurts from my past that I continue to let affect me and, if you rip back the walls of my smile, you will see some rotten wood. And what does rotten wood do? It continues to rot until it can no longer support anything, and everything collapses. If that rotted wood is replaced by healthy wood, while it might take some time, in the end the structure is stronger and able to withstand more storms. St. Paul reminds us, “Do not conform yourselves to this age but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and pleasing and perfect” (Rm 12:2). God is calling us to transform and reconstruct those things in our life that are rotted by the things of the world and renew them according to His will.
The new bathroom in my basement is being built from scratch. It is currently an empty corner ready for something to make it useful. I know that not only are there areas in my life that need to be torn down and rebuilt, but there are also areas that just need to be built up. I am a self-proclaimed book nerd. I love to read books that let me escape into them. I do not read for educational purposes. As a part of planning for our freshman retreat in November, we ask the team to do something to ready their hearts and minds. Either add some sort of prayer or practice or sacrifice something that will remind them to pray for the retreat. This year I decided to read three faith-based books. As a theology teacher, by the end of the year, I just need to shut down. I know, however, that I could use this time to build up my prayer life. As we start this Eucharistic Revival, I decided to start with “With Burning Hearts,” by Henri Nouwen, in hope that I continue to fall more in love with the real presence of Christ in the Eucharist.
The famous author Anonymous once wrote, “My life is constantly under construction. There’s always something to improve.” We are all a work in progress, so we need to learn to be patient with ourselves and all those around us. We know from driving down the highway that construction can be time-consuming and frustrating but when it is completed, it is a smoother ride to our destination. If we are mindful that we are all a work in progress then we can hopefully be more patient with ourselves and others.
Anchor columnist Amanda Tarantelli has been a campus minister at Bishop Stang High School in North Dartmouth since 2005. She is married, a die-hard sports fan, and resides in Cranston, R.I. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.