June 23 – What’s the Story?

They began work on the new house just around the corner from our house months ago. It’s up on Maple Avenue near the Friends Meeting House. The basement was dug, a foundation laid, framing completed, the roof shingled; the windows went in and the backerboards and vapor barrier were added. Then everything stopped. The garage and front door openings were boarded up and weeds grew high on the construction site.

It’s been at least two months since any work appears to have been done on the house. Of course, when I went to take photo of the place this morning there were a couple of vans in the driveway and a ladder reaching to the eaves. By the time I snapped the final photo, what looked like a building inspector drove up in his government car, the red Crown Victoria in the photo.

What’s the story?

Maybe it’s a spec home and the contractor has run out of money.

Perhaps the new owners can’t decide on the color of the siding; she prefers a light gray, and he’d like tan with a green trim. They say you need a strong marriage if you’re going to have a house built.

It could be that there’s a nation-wide siding shortage. I wonder if the Chinese have cornered the market.

What if there has been some sad turn of events in the owners’ family and the new house just isn’t a priority? I hope everyone is okay.

And then the building inspector drove up. What if there is a problem with the foundation or the way the windows were installed? It might be the roof, what with that ladder reaching the eaves.

What’s the story?

Of course, I probably never will know the story of the slow to be completed new house just around the corner on Maple Avenue. That’s okay, it’s none of my business. I’m just curious.

If you think about it, most of us are like the new house being built on Maple Avenue. Things may not be as far along as we wish they would be. Drivers by look at us and wonder what’s the story. We look a little pre-occupied or have gained some weight, or lost too much weight. We don’t seem to be spending as much time with those good friends as we once did, or we’re gone every weekend.

When we’re the drivers by, it’s easy enough to come up with a story to explain what we’ve seen as we drive along Maple Avenue. It must be their marriage or their health. Probably finances or a nasty addiction. “You know, he’s always been just on the edge…” “I told her back when…”

Like the story of slow to be completed house on Maple Avenue, the stories of the lives of most of the people who pass by my life are none of my business. I must resist the temptation to invent a story to explain what my curiosity wants to know.

In the church, the family of faith, our lives are each other’s business – not for prying or for gossip’s sake; not to solve problems which are not ours to solve; not to conclude it must be about me. In the church we are to listen well. It is surprising how much of a true story you hear when you listen well. In the church we are to pray much. Those stories we hear are not for spreading, and usually we are not being invited to become a character in them. We pray that through the power of the Holy Spirit God might become a major player in the story. Maybe we will be invited in, but maybe not. In the church we are to speak carefully – not telling our story, which we love to tell – but telling the story of grace and joy, forgiveness and peace found in the Gospel.

I don’t know why it’s taking them so long to finish the house on Maple Avenue. I don’t why it is taking me so long to “know him more clearly, follow him more nearly, love him more dearly.” (Yes, baby boomers, the old Godspell song borrowed from the Thirteenth Century Prayer of Saint Richard of Chichester.)

What’s the story, yours and mine? If we listen well, pray much, and speak carefully, God may use us in each other’s stories, completing what needs to be completed, and nothing more.

See you Sunday