Vandalia United Methodist Church

From the Pastor's Study

Tearing Down the Walls

It was supposed to be a temporary building, erected sometime around 1958. With creosote-soaked, wooden poles for supports and galvanized metal siding, as I spotted in old 8mm movies, the garage originally had roll-to-the-side, barn-style doors. A few improvements were made over the years: regular garage doors with electric openers were added along with a couple coats of white paint and a tar-based, silver colored roof coating. A “lean-to” addition was built that originally housed a Ford-Ferguson tractor that pulled the blade for clearing the road of snow. Eventually that area was converted into a storage room that became a hangout for a couple dogs. What was built as a temporary structure on my folk’s farm became a permanent dwelling for nearly six decades.

The old garage contained my dad’s workshop where countless repairs were made, and implements were created out of his “spare parts depository,” or as I reckoned it, the “junk pile.” His workbench was always piled high, with fragments of parts littering the space and tools left where they were last used. I used to get yelled at when dad couldn’t find his tools. I wasn’t always to blame. If tensions got high in the house, the garage was a good place in which to escape, whether it was father or sons.

Time and abuse had taken their toll in the last twenty-plus years since my mother passed away. Because I was the one to do the repairs and upkeep, I announced to my brother some time back that I would no longer invest time, energy, or money into our “temporary” building. Looking to the future, the time had arrived for it to come down and make way for a new structure. Along with some help from some friends, I spent about half of this year’s summer vacation demolishing the old structure. For as temporary as it was, it didn’t come down easy.

There were a few obstacles. I had to wait about week between tearing down the garage and the lean-to addition while some baby swallows were able to fledge from their nest. Each morning I would peek in to see if they were still peeking back from the safe confines of their mud and grass home. Then, on a Wednesday morning, I discovered them standing tall in the nest; and I thought, “Just a little push,” would do it. Suppressing my urges, I waited and was awakened by a lot of commotion on Thursday as the mother protected her babies in their maiden flight. Seeing the nest empty that night, I knew that I could proceed. That’s when I discovered a nest of bumblebees in a bag of insulation that had been awaiting a dumpster’s arrival. No human fatalities were noted, and I discovered that Rose is pretty good at knocking down bumblebees.

That garage was my father’s domain. Even though thirty years have passed since his death, memories of him kept creeping into my mind as I dismantled the structure; and unfortunately, they weren’t pleasant memories. Dad and I clashed a lot; we were a lot alike. There were times when he wasn’t a very good father, and there were times when I wasn’t a very good son. Then a spiritual epiphany took place. One day, when most of the garage was gone, a catharsis took place, and an awakening happened. God helped me realize, as most of the garage was now gone, so too should be the painful memories of the past. I was still hanging on to things from long ago. It had been thirty-some years since my dad passed away, and he hasn’t come back. I was still letting things that happened fifty-some years ago influence me. If I had truly forgiven my dad, then it was time to let the hurtful memories go as well. Tearing down the old garage was symbolic of moving on in many ways, especially in living in a reconciled relationship with my dad and with God.

Maybe we have to tear down the structures we build around ourselves for the protection of our feelings and rebuild our lives with forgiveness, compassion, and love. Then we are free to gain understanding, and eventually, reconciliation. At the very center of our faith is the concept of forgiveness and moving forward in relationships that are healed by the sacrificial love of Jesus Christ. Heaven cannot be heaven if we are still at odds with those around us. Heaven is a place where the past is forgiven and forgotten, and we are at peace with those around us. As I look to the building of a new garage, I am excited about a new relationship being built with my dad, one that will last for eternity.

In Christ’s sacrificial love,

WASHINGTON, D.C. In its continued efforts to inform The United Methodist Church on its processes and work, the Commission on a Way Forward is releasing four more videos this week that document the experiences, hopes, dreams, concerns, approach, and learnings of the 32-member Commission.

The videos released today are:

Commission released four videos recently: Click here for the list of videos released last week.


9:30 AM Worship Service
10:40 AM Sunday School

First United Methodist Church of Vandalia :: 618.283.3684