Earlier this week, I stopped by my dad’s most current job site. He is rebuilding a home, originally built in 1924, that recently burned to the ground after a fire. As I pulled up to the site, I noticed my dad deep in the cement foundation, tossing up burnt pieces of wood, one by one, into the excavator’s shovel. My dad is no stranger to physical labor; hauling, climbing, and digging still remain part of his work even after almost 40 years as a contractor.
On this particular afternoon, seeing this reminder of my dad’s daily labors deeply moved me. I was struck by the sweat and the dirt on his shirt, the starkness of the burnt scene, the metaphor of rebuilding after a fire, the fact they had to clear away sky-high piles of debris, salvaging reusable materials and discarding the ruined. I asked my dad how they cleared out all the remains of the former house, because it seemed like an impossible task, and he said, “One brick at a time.”
Of all the parts of this sight that impacted me, though, one reflection stands out: that I am the product of his laboring. That everything I am stems from a gift from my parents: my education, my faith, my disposition to my work, and even my new family with J. This moved me to a profound gratitude, and I became aware of a new sense of responsibility – like a call to action – rising within me, to use these gifts and to maximize these opportunities to build beauty in all the places that I possibly can. Experience, contemplation, gratitude, action, transformation: the pastoral cycle on a construction site.
If seeing my dad laboring for my sake moved me so deeply, how much more moving is a glimpse of God’s laboring and toils and groanings on behalf of each of us? How much more moving is the reminder that everything I am is a gift, given freely from a generous, active, and laboring God? How aware am I of how hard God is working for me, of the innumerable ways God is quietly or not-so-quietly laboring in the world, making all things work together for good?