The little village was just beginning to come to life on what was a picture perfect Fourth of July. As I pulled into the parking lot of the little white church I noticed a few early birds had already claimed their spot on the parade route. At least they had nice weather in which to wait in, I thought.
I, myself, took a deep breath in as I got out of the car and allowed my eyes to linger up at the blue skies. I couldn’t remember a more beautiful holiday than this.
The clear skies and cool temps were ideal for the “big” parade—big meaning lots of firetrucks, a few pickup trucks and tractors transformed into floats thanks to the invention of crepe paper and balloons and one band and a group of bagpipers joining the teens which made up the high school band.
Still it was “big” in terms of the hearts who marched out of love for country, love for village, love for tradition, love for one another. My own heart filled with a love I thought I would never feel again.
A love for a home that I never expected to find, then lose, and then, by the grace of God, find again.
Many times, I had pulled into this parking lot when I was the little white church’s pastor and many times I would stop before heading inside to gaze at the weathered clapboards. And many times, I would look beyond the weathered wood and see what other eyes could not.
I would see a vision of hope.
I gazed again. And there it was. Hope shining back at me.
Just then my friend who was going to join me in watching the big parade pulled into the parking lot. I could hear the engine shutting down, the clicking of her seat belt, the slam of the car door and the beep of the car being locked. Soon she was standing by me, gazing too at the weathered wood.
“It needs a lot of work,” she said.
“Yep, it does,” I nodded.
“It’s a big structure,” she said.
“Yep, it is,” I nodded.
As we scanned the expanse of the slate roof, I described to her how the roof was being supported by the most incredible hand hewn beams that a building inspector once showed me many years ago while climbing high into the old rafters on a hot, humid summer day, making the old wood smell even more pronounced.
“Hmmm…” she said and that was all.
She sensed I didn’t want this sacred moment of gazing at weathered wood broken by the not so sacred discussion of painting and slate repair costs.
Instead she said, “You’re home, aren’t you?”
I nodded a short “yep” not wanting the tears of gratitude to start falling.
“I’ve always had this vision….” and then I began sharing the hope I saw in the weathered wood.
Hope that withstood the storms of life and the harsh elements of setbacks and trials. Hope in which was asked to lay dormant many a winter waiting and waiting and waiting for spring’s rebirth to come again.
“I’ve always had this vision…” my parking lot sermonizing was over.
My friend kept staring at the church. I couldn’t tell if she now saw my weathered wood vision.
“It’s beautiful,” she said.
As we walked up street (as my husband, the local boy, would say, always leaving out the “the” that I would put in when indicating I was going “up the street”), I silently prayed for more eyes to see the beauty—and the hope—in weathered wood.
For it’s there. Always. With faith, we can and will see God’s beauty.