A few weeks ago, there were people working on Trinity Episcopal Church, the building where I serve here in Muscatine. A masonry company was tuckpointing the exterior brick and stones. Tuckpointing is the process where mortar that has become degraded by the elements is removed and new mortar is placed in the joints of the structure. Sometimes a brick or stone is found to be cracked or crumbled and also needs to be replaced. To make things more complicated, the mortar for stone and the mortar for brick are different in composition.
During the course of the work, the masons discovered places that looked great from the outside, but applying any pressure or looking closely revealed something different. In a lot of places, just under the paint or caulk, there were cracks that needed to be addressed. In some places, the damage was extensive; the company had to cut out sections of the bad mortar and even a chunk of old rock and then replace it with a new one. It was a lengthy process, in terms of both time and labor.
Sometimes in our own lives, we paint over or caulk around problems. From the outside it appears that everything is good, but underneath that thin veneer there are fractures, things that need to be repaired. It might take time to fix the brokenness of our lives, especially if mortar is missing or pressure is pushing down on the cracks in our lives. You are more important than baked clay or a piece of rock. With the help of a supportive community, a God of second chances who values and forgives our mistakes, and perhaps a therapist or counselor, we can begin the process of putting the pieces of our lives back together.
Occasionally, there are times when an aspect of our life has completely crumbled. Pieces are cracked and falling apart. More serious work is needed. Replacing the parts that are broken or cutting out a toxic issue in our life is hard labor, and we may need several tries to succeed. Grace, medical treatment, exercise, or new habits will take a while to finalize, just like the exterior of the church community where I serve.
Jesus’ ministry here on earth is about helping each of us to heal from brokenness and pain in our lives. It means we are vulnerable in our relationships and willing to admit our strengths and our weaknesses. This is what a faith that is about caring for our neighbor must do both personally and as a community. Whatever creed you practice, welcoming others authentically builds trust over time; conversely, labeling people is unhelpful and cracks our foundations over time.
Believing in the goodness of others and helping them up when they stumble is difficult work. Sometimes we can’t reconcile broken relationships, even if we are able to achieve some forgiveness over time. The first step is always taking a careful look at the surface of our lives. We can look at the truths we believe and our need to rebuild or refurbish our own house.
I hope you take the opportunity to examine yourselves and begin the tuckpointing that is needed in your own life.