Thursday, September 13, 2012

Steeple, Character, and Grace

We're two weeks into school, and I may run away.

Not really.

But I've entertained the thought.

So we sit in the sun and reach for the last shreds of summer. Recess. I watch the boys run and play. Their boyishness charms me. They're scaling the swing set then they're wild on the trampoline. How could it be, that just moments ago, they'd pressed my patience so hard I thought I'd snap?

Character training.

I think over the summer we let too much go. Now we're pushed in tight with one another's sharp edges.

There's an old, red brick church across the street. There's the rumble of machinery, too. The steeple, tall and white and strong, is coming down. The boys see and hear and bolt to the fence. Their hands wrap around wrought iron and they watch.

The church was built in the late 1800's, I'd guess. But there hasn't been a service for decades. It's been an apartment building for as long as we've been here. But the steeple? It's beautiful. It's marred with years and is damaged from a recent storm. But it's white against blue depths and it has stretched into the river valley sky for a long time.

"I hope they fix it," Sam says. "I hope they fix it and put it back up."

"They will," Gabe says. "It's old. It would be sad. Really sad to take it down."

I sit on the swing and hear their voices and share their desire. I hope they restore the steeple. It has character.There are panels and lines and strength and history behind the peeling paint.

But it doesn't take long to see that the steeple won't be restored.

There's a cap. An angled cap. It's on the ground. Waiting to be hoisted up.It will work. It will fill the void. The rain will wash down. It will serve a purpose.

But a great deal of character will be lost.

Later in the day, the boys stand in the same spot. They grip the spindles and peer through.

"Why didn't they fix it?" Gabe says. "Why didn't they put it back up?"

I see concern settle firm on his small face.

 "It would be hard work to restore that steeple," I say. " It was weak and peeling and half falling down. It would've taken a lot of time. A lot of money."

The boys still peer through the bars.

" The new cap, the new top, keeps the rain off, keeps the top closed, and was up in just one day."

"But something is gone," Gabe says. "And it makes me sad."

It makes me sad, too. But I stand there and see my sons. I see myself, too. Really see.

The days have been tough. Our character, theirs and mine, is not as strong as it should be. It's weak. It's flawed. We're weathered and our paint is peeling hard.

Character building takes a lot of work.

It takes time. It takes energy. It takes keen attention to detail. And it's expensive. There's a cost to it all.

Just like the tower.

Just like us.

So I take the boys by the hands and we head across the yard. The rest of the day awaits. Recess is over again. It's time to settle down. Summer's over and we need to be restored.

It's okay.

I won't run away.

We'll work hard together. Character is worth the price.

But only, only in His strength and grace...

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