From razing to raising–the good work of demolition

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In Sesame Street parlance, the letter of the day is D, and the word on the street is demolition. But first, a story.

Glancing to my left, I see him. A young Hispanic gentleman with bleached-blond hair’s approaching.

We start with the weather. From there, he moves to his broken-down car and his frustrations with an Uber driver. And then it comes. “I wish I could find a partner. There’s just no one here!”

“You’re alone,” I say. “You’re feeling lonely?”

He keeps talking. Nearby, I see my sons and their blue-eyed dad. They’re all engaged in conversation, and the young man’s still talking.

He tells me about his childhood. About a “psychopathic brother” who repeatedly burned his tiny hand on a red-hot stove when their parents weren’t looking. He needs to get it out.

I hear of his “really, really Catholic” family. My listening ear can hear his discomfort. I simply keep smiling and listening.

He tells me how bullies found him in high school. “I did so good!” he says. “I made A’s and B’s, but still. I don’t know what I did, but I was a target.”

At last, he winds down. Looking him full in the face, I say, “Can I tell you something? I am not your mother, but I am A mother. I have four boys of my own, so I want to tell you this as a mother.”

For once, he’s not talking. He is listening. I’m looking into his eyes.

“As a mother, I want you to know that I see you. I see your value.”

His eyes are squeezing shut. He’s making a humming sound, a keening that comes from way down. Deep breaths, and he presses both hands against his face. I have to tread carefully here.

“I see the boy you were. I see the man you are. I see the man that you will be.” The eyes that are locking now on mine are twin lasers. He’s looking straight into my soul. I hold his gaze.

“I’ve learned that we can’t give what we don’t have, so if we don’t have all of the love that we need first for ourselves, we will not have it to give.”

The smile that’s inside shows on my face; I can hear it in my voice. And the lonely man? He’s listening.

“My heart is full of love, and so I want to give you a piece of the love that I have for my own four sons. I really want you to receive it.”

He has no words, just tears. He’s frozen in place by Love.

“May I kiss your head?” Everything around me has faded away. The summer sun beats down; time is suspended as I wait one beat for his answer.

And there it comes. “Yes.”

He leans towards me the slightest bit. I take his bleached-blond head in both of my hands, and I press a kiss on his face.


This essay today is for the one who finds himself/herself in a season of crushing. The story above is a living, colorful illustration of the grand, good work of demolition. In the great kindness and mercy of God, he allowed devastation to come my way, and it has done its job. For many years, I would never have had the courage or the capacity to interact with this lonely, young man in such a way, but I do now. It was a razing and a raising that enlarged my heart.

If you are in a season of seeming destruction, friend, it can feel like the whole world’s been razed. I know. Nothing’s left standing, it’s all fallen down, and the song you once had has gone still. You’ve been, in a word, ‘demolished.’

Here’s what I know about demolition.

Not everything can be remodeled. Some things must be re-built from the ground right on up, and for that, the old things must go.

When structures that were comfortable and familiar start to crumble, rejoice. There are holes in the roof and holes in the floor, and yet you’re resisting the change because–comfortable. Familiar. Known.

It’s a hard and painful thing to move from Comfy and Familiar to a brand-new address, but here you are. The landlord has come in and torn it down around your ears, and the old ways, holes and all, are no longer working.

“Tenant, evacuate.”

If this is you, take heart. When you are under the divine Contractor’s care, you are in the best of hands. He’s bulldozing the junk out of the way so he can set about the process of rebuilding. This is the razing.

What comes next is the exciting part. The new that emerges is a wonder, and it starts, for it must, at the bottom. A new foundation is laid, solid walls taking shape. A floor is placed, free of holes and weak places, and a roof covers all. No storms threaten.

This, dear one, is the raising. The raising is well worth the razing. It can be a big project. It can take a long time. Don’t give up.

You’ll be okay. Your song will return. I do know it.

You can hear America’s small, caffeinated mom every Saturday morning on 77 WABC. Together, she and Bo Snerdley discuss the essay of the week. Join them in the 9:30 hour, won’t you?

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