There was this elegant old structure, in the countryside, a tall pointy steeple beckoning the passers-by to gaze upward at the blue skies. It had been around at least a century, the doors still open to all.
One day a tradesman moved into this rural community and admired this building. He loved the sturdy timbers holding beneath the slightly weathered clapboard siding, and then that ever-reliable stone foundation keeping it all square.
But one concern, as he did his inspection, was the missing roof shingles. The wind and storms having taken their toll. It would be a shame, he thought, to have the contents all get ruined and eventually see the church itself destroyed by this neglect.
So he thought to get involved. He showed up one Sunday morning and met the pastor and congregation. Good people.
The building inside was as beautiful as it was outwardly. Fine craftsmanship at a level rare to non-existent anymore. The stained glass in the sanctuary gave an ethereal feel and the beauty of the whole experience was breathtaking at times. And yet, he could see the signs of a leaking roof, the water spots in the ceiling, and his concerns grew.
It was a few months later, after becoming a regular and joining the church, that there was a members’ meeting. Taking the chance to raise the issue of the roof, he stood up, described the problem, and offered to help coordinate the repairs.
There was a hush that came over the room. An elder thanked him kindly for the suggestion and yet seemed slightly bothered.
A week or two later the minister, a stately yet friendly man, took the tradesman aside, putting an arm on his shoulder, “Hey, brother, we’re glad you come here. We love that you participate in all we do.” He paused, trying to search for the right words. “There has been some concern, umm or rather, I appreciate your perspective, as a man who works with his hands and I don’t want to discourage that.” Stopping again. “However, the church is a spiritual place and, no offense, I know you meant well, but you need to have more faith. If you see a problem, rather than be consumed by doubt or despair, looking for man-made solutions, pray about it, okay?”
Now a bit stunned, but still respectful, the tradesman did not argue. He instead agreed to pray and did.
More time passed, things continued as usual, the roof continuing its deterioration, until one day the congregation was having a service and a chunk of the ceiling fell and squarely on the tradesman’s head. Adding insult to the injury, as he began to brush the debris from his suit jacket, a stream of water from the rain shower outside completely drenched him.
He was now upset. Enough is enough! We really need to do something about the roof, he decided, and approach the pastor again, after some small talk he announced, “You saw what happened today, right?” And then continued, “I know a Christian must remain committed to prayer and that God is always in control, but we have the means to fix that roof and should!”
Disappointment swept over the pastor’s face as he considered this statement. But, rather than lash out, he tried to be diplomatic, “I can hear your frustration. And nobody likes to be humiliated.” Smiling warmly to lighten the mood before getting serious, “Have you ever considered that the roof isn’t the real issue here? I noticed you only wear a suit coat, it is okay and yet a bit underdressed for services. Have you considered wearing a tie?”
The tradesman wore a tie from then on. And, after a few more awkward encounters, where he was eventually forbidden from trying to throw a tarp over the growing holes and told to tithe more instead, he would do his best to keep his exasperation from showing. It was none of his business, he was told, that we come to church to worship God together and prayer would provide all of our needs.
Eventually, the congregation of country folk would be left standing on top of the rubble. They would spend the winters shivering in the cold and wind-driven snow, summers in the blazing heat, wondering why God had taken their wonderful building, yet serenely sure this was just a test of their faith and devotion to Providence.