The refurbishment to the ladies’ toilets and kitchen floor has been done gradually over a period of about six to seven weeks. For much of that time, nothing much seemed to be happening, yet all the preparation work took a lot of time and effort. Dave and Joan have spent a lot of time in the building overseeing workmen and helping with various jobs, unseen to most people who turned up on Sundays, peeped behind the curtain and didn’t think much was going on! (It was interesting at the anniversary party last week to notice all those who had been involved in the plumbing go straight to the toilets before even greeting people to find out what the finished work was looking like!)

A number of thoughts have occurred to me as I have watched the work progress and seen the photos of the intermediate stages, many of which were unseen to the majority of church members, myself included.

1) Before there can be real progress and new things, there often has to be a period when things look even worse than they did before. When God talks about making a way in the wilderness and streams in the wasteland (Is 43:19), we get very excited, but sometimes there has to be a stripping away of the old before the new can come. Ephesians 4 talks about what we have to put off before ever we can put on the new things of the Spirit (see Eph 4:22-32).

2) Real progress often takes time. We tend to be very impatient people and want the new stuff NOW, but God’s timescales are often very different to ours. Galatians 4:4 talks about Christ coming at the ‘set time’, the ‘right time’. Paul says ‘at just the right time, when we were still powerless, Christ dies for the ungodly.’ (Rom 5:6) When it comes to timing, we need to leave it to the professionals and not try to rush things along. Plaster needs time to dry before it can be painted. Things take longer than we would like. What is true in the natural is often also true in the spiritual realm. We are works in progress. God hasn’t finished with us yet and what we will be is not yet fully seen. “For now we see only a reflection as in a mirror; then we shall see face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I am fully known.” (1 Cor 13:12)

3) We all have different talents and giftings. I would be absolutely useless at plumbing or plastering, but it’s always a pleasure to watch professionals do the job they have been trained to do. Sometimes, though, when we watch others do jobs for which we are not skilled, what they are doing doesn’t always make a lot of sense to us. That doesn’t really matter in the long run. When I mark books in a lesson, pupils ask me how I can do it so quickly, scanning work and noticing mistakes so efficiently. Years of practice and a keen eye for the written word make that job easy for me. Years of practice and skill at plumbing and plastering make that job easy for plumbers and plasterers. We may not understand someone else’s talents, and how they work may seem chaotic in the intermediate stages, but the end result is worth admiring. We too may not understand what God is doing in the intermediate stages of our lives (‘Why have You let this happen to me? What’s going on now, God?!’), but we can trust Him to work all things together for good and know that He is the ultimate professional!