I hide away in the openness of space in this half-completed concrete skeleton—where my only companion is the wind. Ghostlike, she moves in and out between the naked girders—tugging here at loose frays of insulate and there at the clear cellophane of neatly-packaged parts. The un-walled space yawns ominously from one unfinished wall to the other. Absent of life, a skeleton. Studs like steel ribs. Exposed beams like giant bones. Tools abandoned. Scraps piled high in the open places, while everywhere a dust sanctifies the ground. Almost as if to say, “This place is holy.” Almost as if to remind us that man and his human pursuits are like dust—dust to dust, ashes to ashes—and I am reminded of Uzzah who, touching the ark, died with the unspoken message of God: “My dust is cleaner than you think.”
I move about and skirt the edges of this enclosure—in and out between the ribs. My feet echo on the back stairs and it seems to me this is not how God created. This cutting, molding, shaping, bending, welding, pouring, tying, and finishing of cement and steel and wood and stone, pressed all around with dirt and covered in grass. I imagine there were no discarded remnants like these piles of trimmings and broken pieces of pipe—but that when God said, “earth” and “water” and “animals” it was done. And He saw what He had made and it was good. There were no third-world angels allotted to the removal of extra stone and left-over trees—but everything in a place and a place for everything, with a dust that covered all in a sanctifying way. The dust blew. It settled. Then God called it together—a potter and His clay—and made the form of man, while the roofless sky let in the glory of heaven: the glory of God.
It will not always be so—this lifeless mass of open space that lets in wind and sun. These ribs will take on flesh, and these empty spaces will team with life. The lidless gaze of these open windows will shudder in glass to shut out the wind. In time, men and women will fill the silence with questions about God and prayers for the nations. In time, these walkways will be home to pastors, teachers, mentors, friends. And with time, even the hands that labored here will be forgotten.
Students will become teachers, and children will become fathers. Fathers will send sons and daughters, and sons and daughters, and on till even this unfinished work of man decays. It will pass. It will crumble, while over the rubble a great, gentle dust will fall—a sanctifying dust that was, perhaps, once man and, by God, might be again. For buildings will rise and nations prevail, kingdoms come and fall away. Generation will give way to generation—but the proclamation of the Lord will not cease till all things come to an end, till Christ is crowned and He declares, “Let the feast begin!”
The sun sets. A chilling breeze dances through the open space—telling me to go. I obey, and in my retreat take up some welder’s coins, these scraps of creation. I leave lifeless that half-completed beast.
In the hallway of an older building a friend stops to brush my sleeve.
“You are covered in dust,” he says. Indeed I am. I smile
“Let it be,” I say. “Let it be awhile longer.” For from dust I came and to dust I will return. Dust to dust. Ashes to ashes—but the Word of the Lord lasts forever.