By Diana Gee
If there was something that my dad truly loved aside from his family and fishing, it would be his late 70’s Dodge Ram van. Not of the generation that takes on debt, my father saved a pretty penny to purchase a van that was more steel-box than ram. We spent a lot of time in that van, especially going to lakes where fish lie waiting. But none spent more time on that van than my father. He spent countless hours studying the manual, tinkering with the mechanics and maintaining its life.
Even when this van was slowly de-evolving into rust particles, my father would patch it up and paint it over. It didn’t matter how it looked, it mattered that it did what it was supposed to do. When the time finally came to bring the van to a parts shop, all they offered was a few hundred dollars. What poor consolation for such a devoted owner!
My father was a tinker of stuff. He never finished high school, but he learned by taking things apart. Anything mechanical or electrical and broken, he would disassemble then reassemble. He found ways of repurposing things, like turning an old washer drum into an outdoor fire pit (and this was years before Pinterest). He kept cars running, appliances working, and a garage full of parts and tools.
There is a truism that underlies my father’s activities:
You truly don’t own something unless you can break it…
In other words, you become the master of something when you understand all the components that make that thing. They say that knowledge comes by taking things apart, but wisdom comes by putting it together. Wisdom can also come in re-imagining and re-creating for a new purpose.
In Exodus Moses was called by YHWH to deliver Israel from the bondage of Egypt. YHWH promised to free the Israelites and to take them as His people. From slaves to servants – it seemed like a straightforward task. But the people at first couldn’t believe that YHWH was for them. Their spirits were broken by generations of slavery and harsh treatment. And so the Lord began breaking down the sinful structure that kept them. Ten plagues were sent to deal with Pharaoh, but these ten plagues unmade the created world of Egypt. Instead of filling the world, creatures of water, earth, and sky flooded space and homes. Instead of having dominion and power, the Egyptians were submersed and drowned. And the people whom YHWH had chosen watched in awe. The Lord of all creation took apart all they had ever known so that they might know Him.
It wasn’t that long ago that women like me couldn’t do what I do: preach, teach, lead, or even vote. It wasn’t that long ago that I couldn’t even conceive the idea of being a pastor. Structures, both externally in the Church and internally in my mind, had to break in order for me to re-imagine what life could be. Unbeknownst to me, and probably to many of us when we encounter the living God of Abraham, Isaac, and Moses, our Father’s aim was to make us His own. He is repurposing us for His Kingdom.
As painful as that process may be, there is beauty. Breath-taking, awe-inspiring, jaw-dropping beauty when life rises out of broken chains and dreams. And given how long it takes and all the breaking and re-making that has gone on, I have come to believe that His interest is more than just ownership or tinkering or moving from point A to point B. It is nothing less than pure love.
Diana Gee is the Associate Pastor of Faith Community Christian Church in Vancouver, Canada. Diana is a second-generation, Chinese Canadian, born and raised in Edmonton, Alberta, Canada. She is trained as a structural engineer (B.Sc. in Civil Engineering, University of Alberta) and has worked in consulting for six years. She completed her master’s degree at Regent College (M.Div.) in 2011.