In the 2003 film, Under the Tuscan Sun, a recently-divorced woman named Frances Mayes, played by Diane Lane, buys a villa in Tuscany on a whim. She soon begins renovations on the building, and the house fills with people, dust, and noise. Early in those changes, she goes into a room with a large desk and begins placing items on it, including pens, paper, a computer, and flowers. She narrates that in the middle of such chaos, it’s important “to find one room or space and make it your own.”*
This week, my Tuscan countryside has been the Mississippi delta, and her villa is my parsonage. Seventy-two hours ago, all of my material belongings were on a truck in Natchez. Forty-eight hours ago, they arrived in Cleveland. Twenty-four hours ago, lost in cardboard, I was convinced that more boxes arrived than I had packed! I found a box labeled “desk items” and took it to the room that will be my office. Remembering Frances Mayes’ advice, I focused on making a small space my own. One of the furnishings provided by the church is an old, beautiful roll-top desk on which I now type. I began unpacking the items. Of course, there were the necessary items in there: envelopes, paper, scissors, stamps, etc. Also in the box were the items I’ve dubbed “Nostalgic Natchez.” There’s a calendar featuring ducks that a friend gave me because of my last name of Duckworth. There’s a small ceramic pot that I made during my tenure in Natchez. I filled the pot with a guilty pleasure of Reese’s pieces. I propped up a stack of cards that people had given me upon departure. I took these pieces of my past and arranged them in a present space. My “old life” met with the church’s “old life” to create something new.
In 2 Corinthians 5, Paul famously wrote that “if anyone is in Christ, that person is part of a new creation.” That new creation emerges from the “old lives” that we bring together. God uses what we’ve been to help us become who God wants us to be. We should not throw out all pieces of our past, literally or figuratively, in order to be made new. Instead, let us invite God to merge us into something new as the body of Christ. As for now, I will seek another space in the house to make “new,” and may each of us find those spaces throughout this day that remind us of God’s creating power.
Read more from Darian Duckworth at her blog.