Most people have bomb shelters. It wasn’t until my sister married that I encountered a bomb shelter firsthand. My mother could not have countenanced such a thing. That’s another conversation altogether.
The bomb shelter is the room in the house that is a victim to the excess of all the other rooms. It becomes a destination for all the junk of the house so that that one room, preferably lockable (!), can be the repository of all the mess. So long as no one enters that room, the rest of the house appears clean, and the bomb shelter has fulfilled its purpose.
From time to time, we have two on the go: a guest room which, when unoccupied, is a haven for every sort of musical instrument and piece of sound equipment. My office also seems to become a temporary bastion for random furniture or bulky items on a Sunday morning when it’s time to gather for church. On Monday mornings, I restore order, and it’s back to business as usual.
The bomb shelters of a person’s life are more problematic. We can lock away all we want, but containing the mess is complicated. It tends to ooze out in dysfunctional, unexpected ways because we weren’t created for compartmentalisation. Granted, it’s a reasonable coping strategy in the short term, but only for the sake of preserving the illusion of function.
There’s no assumption of fault-free, incident-free lives going in the early church. Paul spots and addresses all kinds of crazy antics in the thoughts and actions of individuals and their relationships with others. His encouragement is never to hide nor contain but to be hidden in Christ – carried by Him.
His heart is for mendedness in us. Shalom. Wholeness, not disintegration; healing, not hurt preservation; function over dysfunction. In all that, the church is where we figure out and give life to that wholeness. Not the only place, but the starting place. It’s where we live with transparency as ones forgiven and grace, yet still works in progress. Jars of clay encouraging other jars of clay.
Excoriating a bomb shelter is not a whole lot of fun (not nearly as fun as using the word, ‘excoriating’), but living a life free from the compartmentalisation of emotional excesses, is a sweet thing. It moves us towards places of wholeness in Jesus as we rid ourselves of bitterness, regret, pain and guilt. Of course, we don’t do this by dumping our baggage on the front lawn, or in the Sulo bin (handy strategy, though!), but alongside the Holy Spirit and trusted people who journey with us as we ‘rid yourselves of all malice and all deceit, hypocrisy, envy, and slander of every kind, and grow up in our salvation’. (1 Peter 2:1-2)
If this paints an easy, comfortable picture, I’ve described it badly. It’s often hard. But ‘hard’ is a bad measure of ‘good’. It’s worthwhile because it brings us to places of strenuous wholeness in Jesus.