Rarely does anything come from nothing, there is always a before. When one considers the starting point, one can look at the ingredients as leftovers from the previous chapter or materials for the new foundation.
Last week a renovation process started on a Singapore shophouse’s third floor where I work. For the past nine months my partner and I have worked in an older, kind of funky, space with a view of Circular Road. For what we were doing, it was perfect! Good natural light, functional furniture, high-speed web access, water dispenser, and a great downtown location. Although we have known for five months that our tenure was going to end this month, I do not think either of us thought about the date and the pending change.
Last week it got real. Old files were binned, furniture tagged for disposal, and then the final straw – workmen came in and ripped out the old carpet and began the renovation! As I looked at the semi-gutted space, it was hard to believe that this had been home for almost a year. What remained did not look like much. More distressing is that it was hard to link my view of the present with the past. Was this all that was left from before or the start of something wonderfully new? I was not sure.
Fast-forward a week and the painting is almost done, carpet laid, and the new office is taking shape. We are moving upstairs where the change from last week is even more radical. I am still not sure what perspective to take. If I think of the past, it feels like everything has been lost. If we were in a war, my words would echo a writer talking of another battle where it felt as if everything I knew was gone. “They dumped out their blood like buckets of water. All around Jerusalem, their bodies were left to rot, unburied.” (Psalm 79.3)
As I think of new beginnings, I can see yesterday’s destruction as today’s birth. Elements remain; the foundation is renewed. Hope lives.