To Build Anew


By: Catherine Sylvester | Twitter @MamaSylvester

A supernova in the Large Magellanic Cloud, which lies about 160,000 light years from Earth.

Twelve years ago, I put away the beer bottles, wine glasses, and hidden vodka.

Nine years ago, the cigarette packets departed my life.

Today, I stare down the barrel of sugar addiction, food addiction, and choose not to pull the trigger. I choose to place the gun in the bedside table, leave the bedroom, walk down the hall, out the front door, and turn the key. I choose to leave the house and not look back. And yet I grieve.

Like an abusive relationship, I have invested too much time, effort and emotion in it. To no avail. Try as I might, I have been unable to convince this sweet stuff to love me back, to treat me well, and to do me no harm. I have cajoled, wished and hoped, yet …. nothing.

As a fanatic obsesses over their object of affection, I have loved and turned my eyes towards food—sugar, in particular—in the desperate hope that it might fulfil a need that resides deep within. So long has the hole dwelt within my heart and soul, that I no longer recall how it came to be. I doubt it came into being the day I was born, like some physical defect of a heart that needs repair.

Like a mole or a bird scratching away at the fabric of my most precious parts, like etched dirt and stones from a tender spot, a gap has emerged. Was it a comfort when I was unable to valiantly withstand the bullying I received at school? Was it escape from discord in my home? Was the hole enlarged as I added layer upon layer to grief and regret, when poor “life-skills” unskilfully navigated my teenage years and beyond? Does it even matter the why? Does the how bear any consequence? I know I have the answer, the key to repair those broken, damaged walls of my heart ….. and He lives in me.

This, THIS is how He speaks to me … writing as I do now, the words, “Repairer of broken walls” start to spin in my heart and mind. I know these words. Which part of His gift to me are they from? I seek them, and when I find those words, they are encased in promise and love. They are nestled in a Word straight from His heart to mine. And tears spill over my eyelids like water flowing out of a bath whose faucet has been left to run, with the drain stopped up. And I am once more absolutely mesmerized by Him. By His generosity. His goodness. His direct relationship with me. His grace. His kindness. Thank you Lord for stooping so low as to think of me. As to love me. As to talk to me. You fill every gap; every need; every moment.  This is what I find ….

““If you get rid of unfair practices,
quit blaming victims,
quit gossiping about other people’s sins,

If you are generous with the hungry
and start giving yourselves to the down-and-out,

Your lives will begin to glow in the darkness,
your shadowed lives will be bathed in sunlight.

I will always show you where to go.
I’ll give you a full life in the emptiest of places—
firm muscles, strong bones.

You’ll be like a well-watered garden,
a gurgling spring that never runs dry.

You’ll use the old rubble of past lives to build anew,
rebuild the foundations from out of your past.

You’ll be known as those who can fix anything,
restore old ruins, rebuild and renovate,
make the community livable again.” Isaiah 58:9-12 (The Message)

How much more is the God of so much more?? He will not only restore my broken walls, but will show me the way to build anew, rebuild, restore and renovate.

How much can change in a moment? From despair to Hope. He is my God.

Cracking the tab on my last can of Coke, I wept. The cold moisture seeping through the aluminum, dampening my hand. I get a glass. The ones we saved coupon stickers for months for. I pour, and the black nectar as it was once known to me, fizzes out and fills the vessel. Oh how He will fill my vessel with more than I can ever hope or imagine.

I utter the truth of my heart, “When I stop this, there will be such a gap. I am taking so much out without there being anything to go back in.”

And here is the answer, His reply.

If I clean out my life, purge more than merely white poison in food, repair will occur. As I dispense of injustice of any kind, destroy gossip, the cellular restoration will take place at a spiritual level, as well as biological.

When I feed those who are genuinely hungry – physically, emotionally, spiritually – and give of myself to those who are “down-and-out”, a renovation will begin for me – physically, emotionally, spiritually.

He is the answer. And His answer is love. Love for us from the Father, and His love poured out through us to those in our care and beyond.

The elusive joy I so desire will glow – perhaps dimly at first, as a firefly warms itself, ready to spread light in the dark. My shadow life, the places I keep hidden, to myself, guarded, will be bathed in Son-light.


As I release the soda can, fingers uncurl to receive His hand, as He leads me forward. For He whispers to my heart, “I will always show you where to go.” Always. Forever.

And as I remove the doorstop to the hole that’s been squatting illegally in my heart for thirty turns around the sun, and allow the empty hollow to gape so vulnerable, He declares as brightly as the dawn breaking open a new day, “I’ll give you a full life in the emptiest of places.” My hand is open, finally free to receive this treasured beyond measure gift from my Father to me.

His empowerment will set me free as He enables me to use the old rubble of my past life to build anew; rebuilding foundations from out of my past. Nothing is ever too broken for Him. Nothing beyond repair.

We live in a world where cheap is popular and true craftsmanship costs much; so we tend to replace, rather than repair. The small doll whose head fell off: new one please. The toaster that has tanned its last piece of sourdough: out it goes. Out with the old and in with the new. But Jesus. Jesus is irreplaceable, and so HE withstands the sands of time. He broke for us, but we could not get a new King. He was cast aside; but we could find no replacement for His love. But oh how we have tried.

I have tried the fake and the imitation. The food, the alcohol, the drug, the person, the career. It will not, and cannot replace the irreplaceable. The unique. The one of a kind, Jesus.

And so I thank. I thank Him for what has gone before me, what hung before I was born. Before this hole in my heart was created, He was created – part flesh, part Spirit. And that is what will save me. Part flesh – my willing desire and self-discipline to go to Him daily for my sustenance, real food, true bread. My decision to follow His love letter to me through the prophet Isaiah. My choice to follow Him. And spirit – Him working, dwelling and empowering me.

The great mathematician working puzzles and equations I cannot understand, but somehow makes sense to Him, and that do indeed work. I do this + He being God = miraculous transformation.

And I thank. Thank Him for grace, His amazing grace. I thank Him for rebuilding and building anew. I thank Him for restoration. As I drain my last glass of brown, fizzy, sugar drink, I thank. I believe Him fully. I trust Him implicitly. I thank Him for His promise. Eucharisteo – thanksgiving always precedes the miracle. 


About Catherine:

CatherineCatherine here …. We can still chat if it’s Cat. But best we avoid Cathy or Cath. New Zealand’s my current abode, though British and Australian soils have also been known as home.  I have many words to use each day, and use them I do. Written, spoken, performed – I’m not biased. Years spent hosting TV shows were fun, but writing is where I currently express myself best. Four miscarriages produced as I sought to reach out to others struggling in this area, and infertility in general. And from here, two wee books – A Common Thread and Hope for Today. I’m a kaleidoscope with many parts (wife, mummy of two precious munckins, friend, God-girl, activist, and more) that added together, held by a phenomenal Father, become a beautiful picture.


Image Credit: Raw Image (Flickr)  + Design (Tina Francis)