On April 15, 2019, the world stood alongside the people of Paris, France, in shock and disbelief. Notre Dame, the medieval Catholic cathedral which for centuries stood as a landmark in the city had caught fire and was engulfed in flames. Many feared that the structure would be a total loss. Fortunately, thanks to the work of Paris’s fire department and the grace of God, much of the building was able to survive the flames. In fact, for the past year, Notre Dame has been undergoing a massive restoration project designed to return the masterpiece of French Gothic architecture to as close to its original condition as possible.
On the first anniversary of the blaze, I had the chance to read an article talking about the work being done to save Notre Dame. The article shared several interesting pieces information about the restoration and what the team had discovered as they began their work. One story was that of Claudine Loisel, a woman whose specialty was glass restoration. Her job was to test the lead levels of the stained-glass windows in the cathedral. What Loisel found was a most pleasant surprise: no lead contamination. The windows had been protected from the fire.
How did this happen? The following excerpt from the article explains that, “[Loisel] told a BBC4 TV documentary…that some of the windows there had not been cleaned for a century, and that dirt may have helped save them from lead contamination in the fire. ‘The first thick layer [of dust] acted as a small layer of protection,’ she explained. ‘So, we just have to remove all these deposits to clean these windows.’”
I must admit that the first thought I had upon reading this was that I had found the best excuse for not washing windows ever. Maybe we underestimated the protective nature of dust. Perhaps my wife’s requests for a total house cleaning are really putting us at risk, while my procrastination and general disdain for wasting a day on cleaning has kept my family safe. Confident in the knowledge that I had discovered something incredibly important, I shared my findings and hypothesis with my wife. She never actually said that she agreed with me, but she did walk away rolling her eyes (undoubtedly because she too realized how much time we have wasted on house cleaning over the years).
All kidding aside, it is amazing how something as insignificant as dust could have protected these irreplaceable pieces of art. As amazing that that is, it is equally ironic that had the cathedral and its staff made any attempt to clean the glass at any time over the past 100+ years, it is very likely that windows would have been lost.
Amidst the beauty of the cathedral, it is easy to forget that this architectural wonder is first and foremost, the house of God. Ministry takes place here and by the power of the Holy Spirit, faith is fostered, and lives are changed. This is a very good thing. Imagine if the work of developing and strengthening faith was completely up to us? Would we be able to do what was necessary to overcome our sinfulness so that we could save ourselves or others? I can only speak for myself, but allow me to put it this way:
I am much better at house cleaning.
As believers, we give thanks to God for the great love He has for us. This is what led Him to send Jesus into our sinful world. He took the heat for our sins, suffering the consequences of our filthy lives on Golgotha’s cross. But just as the beauty of Notre Dame will one day be preserved, we too have had our relationship with God restored because of Christ’s resurrection. The only differences between the two are that Jesus accomplished his restoration work in three days, not the roughly six years that officials are estimating for Notre Dame. Secondly, our restoration in Christ is eternal; a claim no architect or builder could possibly make. Paul reminds us of this promise in the words of 2 Timothy 4:18 where he writes:
“The Lord will rescue me from every evil deed and bring me safely into his heavenly kingdom. To him be the glory forever and ever. Amen.”
May we always remember this promise as we live our lives to the glory of our God. May we never choose to let the dust of sin cover the beauty that God created within us to be shared with others seeking His love.
That said, please excuse me. My wife just brought me a mop so I can prove my theory on the kitchen floor.