Building

Audio version read by Cheryl building.mp3

The whine of the saw, the smell of sawdust, the pounding of nails and the eager anticipation of a materializing project – memories I cherish from my marriage. My husband loved to build, fix and improve. I loved those times when he was happily working, toolbelt on his hip, pencil tucked behind his ear and often nails protruding from his mouth like fangs. His efforts enhanced our home and our lives. The joy of planning, the empowering (and numerous) trips to the hardware store choosing unwarped lumber and just the right nails, the challenge of measuring correctly and executing cuts accurately – all elements of the building process. The process of construction required some blueprints to be reworked. One of my favorites was the play structure he built for our kids. He spent months planning, making the best possible design in the small space with our limited budget. I was more of a spectator and gopher during the process. I became an expert at identifying and transporting various tools to the job site, and did much of the cleanup. What a thrill to watch our kids enjoy the finished product!

Perhaps less obviously we are all builders, framing our very lives for eternity. Each of us is building, either by intention or accident. We don’t often think of ourselves as architects. Mostly we are just keeping our heads down and trying to figure out the best way to proceed through this life-maze, with its unexpected twists and turns and curious dead ends. Intention is too often incidental. Society has building programs for us. Our relatives try to shape the plans, as do teachers, friends, religion (or lack thereof), and, of course, our own prejudice and preferences. At some point we wonder about the significance of the dent we make on time, questioning our handiwork. We need to evaluate our life goals if we are to avoid being merely swept along by current world wisdom, accepted today but replaced tomorrow with “higher enlightenment”. What overarching structure should we aim for as we proceed board for board constructing a destiny?

Jesus, an undeniably acclaimed teacher and the self proclaimed “Truth”, has an opinion. He advises us to set our whole structure on ‘the rock’. Metaphoric, but He clarifies: “Why are you so polite with me, always saying ‘Yes, sir,’ and ‘That’s right, sir,’ but never doing a thing I tell you? These words I speak to you are not mere additions to your life, homeowner improvements to your standard of living. They are foundation words, words to build a life on. If you work the words into your life, you are like a smart carpenter who dug deep and laid the foundation of his house on bedrock. When the river burst its banks and crashed against the house, nothing could shake it; it was built to last. But if you just use my words in Bible studies and don’t work them into your life, you are like a dumb carpenter who built a house but skipped the foundation. When the swollen river came crashing in, it collapsed like a house of cards. It was a total loss.” Luke 6:46-49 Message

Challenging assessment! How we build doesn’t save us, but definitely shapes us. Hopefully our foundation is the work of Another. We choose our building materials: gold, silver, precious stones, wood, hay, straw. This is no time for budget lumber! The fire or flood is undoubtedly coming and our efforts will be tested. Preemptively inviting the inspection of the master carpenter is a wise if uncomfortable choice.

“Imagine yourself as a living house. God comes in to rebuild that house. At first, perhaps, you can understand what He is doing. He is getting the drains right and stopping the leaks in the roof and so on; you knew that those jobs needed doing and so you are not surprised. But presently He starts knocking the house about in a way that hurts abominably and does not seem to make any sense. What on earth is He up to? The explanation is that He is building quite a different house from the one you thought of – throwing out a new wing here, putting on an extra floor there, running up towers, making courtyards. You thought you were being made into a decent little cottage: but He is building a palace. He intends to come and live in it Himself.” ― C.S. Lewis, Mere Christianity

Mr. Lewis is so insightful! Remodeling is indeed a messy process. It hurts to have the Lord tear down those precious rooms that we so enjoyed, those ideals we cherished, the little doctrine shrines we built for Him (or so we thought). We question our faith, our service. It can shake our sense of spiritual confidence to have beliefs rearranged. Change makes us uncomfortable, which can then escalate to painful doubt and searing remorse. God risks it to enlarge us. He wants to free us from merely doing what seems good to us, inviting us to choose what He calls good. Even Jesus sought His Father’s will in prayer every day!

During the messy process one is likely to become discouraged and despondent – routine disrupted and false security revealed. Activity compensates for shallow faith, spiritual routine replaces abandoned devotion. During the demolition phase we may discover that some rooms in our house are made of press board rather than oak, facades of faith instead of pillars of real trust, prattling rather than fervent prayer. Ideals cherished in our minds vaporize under pressure. Illusions can be comforting even if they are false. We are tempted to question the goodness of God, when in reality it is His very goodness that withdraws props that we have been relying on rather than Himself.

No better time than now, with normalcy disturbed, to re-examine His blueprints. He calls for action – not just ideals. Humility – not achievement. Forgiveness – not rights. Prayer – not will. All contrary to our natural inclinations, all needing the empowering grace of yielding cooperation, all delightfully ennobling to the soul. If God is busy rearranging your priorities and remodeling your house, now is not the time to look back with regret at the rubble. Now is the time to embrace change. It is time to be fervent in prayer. Pay attention to your actions. Persevere under stress, praise under pressure. Little words – big choices. The alternative is to choose a house made of sticks, and we all know how that worked out when the big bad wolf came along.

Shalom!

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