The Fifteenth reflection in a series, “Hope to See Us Through,” by the Rev. Terry Elsberry.
“‘For I know the plans I have for you,’ declares the Lord, ‘plans for welfare and not for calamity to give you a future and a hope.’”—Jeremiah 29:11
Originally, we were told to expect a major drop in cases by the beginning of summer. And thankfully that’s true for us here in the Tri-state area. But the spiking of virus numbers in other parts of the country is staggering and tragic.
Even for us in a part of the country where Covid-19 is not as virulent as before, our lives are still not quite back to normal. When will they be? Will they ever be what we once knew as normal? When we anticipate the future, how will the so-called “new normal” look?
Meanwhile the issue of race still dominates as situations long simmering break out in new and sometimes tragic ways. How do we respond? How do we make sense of this? How do we make things better, more fair, more equal? How can it be done without more violence, more innocent lives lost?
Looks like a lot of questions, doesn’t it? Meanwhile, answers are being sought, formulated and with time hopefully will be enacted. Answers to the pandemic such as a vaccine or some kind of antidote that will stop this dread disease in its fearsome tracks. Answers to hopefully will ameliorate the persistent American canker of racism.
Meanwhile, what about us? What about you and me in our daily lives? How do we not only survive, but go forward both forcefully and positively as men and women of God?
What’s our best Christian response to the underlying question of How Do We Live Our Lives in Such Unsettled Times? What’s the foundation we build our lives on?
It’s not a question that applies only to extreme situations, is it?
What are the foundation stones that undergird every part of our lives? Our relationships. Our work. How we raise our children. Plan our retirement? How we make the choices that determine our present and our future?
What’s your foundation built on? What’s mine?
If we’re true to the call on our lives as Christians, the answer to that question is clearly spelled out by the Lord in one of His many parables.
The definition of a parable is a story, based on a commonplace situation, that has an uncommon ending or unexpected twist. A parable is meant to leave us with a question or questions.
As in Jesus’ parable of the home builder.
Have you ever known someone who seemed to have it all together? Then, an unexpected disaster hit. And the person, admittedly hard hit, can’t ever quite recover. Or if recovery comes after a while, he or she shows signs of deterioration like taking it out on the people close to them, or resorting to addictive behavior, or blaming people who aren’t to blame. I’ve known people like that. Maybe you have, too.
Then there are those who are devastated by the blows of life and not only survive. They actually show signs of positive growth as a result.
The latter is the kind of personality Jesus is eager to help you and me develop. The kind of person that shows forth the fruit of kindness and patience and endurance. He wants us not only to profit from our mistakes, from the blows life inevitably deals us. He wants us actually to learn from them and, with time, develop the invaluable attribute of wisdom.
How do we do this? We start by building our house on a solid foundation. On rock.
When I first came to Greenwich many years ago, I was impressed by the great stone outcroppings. In my travels up the Eastern seaboard, I’m still nearly some 30 years later by the sheer power of these rocks.
All the rocks are what made farming such an arduous task for the colonial farmers. Before they could plant anything, they had to dig up the rocks. What a pain! What an incredibly arduous, back-breaking task. But what beautiful stone walls those rocks gave us. What solid foundations they became for houses and barns and stores and public buildings and churches.
Rock. There’s no give to rock like ours. There’s no shaking it. No give to it. When, as Jesus says, the floods rise, the winds blow, the waters burst against a house with a solid foundation, the house will not be shaken. It can’t be shaken. Because the builder dug deep. Because he dug deep and laid several layers of solid rock. Because his house is built on an immovable, impregnable, everlasting foundation of stone.
And what is this stone Jesus is referring to? What makes such a foundation immune not only to destruction but to damage of any kind?
The twist this parable offers us is that in this case, Jesus isn’t only giving us a mini-lecture on home building. He’s using solid building blocks as a metaphor for what He offered his listeners then. What He offers you and me today.
Which is His unshifting, unshakable, relentlessly faithful love and faithfulness. The love and faithfulness He promises to all of us who will follow Him and put our trust in Him.
BUT YOU AND I HAVE TO SET OUR MINDS. WE NEED TO MAKE THE DECISION THAT NO MATTER WHAT COMES OUR WAY, WE WILL NOT GIVE UP. WE WILL NEVER GIVE UP. WE WILL COME THROUGH THIS HARD PLACE IN VICTORY. BECAUSE WE WILL NOT GIVE UP ON GOD. BECAUSE HE WILL NOT GIVE UP ON US. HE WILL BE WITH US ALWAYS. FOREVER.
We all know people who haven’t set their minds like this. We see them shifted here and there by the winds of chance. We see them suffer needlessly because they don’t have their faith in the right things. Because they’ve built the houses of their lives without an adequate foundation.
“I shall not, I shall not be moved,” goes an old song we used to sing when I was a kid. “In the love of Jesus, I shall not be moved.”
The song goes on. But you see the point. In those few words. The house of our personalities, the house of our lives, will not be moved, can not be moved, when we make the decision to build our lives, our relationships, the choices we make on God’s love and faithfulness.
In the inimitable words of one of the greatest rock-solid men of faith who ever lived, the apostle Paul: “Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation, or distress, or famine, or nakedness, or peril or sword?
“No. I am persuaded that in all these things we are more than conquerors through Him who loved us. For I am convinced that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor things present, nor things to come, nor powers, nor height, nor depth, nor any other thing, shall ever separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.” (Romans 8:35-39)
There you have it. The choice. It’s the most important choice you’ll ever make.
Decide for Him. Decide to build the house of your life and future and love on the all-powerful Lord of life.
If you do, it doesn’t mean your life will problem-free.
But it will be glorious.