I’ve often used phrases like “You’ve got to build from a firm base” or “You need firm foundations”, but when I’ve used such phrases they have been as metaphors. Usually I’ve been referring to the need for a good education for a successful career, or a sound business plan before launching into some new project. But until I became an owner-builder and started to build the sub-floor of an actual house, I can say I’ve never really appreciated the truth of such a metaphor.
We are building a weatherboard house on concrete stumps. The plans required each hole for the stumps to be 1000mm deep and 450mm in diameter. Easy enough with a huge machine with boring attachment. After the machine had done its work, we had to clean the holes our by hand with double handled post shovels that operated like very large tongs. As it was explained to me, even though we are going to fill the holes with a large amount of concrete, a layer of soft earth at the bottom of the hole will eventually compact and the house could sink a little unless we cleaned all this loose dirt out.
OK, I understand that. As I said I’ve used these “foundation” metaphors often enough. Foundations are so important that they are one of three mandatory inspection stages. The holes were duly inspected and approved by the building inspector. But then it rained. Not just those teasing showers that had disappointed us through the Spring, but a real Summer downpour. Forty-two millimetres in a day. Next morning we inspected the holes. Our fears were realised when we saw that water had gushed into the holes and collapsed the soft clay sides. The holes were half filled with clay and water.
They had to be cleaned, but just how clean tested my personal commitment to the idea of a firm foundation. The first time we did it, the motivation was a combination of belief and the need for compliance (independent inspection). This time there would be no inspection. It was purely my belief that this was important. It was slow, it was arduous, it was difficult, I was tempted to belief that “near enough was good enough”; but little by little, one by one, we cleaned those holes out as well as they had ever been.
You see, the importance of a firm foundation is not about compliance, it’s not about what happens in the next six months or even six years; foundations are for the life of the building. The test of firm foundations is not the 95% of days that the weather is temperate, the test is what happens on the extreme days. Jesus used the metaphor of the foundations of a house when talking about the importance of a strong faith and sound beliefs.
“Therefore everyone who hears these words of mine and puts them into practice is like a wise man who built his house on the rock. The rain came down, the streams rose, and the winds blew and beat against that house; yet it did not fall, because it had its foundation on the rock. But everyone who hears these words of mine and does not put them into practice is like a foolish man who built his house on sand. The rain came down, the streams rose, and the winds blew and beat against that house, and it fell with a great crash.” Matthew 7:24-27
As we enter a new year, hopefully for most of us, most days will be pleasant and uneventful. But there will be the occasional storm (sickness, accident, relationship breakdown, disappointment and grief). Take care to build your life on the firm foundations of the teaching of Jesus.
This is the gospel, and it’s good news.
Brian Spencer, Minister