“‘Put out into the deep and let down your nets for a catch.’ And Simon answered, ‘Master, we toiled all night and took nothing! But at your word I will let down the nets.’ And when they had done this, they enclosed a large number of fish”—Luke 5:4-6
About twenty minutes from where I live there is a road with mansion after mansion spread out amidst a towering canopy of mature, hardwood trees. This road is respectably referred to as “Pill Hill,” since only a doctor would have the means to buy such a splendid home. I happened to be driving down this road yesterday, admiring the general landscape of the houses which is, admittedly, beautiful, when to my horror I came upon a shocking contrast. To the left of me, one such home had been reduced to hardly more than a crumbling structure of ash and debris. Charcoaled spikes that once supported a roof now pierced the gray sky—barren. This symbol of power and wealth now sat deserted, a stark image foreshadowing the blaze that will wipe our beloved things off the face of the earth at the end of days. It all burns. Fire can be so cleansing. It seems such a fruitless plight to accumulate treasure here on earth, where moth and rust destroy, and where thieves break in and steal. But where your treasure is, there your heart will be also. Where is my heart? Do I invest ashen money I acquire here on earth into equally worthless wants, or into something that cannot burn?
“ Unless the Lord builds the house, those who build it labor in vain” —Psalm 127:1a
While reading this blog, close your eyes and picture this image in your mind (might be a little tricky.) A solitary figure of a man kneels in the sand on a lone beach. His bleached hair and farmer’s tan give rise to the suspicion that he spends an excessive amount of time where he crouches at this very moment. Before him rises out of the sand a monumental sand castle, complete with a moat, bridge, windows, courtyards, flags, even four towers on each corner as look out posts. No doubt he has spent hours crafting such a fine masterpiece. But suddenly, with a rush of foam and seaweed the ocean lays flat his once towering masterpiece. He sits for a moment, seemingly dumbfounded, then begins again the intricate task of rebuilding his precious castle.
Now, who hasn’t built a sand castle; watched as the tide rose steadily higher, eventually sweeping away the mighty fortress; then stoop down again to build another one? We expect the ocean to flatten it out, giving the opportunity to create a new one—what is unusual about the scenario above is that the man doesn’t see it coming.
I have acquired a very time-consuming, rather unfulfilling hobby of making my own intricate, detailed, “perfect” little plans for my life. Sometimes they are great, looming towers which take months to build. At other times they are small shacks I raise up in a matter of hours. But the most incredulous part is that, more times than not, they fall apart. Unbelievable, I know. Perhaps if I was looking at it from the right perspective, I would not be so surprised when my kingdoms crumble.
I like to forget that my life is not my own; that I gave it over completely to God the day I came to know Him. I also like to forget that I’m generally not so great at seeing the big picture as He is, mostly because I have no idea what’s happening tomorrow. And I use the term “generally” quite liberally there, I should have said “never.” It seems so convenient, at the time, to just do my own thing without asking for God’s blueprints or even consulting His endless knowledge of the tides. I assume, incorrectly, that my plans will be invincible and that if I spend long enough building them, no ocean will be able to overpower them. Sounds like I need to spend more time playing in the sand.
I am just like that man. I build in vain. And it’s not like I have only built the castle once or twice—I build it over and over and over again. How do I stop? How can I be cured of such obvious insanity? In recognizing my own weakness compared to God’s strength. In looking up from the trivial matter I am so focused on and letting Him show me the bigger landscape. I would rather labor for something He directs me toward than waste priceless days on something that will not withstand.
I find my profound ability to acquire Stuff remarkable. If asked a month ago whether or not I had much, I would have looked at our simple, two bedroom one bath 1,000 sq/ft house and thought not. But after spending the better part of two weeks going through and getting rid of the mass accumulation in my room and storage shed, I have come to the opposite conclusion. I could not have guessed how much needless, useless, “priceless” clutter crammed itself into every nook and cranny of my space. I had duplicates, broken items, unsightly articles of clothing, every scent of lotion thus far discovered, and a remarkable collection of every note passed in middle school: to name a few. What was even more shocking was the ease and freedom associated with quickly discarding said items. By the bag full, box full, and bin full all that Stuff found itself at the closest Goodwill drop-off for some other poor soul to clutter her life with. Stuff became a symbol for my security and autonomy. Whether used or not, seen or unseen, Stuff provided me with a cramped, full environment of possessions I assumed control of. Unfortunately, somewhere along the way, Stuff assumed and maintained authority over me. It presented me with the “freedom” to cover up the dark, dirty corners of my closed which I myself overlook. It gave me the chance to appear organized outwardly, while inwardly I was a jumbled, tangled mess. At last, I decided to clear and clean everything out, instead of overlooking the issue. And it’s been good. It’s even (dare I say it) fun to pitch the Stuff out of my room to the curb. What once was a chore has become a blessing, and the same can be said for simplifying my life as a whole, as well.
Surely he has borne our griefs and carried our sorrows. The pain kept locked inside, the ache concealed with a smile, the hurt patched with a flimsy band-aid…surely he has borne them. The overflowing cup of tears drunk every night, the oppressively unjust circumstance, the shattered pieces scattered abroad…surely he has carried them. Whatever presses, beats down, strips us, he knows. What is more, he has known them himself. We do not walk down an un-trodden path, for he has walked the way before us.
Yet we esteemed him stricken, smitten by God, and afflicted. But he was wounded for our transgressions; he was crushed for our iniquities. He did not bear His own burden, but ours. He did not suffer the consequence of his own transgression, treachery, or treason. It was our own. It was my own. He saw the sin He knew I could not bear, could not ever pay for, and willingly thrust it upon Himself. The crimson rivers flowing down the cross and seeping into the quenched earth beneath should have come from my veins. It was because of me, for me, and in spite of all I am that He was so scorned. Upon Him was the chastisement that brought us peace, and with His stripes we are healed. What a glorious, noble paradox. Who knew that such a humiliation as execution on a cross could be so magnificent? Because of His shame I have peace. Through His pain I am healed.
And yet, despite the wonder of it all, we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned every one to his own way. We stand, enamored, at the foot of the cross for but a brief moment before being swept away by the fleeting pleasures around us. Thoughtless to the sacrifice, we wander back to our old wounds which have been healed. We meander back to dig up the iniquity that was put to death. As if that could ever fulfill the inward longing. As if anything could ever fulfill the longing aside from knowing our Savior more deeply. There is no need for anything else; there is no peace in anyone else. No other can save, because the Lord has laid on Him the iniquity of us all.
I suppose we were all made to do something. Some make remarkable medical discoveries, saving thousands of lives. Others have an entrepreneur mind fashioned for the business world. An occasional soul is shaped to a design of creating and painting figments of his imagination. Still others make fabulous custodians and make floors and shelving masterpieces. Whatever a person does, it is keeping in mind an idea bigger than himself, if he is at all wise and thoughtful. One person is nothing more than a quickly dissolving vapor in the steady gust of life and eternity.
I have toyed with ideas of what I may be suited for. Perhaps speaking, perhaps painting, perhaps social work. A field in psychology briefly crossed my mind. In two-and-a-half years I will receive a bachelor’s in Secondary English Education. But what I love is writing. It is not well-known; somewhat because I have not much to show for it, but mostly because I have an insatiable fear of failure. Fear that I will not, cannot measure up, and so an attempt would prove to be a waste of time. Whatever flows from my mind through a pen onto blank paper is in some way a small piece of me…and so if people reject or discredit it, they discredit me.
So here I am, starting a blog. Partly because my friend talked me into it, but mostly because the ideas in my head are bursting at the seams and I feel compelled to give them an outlet. I intend to use this blog as some sort of winnowing fork —a tool to weigh and separate the good from the useless in my life, as well as the “world” I have influence on. Simply put, my goal is that this endeavor will lend clarity to myself and others and that God may use it for His own purpose and glory.
“Winnow: (verb) 1.a. To separate the chaff from (grain) by means of a current of air.
b. To rid of undesirable parts. 5.To examine closely in order to separate the good from the bad; sift.”—http://www.yourdictionary.com/winnow