I was so not ready for this … and it has only just begun. I’m talking about the emotional trials and travails that are high school, teenage, and young adulthood. No doubt I assumed that Helen and I previously had gone through the worst of it … and thought “that’s all it is?” Simple!
Not so much.
Over the past several months we’ve been going through the college application process with our oldest … our son. In many respects, it’s a time of expectancy but also a time of intense stress. Because Helen’s so masterful at administration and planning, the process has been fairly tepid, though previews of stress and strain have raised their ugly little heads as it relates to our son. Couple that with the furor of high school, homework, part-time job, etc., and things begin to get … let’s just say … interesting.
Add drama of social life, friends, girlfriends, and you might as well try to safely take a torch to a broken gas line. Combustible doesn’t even begin to describe it. The explosive power is quite the thing to see, and we’ve been encompassed in taking the pieces of our poor son and trying to put them back together. Ah … young love. Ugh.
Of course, it’s easy to stand on this side of the decades and try to explain to an 18 year-old that this really isn’t the end of the world, but a way God builds us, brick by brick, into an edifice the splendor of which only He can see. Therein lies my philosophical musing from my daily Bible reflection as I read from 1 Corinthians 1 – 16 and 2 Corinthians 1 – 6. Given where I am professionally, in between jobs and uncertain about what lay ahead, I have to admit that I probably could use the reminder even more than our poor son.
The passage that tilted me is from 1 Corinthians 3:9-15, though there are several other parallel passages a deeper dive into which we could all benefit. However, let’s focus on …
Or, to put it another way, you are God’s house. Using the gift God gave me as a good architect, I designed blueprints; Apollos is putting up the walls. Let each carpenter who comes on the job take care to build on the foundation! Remember, there is only one foundation, the one already laid: Jesus Christ. Take particular care in picking out your building materials. Eventually there is going to be an inspection. If you use cheap or inferior materials, you’ll be found out. The inspection will be thorough and rigorous. You won’t get by with a thing. If your work passes inspection, fine; if it doesn’t, your part of the building will be torn out and started over. But you won’t be torn out; you’ll survive—but just barely.
In this passage Paul is addressing the divisions that were arising in the Corinthian church because folks in the church were picking their favorite. But as he dispels the tendency that we all have to do that, he points out an important and generalizable truth that Helen and I are trying to pass off to our kids.
God builds us, essentially brick by brick. He uses people (in the case of the Corinthians it was Apollos, Paul, etc.) and circumstances to create a foundation of our lives that is meant to equip us to handle the hardships and realities that are inevitable. The foundation … its composition and completeness … determines what difficulties the structure can withstand. The past two weeks of our son’s life, he would argue, have been the worst of his life (drama added). And while I cheekily minimize the severity of the situation because I’ve been there many, many, many times, for him the pain is real. Our daughter is likely not too terribly far behind. It’s high school and teenage, after all. Most of us have seen the play.
What we want them to understand – and what I want US to understand – is that every hard situation, whether as a teen or as an old guy like me, each and every tough situation, each and every person who impacts our life, is a brick that comes together to form the wall of our life. God uses these times and people to build us brick by brick.
Have you ever looked at a brick wall? Perhaps some of us have actually built one (in which case, you’ll likely call out the crudity of my analogy). There’s a rhyme and reason to the construction. Every brick has a purpose and a position that matters. You need each and every brick in order to have full structural integrity. Skimp on a brick, and the wall may crumble in with too much or the wrong kind of load placed on it. Full, strong bricks matter and to cut back on the solidity and quality of the brick, no matter how costly, can be perilous … save a little now but cost a LOT later.
God … Creator and Builder of all things … does not skimp on building materials. He never looks to save a little now and always looks to build for the future. He doesn’t use faulty materials and definitely doesn’t skip a brick from time to time. Nope, He uses all the bricks necessary to build the strongest foundation, so long as we let Him build it. This has been the message to our son that we’ve been sharing, which for the time being has been going in one ear and out the other, that what he’s going through right now is just a really important brick in the wall of his life that God is building (man, that apple not falling far from the tree thing is for REAL … I can definitely see myself in him). Pain, heartache, disappointment, love-loss, tears … they’re all part of the materials God uses to build strong foundations, strong walls, and strong edifices that become our lives. Not only that, but our lives can then also be used to be a blessing and instruction to others. Now at nearly 50, I can look back on my heartaches and pains in my high school years and see exactly why I had to live through those self-imposed painful times … so I could help my son (and before long, my daughter). Helen would say precisely the same thing.
This is true throughout our lives. The ups and downs we experience are building blocks – bricks – that serve to build the structure we need, not just to withstand life, but to truly LIVE life. We need every brick, even the ones that are difficult, the ones that we wish we could neglect or avoid. Together, and only together, do the situations in our life form the fortification that allows future challenges and troubles to be tolerable, to allow the edifice of our lives to continue to stand amid the winds, earthquakes, and attacks. Every one of them serves a crucial structural purpose. So just as we try to encourage our son through this horrendous time in his young life, so too can you and I know … in the assurance of God’s word … that we can make it through whatever may come. As long as welcome God laying each and every brick, one at a time, in just the right places.
Soli Deo gloria!