Thursday, April 11, 2013

Building Sand Castles

Mid-life, middle of the road.  Nothing exceptional on the surface, from my perspective.  That is my self-portrayal.  This is not a statement of disappointment or of defeat.  I have accolades.  I have achievements.  I have certifications, awards and even pins marking appreciation of service.  I can point to policies, both local and even on the state level that have been impacted by work I have been involved with.  I can point to facilities and claim "I helped build that".  All of these, however, are of temporal value, forgotten with a few brief years passage and all are subject to be replaced, undone, or destroyed.

I am familiar with many who, starting midlife like I am, are chasing this "American Dream" in whatever translation modern vernacular has modified it.  It may simply be not to be working well into their 60s or 70s.  It may be to get that bigger boat.  It may be just to get out of debt to buy a home while rates are down.  It may be to push the kids out the door as soon as possible so that the real party can begin...

Every bit of news regarding pensions adjustments, a change in benefits, interest rates and the like stirs a frenzy of concerned conversations among co-workers. Should a 401K be looked at?  What about a 457b plan?  Maybe there's a better life insurance policy out there.  AFLAC?  Personally, I need more wisdom in areas of financial planning.  But the overwhelming worry and concern that regularly boils to the surface always takes me aback.  What happened to Carpe Dieme - seizing all of the day, or as a certain Galilean Carpenter once put it

"...don’t get worked up about what may or may not happen tomorrow. God will help you deal with whatever hard things come up when the time comes".
Matthew 6:34 MSG

But this is not typically how we handle our lives.  "Protect at all costs" is our motto.  Protect your lifestyle, your comforts, your finances, your future.  In this we tightly hold onto those things we deem necessary for the ideal that we have formulated of a "good" and "enjoyable" life.  Continually we strive to maintain firm footing while planning for modest expansion or improvement.  We look at others and believe their utopia could be our utopia.  Their paradise should be the model for ours, no matter how distorted, dysfunctional or dishonorable the backdrop of their personalities, their family welfare or their moral compasses.  We pour our efforts, our energies, and our lives into building personal promised-lands.  The great folly in this is the failure to note that we are all perched on the seashores of eternity and all of our works, our efforts, our aspirations and labors are subject to a continual state of erosion by the ebb and flow of the tides of time. 

But there is One who lives beyond time.  His ways are timeless and the following of His precepts yield rewards of eternal, and indestructible priceless-ness.  Very often these benefits of lasting value are not readily accepted or embraced this side of the seashore.  We crave the short term glorification, the "smell of the new", the physical gratification to the senses, all the while denying the call to live deeper, better, more significantly.   C.S. Lewis once put it this way:

"Indeed, if we consider the unblushing promises of reward and the staggering nature of the rewards promised in the Gospels, it would seem that Our Lord finds our desires not too strong, but too weak. We are half-hearted creatures, fooling about with drink and sex and ambition when infinite joy is offered us, like an ignorant child who wants to go on making mud pies in a slum because he cannot imagine what is meant by an offer of a holiday at the sea. We are far too easily pleased." - The Weight of Glory

"...too easily pleased..."
By new homes
By bigger accounts
By better vacations
By better vehicles
By being in the "right" circles of influence and friends

All while ignoring the eternal, the truly significant. 

I was recently saddened by an individual who claimed to have heard God's will for my life (Danger Will Robinson).  In their honest and loving admonition, they warned that in pursuing adoption and foster-care, in pursuing the orphan and the fatherless, I had robbed my family of blessings and security, of well-being and a future and that if I continued down this path, I was turning a deaf ear to God's will for my life and losing out on God's blessings.  They claimed, as evidence, the difficulties and hardships our family has faced in the adoption and raising of one child from a trauma and abuse background and the difficulties and challenges we currently are facing in parenting two additional young foster-children from abuse and trauma backgrounds - the outbursts, the tantrums, the nightmares, the therapy appointments, the long talks into the night and the tears.

Frankly, this shocked and hurt my bride and I.  Anger quickly rose within each of us as we read and re-read this letter of concern.  A host of responses and justifications formulated in our minds as we prepared to answer, what we viewed as an attack.  But something else arose that overcame that anger.  Peace.  Knowledge.  Wisdom.  The remembered Word and the promises contained within.  James 1:27 instinctively poured forth. Other Scriptures immediately came to mind.

"And whoever receives and accepts and welcomes one little child like this for My sake and in My name receives and accepts and welcomes Me."
Matthew 18:5

“Then those ‘sheep’ are going to say, ‘Master, what are you talking about? When did we ever see you hungry and feed you, thirsty and give you a drink? And when did we ever see you sick or in prison and come to you?’ Then the King will say, ‘I’m telling the solemn truth: Whenever you did one of these things to someone overlooked or ignored, that was me—you did it to me.’ "
Matthew 25:40

"Defend the weak and the fatherless; uphold the cause of the poor and the oppressed."
Psalms 82:3

"Learn to do right; seek justice.  Defend the oppressed.  Take up the cause of the fatherless;  plead the case of the widow."
Isaiah 1:17

We were both brought to peace as we were reassured that we were, in fact, exactly in the center of our Father's will.  The evidence was in the blessings that have been blossoming around us in provision, deeper friendships, and the strengthening of character and relationships through trial.  Our marriage is strengthened and our resolve has been forged anew to pursue the calling that we know to be certain - to lay aside our lives and take up our cross and follow our Savior, no matter what that looks like, no matter if others understand or approve of it.  Will the enemy of our souls throw obstacles, attacks and challenges at us as we endeavor to pursue our Savior whole-heartedly?  Will he sit back idly as any believer seeks to follow Christs' admonition to live this eternal life to the fullest? 

The tribulation and trial that others claim as evidence of poor planning, bad choices, foolish thinking - these were all promised.  Jesus stated that we would encounter resistance, difficulties and challenges when we seek to follow after Him, even that others would think us foolish.  We would even confront Hell as the Living Word within us touches this sin-laden plane to bring life and forever alter souls.  Engaging in this course is costly - it will cost all of you.  It is selling everything you have to get that one field with secret priceless treasure buried in it (Matthew 13:44). 

This is building into the eternal, investing into those things that will outlast the tides of time as they lick at the sandcastles of others.  We are all admonished to pursue this way of life.  The comforts, technologies, and conveniences of our society and our times are a good thing and should be enjoyed, but should never be worshipped and sought above the effort and the cost of investing in lives, for these former things will pass away, but the eternal worth of the soul and the effort we place towards pursuing our Creator and extending Christ's selfless love to the human being will stand forever.  Anything other is simply building castles in the sand....

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