Do you wish to be great? Then begin by being. Do you desire to construct a vast and lofty fabric? Think first about the foundations of humility. The higher your structure is to be, the deeper must be its foundation. –Augustine, church father
Moses fled and became an exile in the land of Midian, where he fathered two sons. After 40 years had passed, an angel appeared to him in the wilderness of Mount Sinai, in the flame of a burning bush. Acts 7:29-30 (HCSB)
It was one of the most painful moments of my Christian life. I had been walking with God for about five years and felt a strong call to full-time ministry. At that point, my world was small as I thought my only two options were to pastor a church or ship off to a tropical mission field. I really like ice in my drinks (not to mention hot showers), so I decided that pastoring was the call for me. Plans were made and the appropriate steps taken, but the door slammed shut! My wife Debi and I had planned to visit a seminary only to find that her boss would not allow her to take the vacation time she had earned.
I tried to force the issue, precipitating what became an epic marital “discussion.” There we were, Debi and I, in bed, with our backs turned against each other and our hearts filled with anger and frustration. Neither of us was willing to budge. An ominous darkness filled my mind as I began to realize that my ministry calling would not be fulfilled any time soon. My thoughts were accurate—what I had hoped would be a short season gradually stretched into a 17-year wilderness experience that lasted until I finally entered campus ministry as a vocation.
Violent Storms WILL Come
From that painful season, I came to understand a spiritual principle that closely mirrors the natural world: in order to effectively and safely build up, one must first dig down to lay a rock-solid foundation. Otherwise, a collapse is inevitable. Even when working on warm, sunny days, the wise builder resists the temptation to cut corners, always preparing for the violent storms that will assuredly blow one distant day.
From all outward appearances, framing a building is the antithesis of laying a strong foundation. Erecting walls is fast and progress readily visible. After a day of framing, a crew can look at their work with satisfaction, relishing what they’ve accomplished in only a short period of time.
And so we build upward, with dreams of reaching to the skies for the glory of God (or so we tell ourselves). It seems almost bizarre to be digging in the opposite direction of the one we seek to build, but a house without a secure foundation is a disaster waiting for an opportunity. It is not a matter of if the storms will come, but when. Always build for the storm!
A Painful Example
For several years, we vacationed along the coast of North Carolina. Our hearts would leap with excitement as we arrived at the shore and drove toward our rental condo. Like country bumpkins on their first visit to the city, we would gawk and admire all of the expensive houses along the coast. One especially beautiful home always stood out as we fantasized about becoming the owners—that is until a couple of hurricanes ravaged the North Carolina coast.
Upon returning the following summer, our jaws dropped to see that once-beautiful vacation home now marred by a huge split right down the middle. Beyond repair, it would soon be demolished. That expensive house, the former envy of all, had become the object of gawkers because its foundation proved to be insufficient for the scope and intensity of the storm.
Laying a Foundation Is Hard Work!
Those who wish to build to the heights must first dig to the depths. And the lower we go, the more difficult the process becomes; the ground becomes harder, and rocks—sometimes very large ones—block our way. Digging often slows to a snail’s pace, revealing little progress in spite of all of the effort invested. And probably worst of all, the deeper the foundation sinks, the darker the environment becomes. As the light begins to fade, as the world appears to grow dim, as we feel that all of our dedication and hard work have amounted to little, our self-confidence wavers, battered and bruised by the relentless pounding of the stormy surf.
Now Is the Time to Dig Deeper
Some of us can run far and jump high, relying on our own strengths and abilities, accomplishing a great deal along the way. Still, the day will come when the clouds grow dark, the winds blow, and the rain falls. At that point, strength of self will be of no value, and the opportunity to construct a secure foundation will have passed.
Now is the time to prepare your foundation, to build for the storm—its winds will one day blow much harder than anyone expects. Never despise the days of obscure, but faithful obedience as you navigate the wilderness territory before you. They are helping to create strength of character that you will desperately need further down the road of life.
This post is drawn from Chapter Ten of Bob’s devotional: Champions in the Wilderness—Fifty-Two Devotions to Guide and Strengthen Emerging Over
photo credit: Senior leaders visit Sandy response efforts in NJ and NY via photopin (license)