Tuesday, June 28, 2011

The foundation

The first time I wrote about our back deck was...June 13, 2008.  That afternoon a crowd of high school students, celebrating the end of the year, crowded onto our deck until a couple of loud crashes sent them scurrying off the deck and onto the grass.  Fortunately, the deck isn't far off the ground. Well, at least one end of it isn't.  Unfortunately, the other end is six feet off the ground.

Our deck settled after that first even.  We noticed that the deck surface now pitched forward toward the steps we used constantly, but it seemed sturdy enough most of the time.  We thought about replacing it, actually went so far as to buy some decking, but time and money prevented us from completing starting the project.  Beve is, after all, a very busy man, winter, spring, summer and fall.  And hiring someone else to do the job is far beyond our financial ability.

There began to be 'soft spots' in the deck.  We learned to avoid them.  We took down the railing, never walked out there in barefeet.  We aren't idiots, after all.  We knew were were asking for trouble by letting it go, after all.  But this is sometimes how things creep up on us.  I suppose if our children had been smaller, we might have borrowed (or stolen? Just kidding!) to replace it, but we're all adults around here. And, after all, we have a beautiful slate patio in front of our house--with a view of Bellingham Bay, no less--so we do have outdoor space, if the weather actually cooperates enough for us to enjoy it.

Then in February, when all of my siblings and many other extended family were visiting, against Beve's repeated warnings, we piled onto our back deck for a group photo.  Needless to say, there were another two loud crashes.  Again people (adults this time) went scurrying off the deck onto the grass (other than Grampie and Thyrza.  Then my nephew-in-law looked under the deck and said, "It looks like some of those joists aren't holding up anything."

So the time has come.  No, that's not quite right.  The time has long since come, we finally just admitted it.  We got out our measuring tape, figured out a design (it'll be a larger deck now), asked a tech teacher at Beve's school to work out the supply list.  And Saturday, Beve and another buddy tore off that old deck.  That old rotten deck.  It was rotten.  Some of those joists were so rotten they crumbled in Beve's hands, like the one directly below where our barbecue has stood as long as we've lived in this house.  It was really appalling to see how unstable the underside--the foundation!--of our deck has been. Every time we've walked on it, we were in danger of stepping straight through it, I think.

The top of the deck has continued to look safe until recently.  With repeated coats of paint and the re-pounding of nails, the surface looks okay enough.  Not perfect to an expert's eye, but okay for most things, at least until the decay beneath affected the surface.

This happens with human beings as well, you know.  We often live our lives with flawed foundations, but rather than doing something about them, but rather than addressing the fundamental issue, we dress up the surface--reapply paint, pound a few nails where they've come loose in our lives.  All the while, underneath we're crumbling.  This happens in our marriages, with our children, in our business and other relationships.  And, of course, in the most important relationship of all, that with Christ.  It's instinct to act like we're in fine shape on the surface rather than face that something deep in our foundation might be falling apart.  But if we don't address those issues--that unresolved anger we're holding toward someone, that bitterness within us, that list of wrongs someone has done us--at some point, maybe not today but someday (and perhaps not that far off) our whole lives will have to be ripped apart and rebuilt.  God Himself will have to do this.  Not because He's vindictive or mean or has it in for us, but because He sees that we're rotting from the inside out, and no good for anything or anyone unless we're rebuilt, strong and sure with a new foundation.  This is a painful process, one we wouldn't wish on anyone.

But there's a better solution. We can look at the rotting place, face it squarely, not put one lick of paint on it, but actually admit we're in trouble.  Then turn away and seek God's help. This is called repentance.  Repentance is actually recognizing the weak places in ourselves, acknowledging we are unable to shore them up on our own, and asking for God to do what we cannot do--right at our foundation.  Repentance is the strongest, best thing we can do for our foundations.  And it continually saves us.   Continually.

Metaphors eventually break down.  Decks don't last forever.  They are built by human hands of human materials. But a foundation secure in Him is built to last.  That's the point.  Isn't it?  The point of a Cross and A man who was God who allowed all the rottenness of you and me and the rest of us to flood him until He died from it all.  Then He conquered it so that we could be strong enough to live in Him.  Our foundation secure.  Hallelelujah.

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