Building for Tragedy

I have learned that when it comes to building, I am a foolish man. That’s really not a stretch considering I can’t even build a birdhouse. I inherited my carpentry skills from my father. My dad told me that when he was in High School he was a member of the Future Farmers of America club. They told him to build a birdhouse, so he did. He said that the city of Chatsworth condemned it. He claims it’s a true story, which probably explains why he worked on computers for TVA and I never experienced what it is like to grow up on a farm.

Since I am a foolish man when it comes to building, God sent three wise men into my life; the city building inspector, an architect, and a contractor. If you think it is expensive to go to the doctor you should get the three wise men together. Every time you get the three wise men together it runs you about six digits. At each and every meeting they add digits. When it’s all said and done the three wise men will give you plans for a nice birdhouse that costs about 1.2 million bucks.

Our church is relocating and we found a great building to buy. It had some massive warehouse space and some nice offices. To me it looked like a great fit, a nice clean, cheap project. But the three wise men said we had to get rid of all the wood. After they said that, I could no longer see nice offices, just tons of wood, about six digits worth of wood. Then the three wise men said we had to install a sprinkler system. I bought a sprinkler for my front yard, it cost about six dollars. But this is a sprinkler for a building – it will run you about six digits. The wise men said we had to build back with steel. You guessed it, tons of digits. And then I found this great space for some classrooms, children’s classrooms. In my mind, again, I saw quick, cheap, and simple. But the wise men said in order to build children’s classrooms the code said we had to install escape rated windows. The wise men may know buildings, but I’m not sure if they have ever met church kids. When you build a room for church kids you don’t normally include anything that helps them “escape.”

Week after week I heard the wise men talk in code, building code. I just want a building, just some walls and some space. But as I listened to the three wise men talk in code I realized they don’t build walls, they build structures. I see space for people. The wise men, because of the code, see occupancy. I look at a building and wonder how it will facilitate worship and ministry. The wise men look at a building and wonder how it will burn and stand in strong wind. I look at our building and wonder when our first service will be and how many people can we fit in? The wise men look at the building and wonder if it catches on fire, can those people get out?

Wise men build for tragedy.

Jesus preached a great message and He drove it home with a great story. He talked about two men who went out to build. One man was a fool and he built his house on sand. One man was wise and he built his house on rock. After the houses were complete, each experienced a season of storms. The wise man who built his house on the rock passed through the storm season, and he still had a house. The foolish man, who built on sand, experienced tragedy in the storm season. He experienced total loss. Jesus said the foolish man’s house fell, and its fall was great.

There are times when there are no easy answers, there are no explanations, there are only storms. Things change. Things are challenged. In those times we want to know there is something in our soul that will not move, something that will help us endure storms.

But there is always a temptation to believe just enough to keep life summer. Summer is easy, smooth, and it hardly ever rains. We like to add a summery faith, something positive, to help preserve our fairytale life. But that’s what fools do. Fools build as if sand never moves, as if every day will be sunny and for the rest of their lives it will be summer.

Wise men build knowing that tragedy is not a possibility but a probability. They believe what Jesus says, make necessary changes, count the actual cost of faith, and dig deep into God’s Word. Wise men look for rock.

When it comes to faith there are two crowds. There are fools who believe the rest of their life will be summer. There are wise men and women who enjoy summer, expect storms, and endure.

Summer comes once a year; every year.

Don’t get me wrong, the wise men are expensive but I appreciate them. I have learned a lot from the three wise men. I have learned that when it comes to building codes forgiveness costs a lot more than permission. I have learned that if our current campus, which was built about thirty years ago, ever catches on fire we are all going to die quick, horrible deaths. I have learned to look for structure, to seek stability, to believe and build expecting storms.


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