Picture a man who is building his first house. He walks into the empty lot and gazes around with great joy. He is so excited, he can’t wait to begin. He begins running around the lot picking out stones, bricks, brightly colored bits of glass, marbles, whatever meets his eye. He carries them each to the center of the lot and tosses them down, until after a couple of hours, he has laid out an area the size of his future house. He then steps back and admires his work… his first step is done! His foundation is laid!!
Now consider the dedicated carpenter, building a house for his wife and family, a house which they plan to pass on to their children, and their children’s children. He chooses huge stones that will last hundreds of years. Those he respects most are enlisted to help him lay each stone with great precision. After many days of hard, back-breaking labor this man, too, steps back to critically view his work. His foundation lies before him, smooth and flat, exactly the shape of the house that will soon be built above it. Satisfied, he begins the long process of building a house that will last many lifetimes.
Let’s consider a boy named Jim. Jim’s life, too, was built on a foundation. His parents began by using their foundation, laid by Jim’s grandparents. From the time Jim was an infant they worked to add to the foundation with their love, their discipline, and their determination to raise a son who would love God above all else. They worked hard to create a foundation that would last for many generations to come.
As Jim grew, he begin building on this foundation with his parents. He enjoyed picking out the stones with his dad, and listened closely as his mom explained why this specific stone was chosen. He helped his parents move the stones into position and watched closely as they chiseled away the parts they didn’t want. The chiseling was always his least favorite part, it was uncomfortable. He hated the noise and the dust was choking, but he stayed close, because his favorite part followed. Once the chiseling was finished the rock would drop straight into the hole, a perfect fit. It always looked so good to little Jimmy.
As Jim grew older he began to notice that his friend’s foundations always looked a little different than his. Several of them had shiny new rocks, never used before, and some even said chiseling down for a perfect fit wasn’t all that important! At first he didn’t listen. He knew his parents were right, but over time his beliefs wore down and he began to look with longing at the rocks his friends chose. Soon he began asking his parents to choose new rocks, not to use the old rocks that his grandparents had chosen. They gently explained the safety in using rocks that were tried and tested, but he felt like he was being cheated.
After several years Jim moved out of his parents’ house and decided to change his foundation slightly to incorporate the newer rocks his friends has always boasted of using. His parents tried to discourage him from removing the big strong rocks, saying they were important for a strong foundation, but Jim thought they were outdated and could be improved. He wanted the freedom to try out new things, to remove anything constricting. So with much straining, sweating, and pain, he pulled out a chunk of big grey rock, creating enough space to slide in his new flashy one. He stepped back to admire his work. The new stone didn’t fit snugly, but, not to worry, Jim enjoyed the novelty and feeling of freedom the new stone provided.
Soon Jim had replaced many of the old rocks with new smaller, brighter ones. Over time his parents pleas had become muffled by the voices of his friends echoing the sentiments of his new-found freedoms. and he ignored his parents’ counsel more and more. He enjoyed traveling to see other foundations and would often bring home matching stones from friends’ foundations near and far.
At the end of his life Jim looked over his foundation, a striking mix of colors, some old, mostly new, thrown together. There were weeds growing up between the cracks, which Jim felt added diversity and character, but others just saw a crumbling, unkempt foundation, supporting a shaky dilapidated house. When Jim’s children began building their own homes, they had to sift through the rubble to find anything of value, and they didn’t find much worth using again.
Throughout our lives we have the opportunity to build on a sure, strong foundation, tested over many generations, or to substitute flash and glitter for strength and substance. We have the choice to argue with our parents, or to follow their advice and counsel and build on the strong foundation already started for us. We can slowly remove their old-fashioned stones and replace them with stones that don’t match, but instead leave room for change and accomodate new ways, new standards, or no standard at all. Or we can embrace family standards until such time as God shows us from His word that they are wrong.
Our parents continue to encourage us to choose the strong and steady, but the longer we choose the lighter and more attractive, the quieter their voices become. Then one day we suddenly awaken to find their voice completely removed. We should feel happy in this, right? It’s what we said we always wanted, yet we are too busy trying to find our own balance as our foundation is filled with so many different sized stones of so many different colors, that our lives slip and slide from one thing to the next. We find that anything strong and eternal is unattractive, while the flashy neon rocks of the world draw us with greater appeal – for a time… Then, when trials and storms come, the house collapses and we are left with a pile of mismatched glittery rubble, unfit for anything but the trash heap and of no use to the next generation.
The choice is yours. Glitter or substance. Choose wisely.