I realize it has been a while since I've posted anything new here. Life has been very busy and hectic the last little while, and may become even more so for awhile. More on that another time!
For now, I do have another illustration of a Bible principle. The principle comes from Matthew 15:11, in which Jesus talks about what defiles a man.
This past summer we took the teens in the youth group to Popham Beach for a day. This is one of our "yearly" outings; we've done it every summer for quite a few years now. We spend the day playing in the water and playing on the beach (ultimate frisbee, beach volleyball, etc.).
My nephew Daniel went with us this past summer, and at one point he wanted to go down near the water and build a sand castle (I guess he wasn't interested in playing volleyball). So he brought his buckets and his shovels, and I went with him down to an empty spot where we could build.
Our castle was a very nice one. It had four towers, and a wall connecting all the towers. There was a moat all the way around the castle...and it was a very big, very deep moat. No one was going to breach the walls of our castle!
But, by the end of the day, when we went down to the water for one last dip before heading home, our castle was already starting to deteriorate...I think someone had stepped on our wall in one spot, and the moat (which we had built to protect the castle) was eating away at the foundation of our walls...
When we go back next summer, I have no expectation that our sand castle will still be there. In fact, I will be downright shocked if we get there and discover that the castle still stands strong and defiant against all destructive forces.
There's an interesting verse in the book of Psalms, which has long been one of my favorites, and it makes me think of our sand castle...
God has compassion on us, because He is the one who formed us, and he knows exactly how we were made (he knows our frame -- or, as the NIV says, "He knows how we are formed"). The book of Genesis reports the rather unusual manner in which God created man:
So there you have it...we're just castles in the sand. That's all we are. Extraordinary, when you think about it, that God should love us. I have to confess, I didn't have a huge amount of love for the sand castle I built. I'm not shedding any tears over the realization that the castle is probably long gone. Yet God loves us.
Far too often we have this picture in our minds of God sitting up there in heaven scowling down at us, eager to zap us with His righteous indignation every time we drop the ball, every time we fall flat on our faces. God is laughing to Himself, saying "Ha! I've got you now, you miserable piece of trash!"
But God is not like that. When we drop the ball, when we fall flat on our faces, God says, "Well, I did make him out of sand, after all."
The really extraordinary thing (in my mind, anyway) is that God intends to take these castles of living sand and make something that will last forever out of them.
That is truly amazing.
When I was a high school math teacher, I remember vividly one algebra one test I gave. As I was correcting the students' papers, I noticed that one student had put virtually no "work" on her paper; only answers. Then, as I corrected her paper, I began to realize that some of her incorrect answers looked very familiar.
Flipping back through the papers I had already corrected, I found a paper with identical answers. In some cases, the first paper had a wrong answer because the student had made a foolish addition mistake (7+8=16, for example). Yet even in these cases, the second student had an identical answer.
Accordingly, since it was exceedingly evident that one student had directly copied answers from the other, I gave that student a zero on the test. Since I had no way of knowing whether the other student was innocent of wrongdoing, I acted in accordance with my "optimism principle," which states, "When in doubt, assume the best." I gave the first student the score earned based on the answers and work given.
Interestingly, the second student's mother had her own "optimism principle" as well. Faced with the possibility that her daughter might have cheated, she chose to assume the best. Especially since she did not know me, or have any reason to believe me over her daughter.
It was not until I showed her the photocopies of the tests that she acknowledged that her daughter was in the wrong.
Why do I tell this story? Because it illustrates an aspect of love which we must emulate. According to 1 Corinthians 13:7, love believes and hopes all things. It is my "optimism principle" in action. When in doubt, assume the best.
Unfortunately, human nature is bent toward assuming the worst. For us it is safer; we are less likely to be hurt or betrayed if we assume the worst. Yet I believe it is better to assume the best and be disappointed or betrayed than to destroy our relationships from the very beginning by assuming the worst.
And if we are hurt in the process, let us remember the love of Christ, which took Him through deeper pain than we could ever dream.