The Muddy Road

Originally Written 10/16/09

I’ve grown used to the nearly incessant sound of tractors and other construction vehicles at my house. You see, my neighbors have been working on a building project for what seems like an eternity. They intended to build a house on an empty lot, but have had an endless stretch of diversions and other projects that needed to come first.

The hum I’m hearing today is a tractor working on the road. The project building up the road, straightening it out, and making sure it had the correct drainage and slope took a long time. Everything had to be just right. Though we all had enjoyed a straight, smooth road for a few months, it was never completely finished and the right conditions revealed that. In less than a day, our beautiful, straight, perfect road was ruined. All it took was one storm. Sure, this was a monsoon by California’s standards, but it was only one storm.

By the time the sky cleared and people ventured out of their houses again (we Californians are a lot like cats when it comes to rain–we don’t like getting wet), it was apparent there was a big problem. I could hear the sound of sloshing tires and whirring engines from my cottage, so I peeked out to see a car caught in the muddy road. For days now, I have seen several vehicles of all shapes and sizes trapped in the muddy mess. I, myself, was caught in that mess and had to call my father-in-law to come and help me out. The road is now in the perfect condition…for a demolition derby, but not so much fun to drive on.

I could take all the effort to leave the road as is and compensate for its swampy state. Perhaps I could buy a 4×4 or invest in snow tires. Maybe I could even just simply stop driving. But the problem isn’t my car, my tires, or even my errands. The problem is the road. That is the problem that needs work.

In order to make the road usable again, a few repairs are necessary; however, to make it usable for the long haul and the storms to come, major work has to be done.

Thinking about my life and the work that is being done in my inner life reminds me of the road. While I’m frequently tempted to cut corners and rush to the finish line, I can see what can (and will) happen if the necessary work doesn’t happen now, before the storms come. Jesus promised that storms would come in the parable of the Wise and Foolish Builders (Luke 6). Both had storms, but the difference was the foundation. One had dug down deep and placed the foundation on the rock (Luke 6:48). Perhaps the other was too lazy, to naive, or too afraid of the work it would take to build on the rock and placed his house on the sand instead. One could weather the storm. The other was calling his insurance agent the next morning.

God knows that other storms will come in my life. If I only allow for shoddy, stopgap repairs in my soul, I’m going to have repairs done frequently and eventually will need to stop and wait for everything to be built again from the ground up. And that waiting would be even more agonizing because it will last longer and be all the more painful. If I allow the time necessary for God to heal my many hurts, I will be able to weather many storms.

Waiting can be torture. In my best moments, I’m hopeful for the future. In my worst, I despair and argue with God (a lot) about whether things will ever change. I honestly have to say my best moments make up only a tiny fraction of my time. Most of the time I’m wishing I could drive on the road again, so I’m unwilling to allow all the time necessary in order for construction to be complete.

Maybe all leaders need to build their houses on the sand the first time around. Maybe we need to weather a storm and a horrible crash in order to learn that the work God intends for our soul is necessary and worth it. It certainly was an essential reminder for me that even as a church leader I am still a sinner in need of God’s grace.

The difference is where we build our house the next time. Am I going to take the extra time to allow God to reinforce the lessons he is teaching me or am I going to smooth things over and hope for the best?

Well, when you put it that way…

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