I’ve been thinking a lot recently about foundations and other things that lie beneath the surface.
I live in the suburbs, in a small housing development located just off a relatively main street in our city. And that main street has been under major reconstruction all summer long. It was needed. It is an inconvenience at best. And it has provided a fascinating look at everything that lies underneath our roadways.
I had never really thought much about this. But gas lines, water lines, sewer lines, storm sewer lines, and probably more that I have missed are all crossing under, or going parallel to, the street, all at varying depths. The old lines are being removed, and new ones installed, with lots and lots of connections being made. All of this takes expertise, and all of it takes time.
Then come all the various layers of differing soils and types of rock and stone and vapor barriers before any concrete is poured. Back and forth go the dozers and roller trucks, preparing the base for the only part we ever get to see, the finished concrete roadway. The drains are set in place for surface water. The sidewalks are poured, and finally the grass is planted. By late next spring much of the inconvenience will be gone, and we will be grateful for the new-and-improved road. And all that went on underneath the surface will be forgotten.
But I hope that I will not so quickly forget. As I walk past this construction on my daily walks I often stop to look a bit closer at what they are doing underground. I also try to use this as a time to reflect on and give thanks for the people God has used to do the underground, foundational work in my faith life. I think of my parents and extended family who not only taught the faith with their words but with their actions. I think of all those Sunday School teachers and youth group advisors who poured into my life. I think of so many adults who made this fidgety young lad feel not only welcomed but wanted in worship services. I think of pastors who faithfully preached the Word week after week after week, planting seeds in the tender soil of my soul. I think of neighbors who found talking of faith as natural as talking about the weather. Many of this “great cloud of witnesses” may never know the profound impact they have had on doing the underground work for my faith journey, and quite frankly, I don’t know much of it. What I do know and appreciate is that the roadway of my life has been as smooth as it has because of those who did the foundational work for me.
I’m also using this object lesson to ask God to help me do some necessary and mostly unnoticed faith foundational work for others. For whom can I help dig out the old that needs replacing, and then help install the new? For whom can I help put down under layers of soil so that life may go a bit more smoothly? How can I help make connections of life-giving spiritual water or gas so that they may be spurred on to love and good works? Where can I prepare the way?
I have not always been grateful for the inconveniences of this roadway construction. But I am grateful for the way God is using it in my life. Looking for life lessons is a lot more productive than complaining about the slow progress.
Don Poest is a retired minister in the Reformed Church in America. He spent 38 years as pastor of Brunswick Reformed Church in Brunswick, Ohio, where he still lives with his wife Cathy. The Poests have two sons in pastoral ministry and three grandchildren nearby. A favorite activity is taking the grandkids for ice cream.