Sunday, January 6, 2013

The Jungle House Of God

There is a picture I tell when I am speaking in the rural areas of Thailand, working with The Charis Project, that I have brought back to tell on the US side. I tell it to my children enough that they roll their eyes at me when I start to tell them again. But I will tell them again because I want the picture built deep into how they see the world, I want it to form part of the architecture that makes up the stories in which they live.

In the rural areas of Thailand, as in many areas of the world that are prone to heavy rainfall and possibly flooding, the people build their houses on poles set in the ground. They will lay out the shape of the house and dig holes and set hardwood poles in those holes and fill them back in. Then, at a  height off the ground that will keep the floor out of flooding water, they will attach some manner of timbers, maybe wood or maybe bamboo to those poles as the floor supports. Then, higher up at the top, they attach the timbers that make up the roof structure. On the roof structure goes leaves, or plastic, or metal, depending on how much money they have. And on the floor timbers goes the floor of woven bamboo or wood planks. The walls too, between the floor and roof will be made out of woven bamboo or wood planks.

Now, if you cut at one of the poles with a knife or axe or whatever it will become weaker, the cuts will give purchase for mold and termites and eventually the pole will fail. It will fall down and it will not be alone. That pole was holding up part of the house, part of the same house that the other poles are holding up. All of the poles are attached to each other by the house that they are each built together into. When one pole fails it pulls on all the others. If others have also been weakened then they could collapse as well. So cutting at one of the poles puts the whole house in danger.

On the other hand, if you build up that same pole, if your shore it and add strapping and bind additional poles to it it will become stronger. If you coat it with oil treatments rot and termites will not be able to get at it. That pole will become stronger and stronger. When that pole is strengthened it is more able support the weight of other poles if they get damaged and be more resilient to damage itself as well, also as that pole gets stronger it is able to hold more weight, it can hold up a larger structure so the house can be built larger.

building up the pillars
A family, or a community, or a church is like one of these houses. Each person is like one of the poles.

When we criticize or scold or judge one another or gossip or do any such things it is like taking a knife and cutting at one of the other poles holding the house up. The more we cut at the other person the weaker and more susceptible to further damage they become. When we do this we are actively contributing to the destruction of the house, the house that we are built into. Doing such things damages the other's ability to support us when we get damaged.

However, if we build up each of the people around us they get stronger. Encouragement, blessing, holding the sideways tongue and replacing it with speaking good words of truth and actions of support, these things strengthen and shore up and defend the other pillars. Such actions make the house all together stronger. When you get damaged the other pillars will be able to hold you up and they will be far more resistant to damage themselves.

Extend this out. As we all keep building up and strengthening all the other pillars the whole house gets stronger and can grow bigger and bigger until this house of God is big enough to shelter and protect the whole world.

One more thing, this is grace. Grace is not letting people slide, grace is building people up in the power of the redemption.

Now, how can I make a pillar stronger today?

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