Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Of Brick and Straw

~This entry was written two years ago on our 15th wedding anniversary.  

You know the story… the three pigs, the three houses, and 2 very different outcomes.  What made the difference?  The materials with which the houses were built.  On the 2 ends of the spectrum are the straw and the brick.  I want a life built out of brick… but never would have thought that the straw would be part of the process.

As a child, like so many others, I grew up in a semi-functioning family.  The stress fractures that had been present throughout my parents’ marriage became too great when a poor economy resulted in a job loss.  This proverbial straw that broke the camel’s back resulted in the ultimate demise of my parents’ marriage and of family life as I knew it.

This week, we received what could have been devastating news.  After 17 years of faithful and productive service, my husband’s lucrative job was to come to an end.  We had had some inclination that as the result of another bank merger, this could be an outcome.  Yet we had little idea what and when the ultimate decision would be made.  Here we are.  With 5 children and little savings left due to the economy, we are more than ok.  We’re grateful.  For life, for family, for health, for a challenging marriage that has withstood the storms (both internally and externally) of 15 years, for friends who have walked through those storms with us, but most of all, for our loving God who wants what is best for us and is relentless in providing it.  In His upside-down economy, what is best is rarely what we would choose, yet it is ultimately what will bring us joy, peace, restoration, and healing.  We are grateful.  This is his best for us. 

“The biblical detail about using straw in brick-making is puzzling to some.  How, they ask, could the addition of straw as an ingredient make bricks stronger?  In Egypt the mud-straw combination was commonly used to strengthen building blocks.   It also prevented the bricks from cracking or losing shape.  Modern investigators have run tests to show that when straw is mixed with mud the resulting bricks are three times as strong as those made without straw.  Fluids in the straw release humic acid and harden the bricks.  To this day, after thousands of years, mud-brick monuments still stand in Egypt. (The Good News)”.

I’m struck that when we allow the Lord to take the straw of our lives… the hurts, heartaches, disappointments, and yes, our blatant sinfulness, he can mix it in with the mud of the world…  job loss, illness, the end of a significant relationship… and use it all to build something stronger.  Yet it is only after that mixture spends significant time in the refiner’s fire that it becomes strong.  Strong enough to withstand the storms of life.  Strong enough to play a part in giving others temporary shelter when their storms come.   

What am I doing with the straw in my life?  Too many years have been spent coddling the hurts, regretting the past, and harboring an unforgiving spirit.  The straw remains not only weak, but highly flammable given the right environment.  My desire is to loosen my grip on the straw and hand it over to the Lord.  Only then is He able to resume His work as the great potter.  Only then will the strengthening and building begin.  I have a choice. 

And so it is.  Life is built, brick by brick.   A series of daily choices.  I pray for the faith, strength, and courage to believe that our Lord wants what is best.  That he will take the broken pieces of my life and create something beautiful for His glory and enjoyment.  That the fires of life will not last longer than needed, but long enough to produce strength.  And that eventually, we will not speak in terms of straw, bricks, and fire, but of roads paved in gold.

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