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Just two Sundays ago, we heard the Gospel about two houses, one built on sand and the other on a rock. When the winds blew, the rain fell, and the floods came, anyone could predict what would happen. The first house was destroyed. The second, set on a solid foundation, was spared.
Curiously, this parable is known to most of us as the house built on the rock. I say "curiously," because the story Jesus told really isn't as much about the houses as it is about their builders. The first builder decided to place his structure on sand. The second chose to construct his house on rock. Neither could keep the storms from coming. The wise builder, Jesus taught, is one who listens to his words and acts on them. The foolish builder is not one who fails to listen, but one who listens and does not act. But what happens when the firmest foundation we can find still isn't firm enough? What should we do when even the ground we stand on -- everything we count on -- buckles beneath us?
The very disturbing news coming out of Japan in the aftermath of one of the most devastating earthquakes in history shakes us all. Thousands of bodies washing up on the shore. Tens of thousands missing. Destruction, cold, hunger, and the potential for a significant nuclear accident: how much can anyone bear?
Even for those of us on the opposite side of the Pacific, putting it into a larger context doesn't help. In the midst of continuing economic collapse, the jarring spread of upheaval and uncertainty in the Arab world, near violent domestic political conflicts, and the explosion in the price of gasoline and food, earthquakes and tsunamis seem only to reflect what is happening in just about every sphere of our lives.
Everywhere, the houses humanity has built are falling. The ground that was firm enough for so long has been shaken. Many, including those with little or no faith, are saying that these days seem "biblical," even "apocalyptic." But remember that "apocalypse" doesn't really mean, "the end." It means "revelation." Perhaps we're beginning to realize that what we thought was rock is perhaps just sand after all.
Lent is a time for both building and tearing down. It is an opportunity for us to see things as they are from the bottom up, the top down, but mostly from the inside out. In this introspective season, God invites us to take a fresh look at ourselves, but also at his blueprints. Even more, he bids on the job of rebuilding not only what we've lost, but what we never managed to build on our own.
One of my favorite psalms is Psalm 127. It begins with these words, "Unless the Lord builds the house, they labor in vain who build." Maybe, in the end, that is what we're meant to take from all this. The wise builder situates his house on a rock, but the wisest builder of all is the Rock himself, Jesus Christ, ironically, the stone that the builders rejected.
So this Lent, Lord, you have my attention. I'll stop building my Jaymie's Dream House, and let you tear down the Mc Mansion I've constructed where your temple should be. I'll submit myself -- and not just my work -- as a living stone, and allow you to place me where you want me. I'll make more of an effort to hear you and act on what I hear. And I'll stop trying to stand firm on my own power when the whole world is shaking around me. Instead, I'll run to you, Lord, and seek only this: to dwell in your house always, and to behold the beauty of your face.
Jaymie Stuart Wolfe is a wife and mother of eight children, and a disciple of the spirituality of St. Francis de Sales. She is an inspirational author, speaker, musician and serves as an Associate Children's Editor at Pauline Books and Media.