Friday, August 27, 2021

Small Groups are a Sealant


The process of waterproofing a basement can vary from house to house. For some homeowners, the task lasts a mere few days. For others, the battle could drag on for a span of multiple agonizing years. Various factors contribute to the journey, including the craftsmanship of the home’s original builders, the characteristics of the plot of land that the house was built upon, the weather conditions of the area, or even the age of the house.

While my wife and I have not experienced any waterproofing concerns in our time of owning a house, I nonetheless made a bit of extra effort these last few years by sealing the perimeter of our home. While there is a concrete driveway and some concrete slabs that surround the entire perimeter of our house, time has taken its toll on the hardened cement and gaps have emerged. To lessen the amount of water that seeps into the foundation and to help prevent an increasing water table from developing, I decided to purchase and apply self-leveling sealant along the cracks between the house and the adjacent driveway/concrete slabs.

Attending a small group within the church is a bit like waterproofing our homes. A small leak through the basement walls, while tolerable at first, could over time cause more structural and foundational damage to the home. This, in turn, can lead to more cracks, more leaks and more flooding (alongside other concerns such as mold buildup, damage to belongings, or depreciation of the property’s value). Similarly, sinful habits that begin as an occasional occurrence may start small. However, the spiritual reality that we experience on this earth is that the slow fester of sin has the potential to snowball into an uncontrollable force that can lead us to ruin (James 1:15).  

When pouring the sealant, some sections of the perimeter can have small gaps, while other sections may have gaping chasms that need to be filled by rocks and/or sections of backer rod first before proceeding. We can relate, as certain seasons require only a thin line of sealant to cover the gaps in our spiritual lives, whereas other times we find ourselves in need of a drastic overhaul of our behaviors and /or environments in order to recalibrate our relationship with the Lord.

Sealant doesn’t likely come in many colors, and depending on the brick color of the house that we have, pouring a sealant that doesn’t match our home’s colors may end up negatively affecting the curb appeal of the property. Yet just as how it is more important to have a dry basement than a pretty exterior, it is crucial for our souls to have a holy vitality that thrives in the Spirit and is allowed to live free, unburdened by any mold or rot of heart. Even though the driveway may not look as good as the day that the cement was poured and even though our fellow group members see a bit more into our past when we share our hearts, our lives will grow more righteous and we are able to weather the heavier storms of life that would have otherwise flooded our houses.

Yet sealant isn’t forever, and as time passes, cracks begin to emerge. One day when doing yardwork, we are surprised to discover a weed growing out of the tiniest hole that had emerged within the layer of sealant. Indeed, homeowners are well aware of the fact that one’s yardwork is never done and such a weed can serve as an indication that it is time to dig it out and pour some new sealant over the area once again. Similarly, the busyness of the day-to-day can sometimes pull us away from community for a year or two at a time. The weeds that sprout within our lives can serve as key indicators to inform us that it is now once again time to return to fellowship, thereby allowing us to enjoy life with one another as God had intended: in community, nurturing and pursuing transformational relationships with one another as we together give praise and glory to our Savior, Jesus Christ.

Thursday, August 12, 2021

Building Upon a Solid Foundation of Faith


In the first apartment that my wife and I had lived in, there was a basement within the unit where the tenants could do laundry and also access extra storage in their own assigned sections. However, during heavy rains, it was common to find areas of the basement floor covered in a thin layer of water. Our storage section of the basement was especially susceptible to the floods that would occur. Perhaps because the amount of water in the basement wasn’t alarming, our appeals to the apartment complex to address the issue would not yield any results. Nevertheless, we had to do something to protect our belongings within the storage section. As a result, we ended up implementing a strategy where we would place our storage tubs on bricks to elevate them a few inches off of the ground. While such efforts may have been a good strategy in theory, the method was anything but sound. Not only did I have a limited number of bricks, but the bricks that I had in my possession were the smaller kind of decorative bricks that were often used for patios and landscaping. So to protect our belongings with the resources we had, I would artfully balance each tub upon only two smaller-sized decorative bricks. From there, anytime I would stack another tub or box upon one of the base-level tubs, I first had to test the weight of the load and then maneuver the storage bins in such a way where a successful state of balance was achieved within the respective column of bins and boxes.

It’s amusing to reflect upon this now, for I couldn’t tell you why I did not secure our belongings in a more proper manner by simply purchasing a few more bricks for each column of tubs and boxes to rest upon. Perhaps it was my stubborn attitude that believed that nothing bad would happen and that I always keep everything in perfect balance. Now as I look back upon this season of our lives, I can’t help but realize how similar my spiritual journey was to this feeble method of balancing and maneuvering. At the time that my wife and I got married, I was shackled by sinful habits that were impeding my ability to grow more in the Lord. Rather than repenting, I would try to balance both my sin and my faith, believing that my artfully balanced lifestyle would never be at risk of falling over and causing damage to the areas of my life that I highly valued.

But as we get older, life grows more complex, and we end up needing to juggle more responsibilities and needing to care for more individuals. If my wife and I would have continued to live in that first apartment, we would have inevitably acquired more stuff and would have needed to stack the storage bins higher. And if I continued to use my shaky foundation of small bricks, it would have only been a matter of time before everything would have crashed to the ground and gotten damaged by the next batch of water that would have leaked into the basement. Such a scenario reminds me of James, who says in his epistle, “after desire has conceived, it gives birth to sin; and sin, when it is full-grown, gives birth to death” (1:15). Indeed, whether it is a slow decay or a sudden event, spiritual and/or physical death is the inevitable result of leading a sin-soaked life; in hindsight, I believe that this was in fact the path that I was living on.

If we layer and stack our lives upon a shaky foundation of faith, the slightest nudge can tip the balance of the storage bins of our lives and the contents of our heart can become damaged. Is such damage irreparable? It’s tough to predict the scope of the hurt that we will carry with us. Similar to a book that absorbs water into some or all of its pages, it will never look or feel the same again (even after the pages once again become dry). Too, a heart that is ravaged by sin may be able to forgive and be forgiven, but the scar tissue remains and the past can come back to disrupt our emotions when we least expect it. For me and my situation, I gratefully praise God. Even though I will not be perfect and even though there is some scar tissue, I know that I am saved and the sins that used to impede my relationship with Him have been given over to the Lord and He has since declared victory in my life. I share this with hope and pray that you too may encounter the incredible person of Jesus and continue to develop a close relationship with Him. Grace and peace from our Lord Jesus Christ, amen.