If you asked for terms to describe me, it’s a long-shot to come across the word “builder.” It’s not who I am (at least not in the most literal sense). I’m not especially knowledgeable in such things.
I was recently out in Arizona at a beautiful spot (on the way to the Grand Canyon) where I thought I was taking pictures of this elegant adobe building.
Again, I’m no expert. I just assumed when I saw something like this that I was looking at a solid example of a classic adobe construction. It is a cool building. We weren’t able to go inside, but it looked cool.
It has all of the outward appearance of a traditional adobe building. It’s a time-honored tradition that is a painstaking and deliberate process with very few real shortcuts (as I understand it). It’s something that one might expect to see in a desert.
However… as we were walking around the place we noticed a small hole in one of the walls. Through this small hole we could see the wire mesh that is necessary to coat a building with stucco. Stucco is a different thing entirely. It’s a coating that is often applied in order to provide a relatively durable and unique texture to a building. It’s also pretty common, in these days of convenience, to build structures that look an awful lot like adobe but are much more simply and easily constructed.
That’s fine. But it’s not adobe.
Now, to be clear, there were no signs that indicated to us that this structure was a genuine adobe building. There was no representation of anything different than what we observed. It’s just not what I expected.
As I walked away from this (still very cool-looking) building, it dawned on me that I’ve observed a great number of folks over the years that claimed to be followers of Jesus, but when they began to be cracked by the circumstances of life, the shallow stucco-like veneer of their faith seemed to crumble and fall away. The emptiness underneath seemed to betray the substance of their profession.
I’ve learned a little more since then about the traditional adobe building practices. The sun-baked bricks do, over time, begin to break down and have to be maintained and eventually replaced just as our faith is intended to grow and renew and transform along our journey. But, even when the coating begins to crack and crumble, the solid substance beneath is real.
I wonder what people see of our faith when the inevitable bumps and cracks of life come along. Do they see a veneer that crumbles away or a solid though vulnerable substance beneath?
The apostle Peter wrote of his hope that the believers he was addressing would even rejoice in those cracking and crumbling blows of life “so that the tested genuineness of your faith” would give praise and glory to God on that day when Christ is fully revealed. He said that this genuine faith was “more precious than gold that perishes though it is tested by fire.” (1 Peter 1.6-7)
So… the question is this: is your Christianity a stucco veneer or an enduring adobe work in progress?
If you’d like to talk about how to know the difference, send me an email (firstname.lastname@example.org) and let’s talk.