Running diagonally through our yard is a low stone wall. This stone wall runs through our yard and across through our neighbor’s yard, and back through the woods surrounded by trees that are old, but are still younger than the wall itself. It is not one of those stone walls you see nowadays which are carefully constructed to look neat, tidy and impressive to the neighbors. No, this is one of those rambling, almost haphazard, stone walls that was probably constructed to keep the sheep in and the neighbor’s sheep out.
Some days when the summer’s heat has rolled in I find myself sweating in the yard trying to maintain my small patch of green carved out from among the trees, and I wonder about that stone wall. How many hands were involved in its construction? I consider the probability that there were several generations of men who worked those fields and slowly, painstakingly built the wall as they farmed the fields and unearthed the stones. I imagine the boys working alongside their fathers, trying to impress the men by lifting the stones that are a little too heavy for them, but doing it anyway because it built their manhood.
For fourteen and a half years I have been called the pastor of New Life. In that time I’ve worked alongside some incredibly faithful, devoted followers of Jesus to build up his church in this place. There have been folks who were here unearthing stones and rolling them into place long before I arrived. Others have come at various moments during my time here and have done some fairly heavy lifting right next to me. Some are still here, others have, for various reasons, moved on and labored in other fields with other churches.
I used to be impatient with this process, imagining that we had to build a neat, tidy, and impressive stone wall in a short period of time. Sometimes people have picked up rocks that were too heavy for them, and ended up dropping them. Other times they have picked up boulders that were far above their capacity and have found God’s grace has given them strength that they didn’t know they had.
I think we have managed to build something here that reminds me of that stone wall running through my yard. It’s not the most polished church on the planet. There are moments when it looks less than impressive, and yet through it all I am grateful to be working in this field, rolling these stones onto our shoulders, putting them in place, and inch by inch building a community that will endure.
And in the process I wonder what will happen through us for the generations to come. I wonder (and pray, and hope) that what we do here will be standing long after I am gone. I hope that my great-grandchildren will look at this one day and appreciate the labor that has gone into this. I hope that it will stand, in all of its simple glory, as a testament to the work of generations of people who didn’t set out to impress others, but to accomplish the divine and noble purpose of declaring God’s glory to every generation.