The recent earthquake in California has been replaying on TV. Video of Judge Judy's court being shaken shows dramatically how everyday life can be going along as normal, when suddenly everything changes. In the clip, the people in the room look around. I thought about that-- how surprised and alarmed they were-- confused by this completely unexpected event.
Luckily, no one was hurt, and after the broken bottles are swept up and the cans of tuna are put back on the store shelves, life will return to the way it was. Or will it?
One news reporter made the important observation that though this earthquake was not serious, it serves as a wake-up call for people living in that region who have not felt an earthquake for 15 years! Some teenagers shopping in a mall there had never before felt the ground shake.
It's easy to get complacent in this life. When we are richly blessed for a long time, I think we can grow to expect that ease and pleasantness to go on indefinitely. My life was pleasant and virtually idyllic for about 17 years before the "ground shook." My family and I lost our home and our possessions to a natural disaster of water damage and toxic black mold. It was a wake up call for me, as I carried a black trash bag of my clothes between hotels, apartments, family, and hospitable friends. My health was also affected. Suddenly the reliability of feeling well and the security of home weren't constants anymore.
We're lucky in life if we get circumstances like that which remind us that this life is not safe or stable. It's funny for me to write that because it's not how I instinctively feel in my flesh. I naturally cry out for my old home. I think of the "good ole days" when my family was happily going on 2 vacations a year, and life ran like clockwork. It hurts when I want to reach for a memento from childhood or when I fight the chronic limitations of my body, caused by the devastation so many years ago. But looking biblically at the nature of a crisis, it becomes quickly apparent that like a siren, pain sounds loudly to remind us of the temporal nature of our earthly lives and the eternal nature of our future.
"Now we know that if the earthly tent we live in is destroyed, we have a building from God, an eternal house in heaven, not built by human hands. "
(2 Corinthians 5:1)
Nothing on this earth is permanent. Not our homes or our cars. Not our physical bodies, our photo albums, or even the very ground we stand upon. We're told not to place our trust or confidence in the stuff of this earth.
"Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy, and where thieves break in and steal. But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where moth and rust do not destroy, and where thieves do not break in and steal."
When the "certain" things of my life shake, and I'm left looking around alarmed and confused, can or should I ever go back to living the same way I once did before the quake?
The reporter on the news claimed that we shouldn't. When the earth shakes, we need to sit up and take notice. We need to make an action plan and prepare for a more cataclysmic emergency. Where we place our treasure, where we build our house, what we focus our lives pursuing-- these determine our plan of action. When our life's purpose is obeying Christ Jesus, we have the unshakable, eternal emergency plan:
"Therefore everyone who hears these words of mine and puts them into practice is like a wise man who built his house on the rock. The rain came down, the streams rose, and the winds blew and beat against that house; yet it did not fall, because it had its foundation on the rock."
After all, the "Big One" will eventually come. With an authoritative tone, seismologists declare it with certainty. With the same surety and confidence, the Bible declares Christ will come back. We don't know the day or the hour, but these quakes and aftershocks in our lives serve as powerful reminders not to get too cozy here, not to return to our old oblivious way of life.
But the day of the Lord will come like a thief. The heavens will disappear with a roar; the elements will be destroyed by fire, and the earth and everything in it will be laid bare.
(2 Peter 3:10)
Will you be ready?
When he comes back at an hour no one knows, will you have built your house on the unshakable Rock of Jesus Christ?