What we are building

What we are building

The man on the corner looks like yet another urban panhandler.

“Excuse me, sir,” he says as I pass him by. He’s roughly my age, slightly stooped, wearing a faded jacket. I slow, incredulous.

“Do you know where the bus stop is?” he asks. I tell him I don’t, that I’m not from Norfolk. He answers, “Oh, okay. It’s just that I have short-term memory loss and I can’t figure out where I am.”

That stops me. “Well,” I say, pulling out my phone, “Google ought to be able help.” Within seconds we have a map, but I know I have to accompany him. I can’t just give him directions.

As we walk, he talks about his condition. “Yeah, it’s a genetic thing,” he tells me. “My mother and brother have it, too. I figure in three years I’ll be in a nursing home. And I hate the thought of ending up there.”

When we are within a block from our destination, he says he wants to go on alone. I shake his hand and wish him luck.

But, walking back to my hotel, his hopelessness haunts me.

I am pondering this thing we call hope. How does it shape us? How does it drive us? Paul says in 1 Timothy 4:10 that hope is the energy that fuels our efforts:

For to this end we toil and strive, because we have our hope set on the living God, who is the Savior of all people, especially of those who believe.

The verse makes me think of the shipyard. Earlier in the afternoon, I stood at the waterfront, amazed at the size of the battleships being constructed. I wonder how many hundreds of workers such a task requires.

Hope thrives when we know we are building something great -- our small parts adding into a grander purpose. Another word for hope might be anticipation. We anticipate the unveiling of this greater good. When we have a clear picture of the goal, the hard work is purposeful, imbued with this anticipation. Down another street, I catch a glimpse of the finished product (now a part of a naval museum) and the majesty of it, towering over the harbor, is inspiring. Even to me, who had no part in the making of it.

What we are building, fellow believer, is far more impressive than a battleship. We are helping to assemble the very kingdom of the living God. We may be constructing conversations rather than sheet-metal hulls, but it should be no less riveting. Our anticipation of that grandeur to be revealed should keep our hearts engaged.

In the lobby of my hotel, I find an astounding sculpture. Called The Tree of Life, it stands floor to ceiling – a tumbling mass of hand-carved figures, meant to capture the life of the Tanzanian village that created it. Made entirely out of ebony – wood so dense and hard that it sinks in water – the sculpture took the villagers nearly a decade to complete.

Something so magnificent requires a great deal of “toil and striving.”

But the glory to be revealed gives us hope.

O God, you are building something magnificent. And you permit us to be a part of it. Give us a vision of the grandeur of your coming kingdom that we may be filled with hope and eager anticipation for its revealing.

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Bruce Van Patter

As a freelance illustrator, graphic recorder, and author, Bruce is on a lifelong journey to delight in the handiwork of the Creator. And he’s always ready for fellow travelers.