It’s August, a month for personal remembering. The one year anniversary of completing cancer treatment and ringing the bell just passed. I’m also coming to what would have been my 47th wedding anniversary next week. The memories of my time and relationship with my husband, and the trial of health issues have rightly become part of my foundation, of the core of who I am. The season I find myself in reminds me of the return of the exiles to Jerusalem, and their monumental task of rebuilding the Temple.
When the builders laid the foundation of the temple of the Lord, the priests in their vestments and with trumpets, and the Levites… took their places to praise the Lord, as prescribed by David king of Israel. With praise and thanksgiving they sang to the Lord: “He is good; his love toward Israel endures forever.” And all the people gave a great shout of praise to the Lord, because the foundation of the house of the Lord was laid. But many of the older priests and Levites and family heads, who had seen the former temple, wept aloud when they saw the foundation of this temple being laid, while many others shouted for joy. Ezra 3:10-12 NIV
There was much rejoicing at the rebuilding of the Temple, the laying of a new foundation for a place to worship the God of Israel. There were also those who had seen the grandeur of Solomon’s Temple, and they knew this was a much smaller, less impressive edifice. There was actually grieving in the midst of joy, and that was okay.
David speaks of God’s faithfulness in Psalm 30, a prophetic song of hope and praise composed for the dedication of the original Solomon’s Temple, which came to pass after his death:
I will exalt you, Lord, for you rescued me. You refused to let my enemies triumph over me. O Lord my God, I cried to you for help, and you restored my health. You brought me up from the grave, O Lord. You kept me from falling into the pit of death. Sing to the Lord, all you godly ones! Praise his holy name. For his anger lasts only a moment, but his favor lasts a lifetime! Weeping may last through the night, but joy comes with the morning. When I was prosperous, I said, “Nothing can stop me now!” Your favor, O Lord, made me as secure as a mountain. Then you turned away from me, and I was shattered. I cried out to you, O Lord. I begged the Lord for mercy, saying, “What will you gain if I die, if I sink into the grave? Can my dust praise you? Can it tell of your faithfulness? Hear me, Lord, and have mercy on me. Help me, O Lord.” You have turned my mourning into joyful dancing. You have taken away my clothes of mourning and clothed me with joy, that I might sing praises to you and not be silent. O Lord my God, I will give you thanks forever!
So as I contemplate the foundation of my life, and the many things that have contributed to the solid foundation, it seems like this temple, all of who I am, is getting smaller. As life ebbs and wanes, the things that were important, the actual mere fluff, are slowly being removed, and what remains is more simple. I’m finding that if my foundation is truly built upon the rock, Christ Jesus, there’s not going to be a lot of shiny, impressive stones. What’s going to be my foundation is His character, and what He has done in and through me is the edifice that’s being built. It seems like the building, the temple, that is rising up is more streamlined, and hopefully is looking more and more like Him. In the end I’m finding that His way is much more simple than anything I ever imagined or dreamed.
Jeremiah, written around the same time of the return from exile, says: Thus says the Lord: “Stand in the ways and see, And ask for the old paths, where the good way is, And walk in it; Then you will find rest for your souls. But they said, ‘We will not walk in it.’ Jeremiah 6:16 NIV
This was God’s invitation to a life built on His Shalom presence, but their answer was, “no, we will not walk in it.” I am called today to make that same choice. The rebuilding work is costly, a giving up of my ways for His and a trust that He only plans good for me, no matter what I can see ahead. There are many “ways” but only one “Way”. His Way is unshakable, dependable, but also unknown and risky to my safe-loving reasoning. It leads me to the ultimate place that my soul wants to dwell, the heart of my Father God.
So I’ll give space for remembering the times I have been held close on dark days, and the bright times of love and joy with Him. He is making me a living temple of God, and His building plans are only good.