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Trust in the true master builder

| Thursday, February 13, 2014

Growing up, it would be no exaggeration to say that I liked to be in control. As the self-appointed chair of the Boyle brothers’ playtime schedule, I would not only dictate what games we would play to fill our summer days, but also the rules of this aforementioned recreation time.

Although I was always the self-appointed scorekeeper, referee and rulebook maker, I was particularly serious when it came to my rulebook responsibilities. Any game we played had to proceed according to my guidelines. In my head, all of my rules were excellent, completely fair and totally faithful to the spirit of the games we played.

Ask anyone in my family, though, and they would no doubt tell you a different story. For some reason, there was a large chasm between the way these rules sounded in my head and the way I chose to unveil them. The same rules I thought I had unveiled at the beginning of these games never seemed to manifest themselves except at the times I most needed them. To make a long story short, it usually wasn’t long before tempers flared and the game that had looked so wonderful in my head actually ended in tears.
Deep down I dreamed of so much more. I longed to make others happy. I wanted to design a game that we could play over and over, something that us kids could come back to and say, “That was really great!”

And nothing has really changed since I was little. I continue to long for the gratification that comes from designing or building. Truth be told, I’ve long wished I had the skills to be an architect or a craftsman, someone who could build great structures or bring intricate pieces of handiwork into existence. Friends of mine in this line of work often relay the great satisfaction that comes from seeing the fruits of their labors reach completion.

Unfortunately, I’m not particularly handy. But I’ve never stopped trying to dream of ways to make others happy. Now, the words of the Bible have become my materials and the world my canvas.

But it’s all too easy to compare my work in ministry and teaching with the work of those architects or craftsmen. More often than not, I have to fight the urge and frustration that comes when I think about the fact that most times, I will never get to see the “finished product” of my work. Most times, I’ll never know  — in the present — whether my conversations or work with students will make an impact, whether it will help build them up into the people God has destined them to be.

And chances are that — regardless of profession — many of us have shared these sentiments at one moment or another. We long to see the results of our labor. We want to see the fruits of our accomplishments.

But Henri Nouwen once said, “The art of living is to enjoy what we can see and not complain about what remains in the dark. When we are able to take the next step with the trust that we will have enough light for the step that follows, we can walk through life with joy and be surprised at how far we go. Let’s rejoice in the little light we carry and not ask for the great beam that would take all shadows away.”

And perhaps that’s precisely it. The shadows, the doubting and the questioning as to whether we made a difference will always be there. We cannot take those away. But here, the words of Mother Teresa strike me: “God does not call us to be successful, only faithful.”

God is the only light that can ultimately take these shadows away. But we, as Mother Teresa reminds us, are called to be faithful. And we will, through our trust in God, reflect his light amidst the darkness. God has given us his word so that we can be “the light of the world” and “the city on a hill.” And we must continue to be faithful to that word if we are to make our way in an uncertain world.

Yes, we may be uncertain of the end results, of the fruits of our labors. But luckily for us, the burden doesn’t rest solely on our shoulders. As Bishop Kenneth Edward Untener said, “We may never see the end results. But that is the difference between the master builder and the worker. We are workers, not master builders, ministers, not messiahs. We are prophets of a future not our own.”

Let’s really put our faith in the true master builder. Christ promised us that he is the “Way, the Truth and the Life.” Why not leave the rest up to him?

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