The Comfort of Concrete

It’s Spring in the Ozarks and that means thunderstorms and tornado warnings. When the storms come my children will comfort themselves beneath their warm blankets and clutch their fuzzy stuffies. They do this because they are children and they don’t know any better. They don’t know that the only thing their blankets can provide is a feeling, and feelings won’t keep you safe in the storm. My comfort comes from the cold hard concrete to which the framing of our house is fastened. And when I daily drive across Lake Springfield I take comfort in the concrete pillars that hold up my car.

Tailwaters Access (Springfield City Utilities) | MDC Discover Nature
Tail waters access, Lake Springfield

It may sound strange to get comfort from concrete, but the Scripture is replete with this imagery. Instead of concrete, it uses “rock”. Jesus tells us to build our lives on a Rock so that our house won’t collapse when the storms of life come (Matt 7:24-27). The Rock are the words that He speaks. When David feels like his steps are leading him to the pit he cries out “O Lord, my rock!” (Psalm 28:1) There is comfort in the Rock.

But we live in a juvenile world run by feelings, and so people cling to their blankets. Blankets do not save when the storms rage.

Two weeks ago – has it really been two weeks? – we were grief stricken. We were at our most vulnerable. There was no veil between us and the raw reality of Penny’s death. The doctor who delivered Penny and the head of the MFM clinic both offered words of consolation. “What” I wondered “will they say to us at this moment?” After they spoke, I wondered “Is this really the best they have to offer?”

Worldly wisdom is like a fuzzy blanket: it targets the feelings, but it could not keep us safe in the storm. In the end I interrupted the first doctor as he spoke and in retrospect, I wish I had kicked the second one out of the room. One of the less egregious but sillier things she said was “You can tell your children that instead of a baby, God gave you an angel.” I wanted to ask her if as a medical doctor or as a theologian she knew the difference between a human and an angel. Their words were untethered from any sort of truth and evoked the melancholy of a balloon floating away from the hands of a crying child. They were offering us what they could but they were ignorant of the great Consolation we already possessed.

What is getting us through the storm is the Truth we are standing on. Out of the abyss of death it rises up and while the storm rages above, our feet are sure and steady. Because we knew what and how to think, we could face our trial. Because we know the Truth, we can let our feelings serve us instead of mastering us. Truth may be terrifying, but it is never our enemy. “You shall know the Truth, and the Truth shall set you free.” (John 8:32) Behind all the gory realities of the world sinners have marred is the glorious God of creation and redemption, who is merciful, gracious, slow to anger, and abounding in steadfast love.

When I spoke at Penny’s funeral, I held a Bible in my hand. I had thought about choosing a passage of Scripture to read, but I could never decide on one because I could only speak out of the totality of its message: the beauty of God’s creation and the image of God in man / the bitterness of sin and the death it brings to all / the love of God in sending Jesus to die in our place / the hope of the Resurrection / the surpassing weight of glory that lies ahead. These truths are anchors for the soul.

But I would not have you to be ignorant, brethren, concerning them which are asleep, that ye sorrow not, even as others which have no hope. For if we believe that Jesus died and rose again, even so them also which sleep in Jesus will God bring with him.

1 Thessalonians 5:13-15

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