My father had me later in life. By the time I was a teenager, he was well into his sixties. When I was about eleven years old, he had an acute pancreatitis, which almost took his life. He survived it, not without making it very clear to my young mind that he was mortal, and that one day, sooner or later, he would not be around. Sadly, his health was never the same as before (he used to go on long hiking adventures), which kept my fears on high alert. After all, he was my mentor, my safe place and my best friend. The possibility of losing him very much felt like the end of all good things.
This fear of losing my father caused me to have a difficult relationship with new year’s eve celebrations. While growing up, we spent many of them together, some at church parties and some others at home, surrounded by board games and snacks, waiting for the clock to announce the arrival of a new year. Every one of those celebrations, I looked at the 365 days behind me and felt thankful that my dad and I had made it through alive and well. On the other hand, I feared the unknown of the new batch of 365 days and wondered if we would survive them together. Alas, in 2019, I celebrated my first new year’s eve without him.
Since then, I’ve had to learn to live as a husband, father, friend and pastor while grieving his absence. To be honest, I am still learning. Some days are easy, and some, especially those nearing the time he passed, are hard. Yet, as I keep moving forward, something fascinating is beginning to happen. I am growing increasingly aware of his love for me. I am realizing how intentional he was about loving me, and my mom, and how passionate he was about imitating Jesus as he loved us. By surrounding me with such love, day in and day out, he built a home around me, thus modeling how I could one day do the same for my loved ones.
Don’t get me wrong. I fail often. Because of it, I get impatient with myself, and there is a whole choir of voices in my mind that tell me that I’ll never get that home built. When this happens, God reminds me that my father never built that home out of his own wisdom and strength. He was not working solo, nor was he the mastermind behind the building project. He was building our home with Jesus, the only true Master Builder. The very one who promised to “prepare a place” (John 14:3) for my dad and I, and for you as well, so that where He is, we “may be” as well. When I understand this, and keep remembering it, I do not fear the passing of time as much as I did before. Instead of seeing new year’s eve festivities as a ticking bomb, liable to blow up my home at any point, I see it as an opportunity to continue following the Master’s lead. Why? Because homes built by and with Him do not suffer the passing of time.
Here is my challenge to myself, and to you, this coming year: empty your hands of fear, give them to God, and take the tools He gives you to follow his lead and keep building, or rebuilding, your home. Why not see 2024 as an opportunity for Him to survey the ruins of your heart, and rebuild the home He always intended for you to live in? Why not let him strengthen your foundations and fill your walls and ceilings with warmth, shelter, beauty and life? Is there something better, or wiser, to do with our time than that? Is there a better Builder than He who promises to build a home, and an entire Kingdom, that will last forever (1 King 5)?
Here is my new year’s resolution. You can make it yours, if you want. I won’t mind. I want Jesus to build my home, the very same one He began to build with my father. This 2024, I want my house to be built upon the rock. My friend, may this year be everything God wants it to be for you and for me!