Pastor Tom & Sinkholes

Pastor Tom was talking about sinkholes. Most of us are familiar with sinkholes since we hear so much about them in downtown Atlanta. Those are the kinds that sometimes swallow trucks and buses. The sinkholes that cause city streets to collapse are usually caused by leaks in water or sewer lines. The water washes away the dirt until there’s nothing left to support the street. Then it all caves in.

During the sermon, Pastor Tom reminded us of the extra time and expense we went through prior to building our new education building. When the original church building was constructed, huge holes were dug and tree stumps and construction debris were buried to avoid the cost of having the stuff hauled away. To be sure our new building was built on solid ground, we had to find and remove the stuff that had been buried.

At that point, my mind wandered. Hopefully it went in the direction the sermon meant for it to go.

I realized that all that buried debris was decaying. Slowly but surely the wood from the tree stumps and scrap lumber was crumbling. If we had built our new foundation without removing the rotting material, it would’ve been just a matter of time before the ground began to sink. Decaying organic material doesn’t take as much space and the weight of everything above it would force a downward movement. Our new education building might have been spiritually built on the rock of faith, but physically, it would’ve been built on “shifting sand”.

My thought processes then moved on to my own soul. How much decaying material have I buried during my life? How much of my past is sitting there below the surface undermining everything I try to do to live a good life?

Short of making a public confession, suffice it to say that I’ve done my share of sinful things. The one thing I will publicly admit to is the mistreatment of my three sons. Rather than make that sort of statement and move on, let me present an explanation.

My first job out of college was as a first grade teacher working with emotionally disturbed youngsters in a mental institution. My class consisted of six children aged eight through fifteen. The typical first grader is six years old. These children were anything but typical.

When I studied the case histories of my children I discovered one common denominator… for whatever reason, their parents never disciplined them. From that moment on I determined that my children would not end up like the ones in the institution. My children would know and understand discipline. They would behave or else.

Well, my sons were well disciplined. They never got into trouble in school or out. They got good grades and became fine young men. So, that part of my plan worked extremely well.

Unfortunately, until the fall of 1984 they never really felt a father’s love. By then, my sons were seventeen, fifteen, and eleven. I changed dramatically as a result of a three-day Christian Renewal weekend, but the years of running roughshod over the boys was not easily forgotten. I’ve apologized to each of them repeatedly and I do so again – publicly.

It’s a shame we don’t get wisdom until it’s too late to avoid our mistakes. There are many other things I’ve said and done over the years that cannot be erased. In some cases I was able to go back to the person I offended and seek forgiveness. In other situations, I’ve totally lost track of the people involved. And I’m sure there are still more occasions where I’ve said or done something and didn’t even know it caused someone pain.

And all of that gets thrown into the pit beneath my soul to fester and molder and eventually create a huge sinkhole of rotten experiences.

Pretty depressing, isn’t it?

That’s when it’s nice to remember that God loves us unconditionally. Martin Luther began the Reformation when he came to realize that we are saved by the grace of God. We don’t need to do anything to earn it. God offers it to us with no strings attached. All we have to do is accept it.

So, that rotting sinkhole beneath my soul can do me no harm because my foundation is built on faith. But, just to be on the safe side, I’m trying not to add anything to the garbage that is already there.

Most likely Pastor Tom will eventually read this article. Hopefully I got the gist of his sermon even if my mind wandered in the middle of it. I’m sure he’ll set me straight if I got the message confused.

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