For the Lord will not cast off forever, but, though he cause grief, he will have compassion according to the abundance of his steadfast love; for he does not willingly afflict or grieve the children of men. -- Lamentations 3:31-33
Tuesday, September 30, 2014
Tamp 'Em Up Solid
I talk about my nephew quite a bit. I have several nephews and nieces, both by blood and by marriage. My nephew M. is more like a younger brother. My sister’s husband died suddenly a few weeks before their son’s fourth birthday. I was there within minutes after my brother-in-law collapsed. There was nothing anyone could do. It was his third heart attack. My sister never remarried, and I always tried to be a big brother to M., but Dad was his father figure. Dad could have let his grandson sit on the couch and watch television, but he loved him too much for that. He knew that a spoiled child has, in the long run, a greater risk and a much harder time than one who is disciplined and toughened by labor and toil.
One of the reasons M. and I are so close is that we were both close to Dad. He taught us most everything we know that matters in life. Like how to dig a posthole. A properly formed posthole should be, on these Ozark ridges, a minimum of 32 inches deep, only slightly larger in diameter than the post. It should be bigger at the bottom that it is at the top, and, with a good tamper, all the dirt and rocks you took out should go back in, with perhaps room for a little more. In theory. In practice, there is this thing called hardpan, a layer of clay and God only knows what that is too hard to get a shovel point into and too soft to chip. I would rather break through a foot of solid rock than an inch of hardpan.
M. was here the other day, and we went out to the barn. I pulled out a long steel bar and handed it to him, asking if he recognized it. He laughed and said, “You’d be pounding on that hardpan with this bar, and it would just thud and bounce, and Granddad would say, ‘That’s the way. You’re goin’ ever lick.’” Sure. When you did get the hole emptied, it was time to tamp, which is in some ways worse, especially when it was either too wet or too dry. We complained plenty, but we never thought Dad was doing that merely to have something for us to do. There was a purpose, and everybody ought to do something to earn their beans.
Good parents such as I had do not torment their children or willingly cause them to suffer and grieve. What they do is intended to, as the Bible says, reprove, rebuke, and correct. We are not born into this world knowing how everything works. As we develop physically, we grow in knowledge, wisdom, and understanding – or we ought to.
Jeremiah was a witness to many horrors and much destruction. The prophet suffered greatly himself and was repeatedly persecuted by his own people. His warnings were ignored and ridiculed. There were times when he despaired. His lament reflects the ruthlessness of the enemy and the terror, dread, and anguish that descended upon the inhabitants of Jerusalem. Yet, in spite of all the turmoil, death, and agony, Jeremiah remained confident in the goodness of God, in His mercy, love, and kindness.
The Lord did not willingly allow His people, His children to suffer affliction. Over and over, the Father offered escape and reprieve. Over and over, His children rejected Him, stopped their ears to His pleas, and closed their eyes to the spiritual price of the degeneracy and degradation in which they indulged.
God could spare us from every difficulty. Instead, He challenges us according to our strength and our degree of development. He pushes us a little, enough to show us that we can be stronger, that we can endure, that we can achieve and do what we would have thought impossible. If we go astray, it is the love of God that hastens to correct us. It is up to us whether we will be gently guided by the eye of the Lord or more roughly redirected by a long-shanked bit in the mouth or a cruel hook in the jaw.