Tuesday, July 22, 2008

The Pipeline

This summer my husband and I spent a week at a local teen camp. It was there that I saw a team building exercise involving PVC pipe and marbles. The pipes had been cut in half lengthwise so that they were a half circle instead of a complete tube. Each individual was given an eight to ten inch section of pipe. As a team, they were to hold their pipes together to form a long channel on which a marble could travel. Each team was given the challenge to start a marble at the beginning of their pipeline and keep their pipes positioned so that the marble safely travels along the channel of pipes and children all the way to the end of the line where it drops into a bucket. They had to get five marbles into their bucket. It sounds simple, but in fact it took quite a lot of time. Someone would move and their pipe would be jostled causing the marble to fly over the edge or drop to the ground. What gripped my heart as I watched these teens--young, full of life and determined to see five marbles land in their rusted coffee can--is that we are holding the pipes for them. They are the marbles. What we do with our lives very often plays a significant role in what happens to them. Don't miss that. What we do affects the lives of those who come after us. Sure, we know that. In theory. But here's the thing--practically speaking, I believe we often forget it. Does it really matter if I faithfully attend church? Is it that important that I continue reading my Bible daily? What's the big deal if my prayer life is virtually non-existent? Who's gonna know? Who's gonna care if I get drunk when I go on vacation? No one's going to know me when I'm on holidays. Every single time we decide it's okay to let this or that slip we are in effect dropping our pipe. We don't know who's coming down the line when we drop our pipe. And we don't know who's life may fall because we decided to sit down a while. Our lives are not islands--singular episodes on the universe. They are attached to God's purposes and therefore are connected in some way to every single individual God will ever create. That's a staggering thought. Overwhelming. If we are created by God then we are a part of His eternal plan for all mankind and therefore there is not one moment in our lives that does not eventually play out on a grand scale. What we do with our pipe matters. When I consider my humble place in the world I almost laugh at the thought that my life affects those outside of my very intimate circle of family and friends. I'm no Billy Graham or Martin Luther after all. And yet it could be that a young Billy Graham was at the very camp where I cheered as marbles plunked into buckets. I once heard a quote I've never forgotten: what we do in moderation our children will do in excess. How true. If I occasionally blow up in anger it is very likely my children will do it regularly. If I occasionally watch inappropriate movies, it is probable that my children will be comfortable watching entertainment that doesn't glorify God often. If I let my pipe drop on the weekends, my children will likely take four day weekends and their children will probably not even pick their pipes up until Sunday. You see what I'm saying, right? Galatians 6:7-9 is perhaps one of the most critical passages in scripture for believers. "Do not be deceived, God will not be made a fool. For a person will reap what he sows, because the person who sows to his own flesh will reap corruption from the flesh, but the one who sows to the Spirit will reap eternal life from the Spirit. So we must not grow weary in doing good, for in due time we will reap, if we do not give up." Powerful words for those contemplating the importance of holding up a pipe that seems cumbersome and exhausting. Powerful words for the lady who's arms have grown weak and who's heart is no longer in it. Powerful words for the person who believes their life is theirs alone--and what they do will not have outer reaching consequences. Satan has won a great victory the day he convinces a believer that what they do with their life will have little to no affect on the lives of those around them. That's a lie and too often, we believe it. We will reap the seeds we sow. Seeds of diligence will bring about a harvest that reflects a life of diligence. Seeds of faithfulness will reap a harvest revealing a life lived faithfully. Seeds of sporadic worship will yield sporadic results. What this is not saying is that if we obey God we will have perfect lives. On the contrary, we may have trouble--Jesus told us we would have trouble in this world. But, if we do not grow weary in obeying the God of the universe we will see a harvest in due time. In moments when we are weary--when following God seems like more effort than fun, when obeying God seems like a waste of time--we must know that there are still more people coming down the line. We must stand firm and hold out because when we drop, others do too. In this life we may never know who came behind us, but when we get to eternity I believe we will discover our lives affected millions in the end. The question then is how will our lives have affected those who came after? It very well could be my children following behind and oh, how I pray they find us all faithful. If, my friend, I could look you square in the face, I'd take your hands in mine and say emphatically. "Hold on. Keep going. Your life matters. Don't give up. God's plan for your life is magnificent and every single day that you persevere on this journey is a day that has eternal impact." God, strengthen our arms, lift up our heads, give us endurance for this journey that we would not grow weary. God empower us with your everlasting arms as we try to stand steady in our walk with you. May we see how ours are lives that will touch those around us. May we be found faithful. In Jesus' name.

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