That’s what my dad would ask little Keith, age single-digits, when he came upon me with my cardboard can of TinkerToys or Lincoln Logs or American Bricks emptied on the floor. Later, in the early double-digit years, he’d ask when I was assembling a grey-and-blue plastic Design-A-Jet or fitting the stud-wall sections inside Design-A-Home or snapping the red cross-braces on Build-A-Bridge. And in the teen years, when I was assembling model railroad buildings or chemical-engine rockets. (Are you surprised that my dad was an engineer?)
“What are you building, son?”
I have those moments with my Matthew. I used to ask him when he played with his Duplo’s and Lego’s. Now I come up behind him when he’s putting together a custom hot rod with his Monster Garage computer game, or a subway with Transit Tycoon, or a railroad with Microsoft Train Simulator.
And I relive those wonderful memories of excitedly telling my dad what I had created when my son Matt tells me all about the bright designs he’s treasured up.
You knew I had to be going somewhere spiritual with this, didn’t you?
Of course. It brings to mind the pictures and video we’ve all seen of the destruction in the Gulf Coast areas, and back beyond that, to the wake of the Indian Ocean tsunami and the terrorist acts of 9/11. All those designs, treasured up by hundreds and thousands of minds over years and decades and even centuries … wiped out. Gone. Obliterated in a moment. No more than a memory – like all my plastic bricks and tree-hung rockets.
And it brings to mind the scenes of people building in the aftermath. No, not huge skyscrapers or luxury oceanside resorts or architectural fantasies. I’m thinking of those who rebuild lives. The ones who sacrifice time, money and muscle to help and provide and host and heal.
Those who rescue. Those who save.
By the grace God has given me, I laid a foundation as an expert builder, and someone else is building on it. But each one should be careful how he builds. For no one can lay any foundation other than the one already laid, which is Jesus Christ. If any man builds on this foundation using gold, silver, costly stones, wood, hay or straw, his work will be shown for what it is, because the Day will bring it to light. It will be revealed with fire, and the fire will test the quality of each man’s work. If what he has built survives, he will receive his reward. If it is burned up, he will suffer loss; he himself will be saved, but only as one escaping through the flames. Don’t you know that you yourselves are God’s temple and that God’s Spirit lives in you? If anyone destroys God’s temple, God will destroy him; for God’s temple is sacred, and you are that temple. – I Corinthians 3:10-17
I have nothing against great buildings, great architecture, even great churches or cathedrals. I have no qualms with living in comfort and having nice toys – whether plastic bricks or computer pixels. They have a use and fulfill a human need. I just need – we all just need – to remember that they’re only temporary.
They may outlast us, but they can’t outlive us.
If my late dad could ask me now, I’d want to answer excitedly: “I’m building a family to carry on your name! I’m building a relationship with God and His Son and His family! I’m trying to build a legacy on a foundation that others can build on! I’m trying to find a way to help – myself; my kids; my church family – build our lives up smart and strong and spiritual and sweet … just the way Jesus grew in wisdom and stature and in favor with God and man!”
I need to remember it all the time, when I’m absorbed in playing with the provisional; when I’m flying after the fleeting; when I’m transfixed by the transitory. I need to remember my heavenly Father is asking me:
“What are you building, son?”