Saturday, April 24, 2004

Progression and Stucco

In Portugal we used to come across lots of building whose stucco was coming apart. For the first few months this gave all the building their European charm. After a year and a half I started to see them for what they were, decomposing slums. Of course you can either take the romantic or pragmatic view. What they are doesn’t change, only their apparent value.

The outer stucco of these buildings was very hard and brightly colored. Underneath was about 3 inches of a very soft sandy cement facing the brick behind. Once the outer stucco had been punctured, the porous sand underneath would quickly wash away, leaving behind hollow crust. This would quickly bubble and crumble. The erosion would then spread.

I think there are two distinct ways to try and grow. You can build with a foundation of sand or of stone. A foundation of sand is created when we try and “endure to the end”, suppressing consequences that come from living something that is not us. Perhaps it is trying not to watch R rated movies when we still feel like there is a lot to be gained from them. Perhaps it is trying not to play sports on Sunday when that is the only day we can manage to be active. Now there is absolutely nothing wrong with any of these struggles. I would probably say trying to live these ideals is impressive. However, I think what we get from these struggles may not be what we expect.

Many people expect that being able to discover high ideals and then enduring through the struggles that ensue as we try to live up to them is the way we progress in the gospel. I have my doubts about the universality of this idea. To me it is the same as the outer layer of stucco on those Portuguese buildings. If you can keep it together you will be fine. Indeed, you can get a pretty big building covered that way. However, a person walking by with a tiny stick can poke a hole that will erode the entire foundation. “Enduring to the end” shouldn’t be about putting up with the misery of living something that is not you. It shouldn’t be about repression. It should be about sustainability. Not just sustainability for two or three years when “God will take away our trials”. It isn’t about sustainability throughout this life. It is about being able to sustain something eternally. To me, this only happens through the process of becoming or embodiment. In essence it is a long slow process where we actually change who we are and what we want so that there never is an “enduring to the end” in the puritanical sense.

I have seen lots of people in my life with lots of energy go out and reach big goals very quickly. I have also seen lots of them burnout or crumble. Beliefs and doctrines are not another pail of solidifying stucco to apply over an insecure foundation. They are not righteousness. Getting a list of them won’t make you perfect. Getting a list of them and having the fortitude to act them out won’t make you perfect. To me, all it can do is teach the commandments of men but deny the power thereof (JSH 19).