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26 June 2022
Spending time to discover what really matters
Words Phil Inglis
One hundred years ago, the builders of my parents’ home thought that they were building with strong foundations – large sandstone blocks sitting on hard clay.
What they didn’t know was that the ‘hard’ clay expands greatly in wet weather and then shrinks again in drought. It wasn’t long before cracks started to appear in the brickwork.
One year, after a particularly wet season, my parents discovered that the foundation underneath a section of our house was no longer supporting the wall properly, and the wall was in danger of collapse. Engineers and builders were called in to place piers under the wall, making the foundation solid.
A similar process is often required in our thought life. Sometimes what we thought was solid ground just isn’t. The world shifts and changes in unexpected ways, and we find our walls cracking and coming apart. Sometimes these world-shifting events are things that happen to us, a terrible medical diagnosis or the death of someone we know and love.
Sometimes, world-shifting events happen to other people – we see political upheaval, war and violence, and it unsettles us. At times like this, whether it is war, pandemic or personal upheaval, it is important to examine the foundational beliefs of our lives – foundations that may have been put in place many years ago.
These foundational beliefs underpin what we believe to be true about ourselves, the world and God, but are they truly built on the rock or on some hard clay that looks like rock?
In more recent years, as people buy land in my parents’ neighbourhood, they begin the building process by spending a huge amount of money excavating all the clay. This allows them to put their foundations on firmer ground – not to mention the benefit of ending up with a large underground car park. Digging out the clay is a huge expense and a lot of effort, but the result is a house that doesn’t shift and crack after rain or drought.
From time to time, it becomes important to inspect the foundational beliefs of our lives. The basic assertions that underpin what we believe to be true about ourselves, the world and God.
As time marches on, as storms come and go, as dry seasons come and go, we can find that parts of our foundational belief structure are not as secure as we once thought. Beliefs we have not questioned for years are starting to show cracks, and we have to unlearn some of our most basic assumptions. As a Salvos officer (pastor), it has been my privilege to sit with people as they re-examine some of the things they thought were important and watch them ‘dig out the clay’.
In modern church speak, this kind of process is called deconstructing, and it’s a fantastic exercise. The only problem is that, like digging through clay, it’s a difficult process, it is time-consuming, energy-sapping, and many people find themselves giving up before they find the bedrock. Some think that maybe the rock isn’t there. Some maybe think it just isn’t worth it.
I want to assure you that, spiritually, the bedrock is there, even if it seems you may have a lot of clay and crud to remove. Perhaps you might consider contacting a trusted local faith leader and discuss faith and any questions you might have and maybe even follow it up by spending some time reading or learning to pray. The truth is, if you spend the time required, ‘digging out the clay’ will set you on a firm foundation.
Major Phil Inglis is a Salvation Army officer (pastor) in Victoria.