Given the glorious summer we have enjoyed this year, I decided to take advantage of the good weather and paint the decking behind our house. Of course, before I could apply a new coat or two of paint I had to remove the now fading paint that someone had carefully applied years previously. It seemed too big a job to tackle with sand paper. The answer seemed to be a wire brush.
I had seen my grandfather on many occasions use his wire brush to great effect. So off I went to look for my wire brush. I soon realised that I only thought I had one, in fact the one that I thought I had was just a mental picture of the one my grandfather used. Next stop, therefore, B&Q . I soon had my own wire brush. And I was soon stripping the paint of the decking in the summer sun.
It was so satisfying to be working outside. And even the tiredness, when the task was almost completed, somehow felt good.
A few days later I had some time off and went back to finish the job. My neighbour happened to be out in his garden. He is a very kind neighbour, certainly not a know it all type of person. So when he said that his friend who does landscaping, removed paint from decking with a pressure washer, I had to listen. A pressure washer would do the job in a fraction of the time and with a lot less energy.
Initially I declined the offer of his pressure washer. The wire brush was better. But careful consideration over a lunch break brought me to repentance. A pressure washer was about to consign the cherished wire brush to the scrap heap of history.
We all are inclined to hold on to the past. This isn’t something that is peculiar to people in mid-life, like me, or to older people. It can affect us all. “But it’s the way we’ve always done it” locks both the present and the future into the past.
It’s not necessarily that the way we have always done it is wrong. (There are “ways that we have always done it” that are harmful, even sinful, but that is another story). It’s just that life changes. And while God never changes, the challenge that He sets before us today isn’t exactly the same as yesterday or the last generation and won’t be the same for tomorrow or the next generation.
Hebrews 11 is for me one of the most fascinating passages in the whole of the Bible. Fascinating on different levels. One aspect of it that fascinates me is that everyone who is commended for their faith expressed that faith by doing something unique. There are no repeat performances.
Enoch walks with God. Noah builds an ark. Abraham leaves his home, believes God for a son and then almost sacrifices him. Moses parts the Red Sea. Rahab hides the spies. All different. Their God was the same. But the need was different. The crisis different. The opportunity for faith different. And different requires a different response.
Can you imagine what would have happened if they had all tried tried to do what their predecessors had done? Noah might not have got into a building project because he just wanted to walk with God like Enoch. Rahab might have thought God was calling her to leave Jericho. Abraham might have tried to build an ark – or better still Moses might have tried to build an ark to cross the Red Sea!
Of course, none of that happened. Because each recognised what God was saying in his or her day.
How that applies to you only you can determine. It does mean that we need to allow God to speak, whether through the Bible, others or His quiet voice within us. Or even just through what is going on around us. We need to hear, so to speak, a voice from the “other side of the garden fence” that brings us fresh perspective and enables us to respond to what God is saying and doing in our day.