My Dad purchased his first brand-new car in 1980. It was a Datsun 200B station wagon in a burnt orange colour that was hard to miss. True to form, Dad didn’t buy the top-of-the- range vehicle (which would have been showing off); nor did he buy the bottom level (because resale might be affected). Instead he chose the model in the middle and gave it to my mother, which was also true to form – to buy his first new car for his wife and not himself.
Mum was a good Christian woman. Most days we listened to Kenneth Copeland tapes in the car. (Kenneth Copeland was an American evangelist and a firm favourite of Mum’s at the time.) Mum loved Jesus. She also loved peace and harmony and had always wanted a daughter. But God had seen it fit to bless Mum with three sons, who lived up to all the stereotypes about boys, which meant that peace and harmony were things that generally only happened in our absence.
One day, Mum was driving down the street in suburban Sydney in her new car with her three boys. I was thirteen at the time and, as the eldest, my place was in front. My two brothers Simon and Matthew (whom we nicknamed Chuck) were seated in the back. Six-year-old Chuck was Mum’s favourite child – the adorable and sensitive youngest son, who could do no wrong. I have to admit though that Chuck was genuinely a sweet kid. He was a real peacemaker, who didn’t misbehave or fly off the handle.
On this day, however, unbeknownst to the rest of us, dark clouds had gathered on the horizon of Chuck’s little six-year-old heart and a storm was brewing. One moment he appeared to be calmly looking out the window, enjoying the scenery and minding his own business. But he must have been seething on the inside, because next thing he burst out and said the absolutely worst word he knew …
He’d said it tentatively at first, just loud enough for Mum to hear him, as he tested the waters. Slightly shocked and not sure if she’d imagined it (since he was the apple of her eye), Mum asked, ‘Matthew, what did you say?’
‘Bum!’ he said, more forcefully this time.
The following scene unfolded (with me and Simon as the enthralled audience, relishing the fact that for once we weren’t the ones who were in trouble with Mum):
Mum: ‘Matthew, you shouldn’t say that!’
Mum: ‘Matthew, stop it! That is a rude word. You can’t say that!’
Chuck (spelling and shouting now): ‘B-U-M! BUM! B-U-M! BUM! B-U-M! BUM!’
Mum (slowing down and speaking in a calm, warning voice): ‘Matthew, you better stop now or I’m telling your father and he will deal with you when he gets home.’
Dad was a temperate man, but he firmly believed that if you spared the rod, you spoiled the child. There were occasions when Dad was definitely not going to spare the rod and we all knew this would be one of them. Instantly Chuck fell silent and uttered his wild, unfettered profanity – ‘BUM!’ – no more.
We never found out what had driven Chuck to not only shout, but go one step further and spell the rudest word he knew at the top of his lungs. In those days people didn’t discuss their feelings. It was enough that the outburst had been quelled and that the Datsun 200B could continue down the road in peace and quiet.
I’m sure we can all relate to the strong emotions that had boiled over in Chuck, causing him to lose it that day. We’ve all had moments when we’ve wanted to shout the rudest word we know (even if we weren’t tempted to spell it), and never more so than over the last two years of this pandemic.
Yet as the world opens up again, we find ourselves in a pretty unique moment in which we get to rethink how we’d like to proceed from here. The phrase ‘Build back better’ has been used a lot to express a far-reaching desire the world seems to have to use the disruption of the pandemic as an opportunity to rebuild our lives in more resilient, sustainable, healthy and kind ways.
I’m all about rebuilding and building back better. Now is not the time to be complacent or to lose sight of your purpose. However, I encourage all of us to begin this rebuilding process in our interior life, which is the foundation for all our outward action.
Wholeness and wellbeing on the inside will determine how we view things, how we live, how much we enjoy life, how we treat others, how we’re able to handle what happens in the years to come, as well as our capacity to keep dreaming big for the future. If we neglect our inner being, the consequent meltdown or explosion can be far worse than shouting ‘BUM!’ from the back seat of a Datsun 200B.
So where to from here?
Colossians 2:7 (AMPC) encourages us to be deeply rooted in Jesus: ‘Have the roots [of your being] firmly and deeply planted [in Him, fixed and founded in Him], being continually built up in Him, becoming increasingly more confirmed and established in the faith, just as you were taught, and abounding and overflowing in it with thanksgiving.’
Don’t be content with a shallow root system. Don’t simply tick boxes in your personal relationship with God. We build a deep relationship with the Lord by spending meaningful time with Him. Start each day like that. Five minutes of focused time with God in which you’re fully present is worth far more than a distracted hour during which your mind is on everything else. Remember that trust is built over time. The more time you spend with the Lord, the more you’ll trust Him with your life, your decisions and your future.
Jesus teaches His disciples (in Mark 11:22 AMPC): ‘Have faith in God [constantly].’ Which is easier said than done, I know. Faith has a tendency to wane as the challenges of life pile up. However, I encourage you to make this idea of having faith constantly your mantra. Tell yourself throughout the day, ‘I believe God.’
Hebrews 11:1 (NIV) says: ‘Now faith is confidence in what we hope for and assurance about what we do not see.’ In this sense, faith attaches itself to something that hasn’t happened yet – a hope, a dream, a vision for your life. So what are you trusting God for? It could be to build a business, pursue a lifelong passion, write a book, raise a wonderful family, be able to retire in a certain way (or all of the above!) Keep bringing God into that vision for the future. Ask Him for direction, wisdom, courage and strength. Also, keep taking positive action to realize the vision (as James 2:17 encourages us to do).
Let me wrap up with 1 Corinthians 16:13–14 (NIV): ‘Be on your guard; stand firm in the faith; be courageous; be strong. Do everything in love.’