A four-year-old sucks his thumb and cuddles a satin-edged baby blanket. A teen cherishes her grandmother’s antique ring. A father and son bursts with pride to restore a 1957 Chevy. Why do we hold so tightly to the familiar and clutch at the old and frayed for comfort? My husband is not overly sentimental, but practical. He wears clothes until they literally fall from his body in shreds. When we were newlyweds, I made the near-fatal mistake of throwing away one of my husband’s holey t-shirts. Notice I said hol-EY, not HOLY. But you would have thought by his reaction that the silly piece of tattered poly/cotton blend was holy! By the time he realized it was gone, it was truly gone – irrevocably buried in some landfill – but I had learned my lesson. I would never again throw away my husband’s shirts. No matter how frayed or faded they became, I’d leave those ceremonial decisions up to him. Unfortunately, when my mother came to stay with our girls for a week, I forgot to inform her of our non-discard pact. Another shirt got tossed during her servant-minded laundry day, and this T-shirt was a keepsake (as they all seemed to be). So the next time Mom stayed with the girls, I explained about the “no throw away rule.” She apologized to Roy for her previous “oops” and we left for our next trip with full confidence that all Roy’s shirts would be safe in the loving hands of his penitent mother-in-law. When we arrived home, as expected, all shirts were present and accounted for…with one exception. The one T-shirt that was literally falling apart at the seams (the whole shirt was worn-sheer) sported a brand new neckline. Mom had cut off the frayed collar and purchased new material, sewing a bright yellow collar on this old T-shirt. Oh my. Roy was – speechless. But the shirt lived on, the collar extending its drawer-life another 5 years or so before it found its way to the happy-shirt-shack-in-the landfill. There’s absolutely nothing wrong with liking comfort or hanging onto familiar things…unless they stand in the way of our moving forward with God. That’s when it became a problem for Noah and all our ancestors….
Gen. 11:1-4 – “Now the whole world had one language and a common speech. As men moved eastward, they found a plain in Shinar and settled there. They said to each other, ‘Come, let's make bricks and bake them thoroughly.’ They used brick instead of stone, and tar for mortar. Then they said, ‘Come, let us build ourselves a city, with a tower that reaches to the heavens, so that we may make a name for ourselves and not be scattered over the face of the whole earth.’” (emphasis added)
- Being at peace isn’t wrong. Progress and intelligence isn’t wrong. However, feeling satisfied and smart can lead to SELF-SATISFACTION and SELF-FOCUS, and that isn’t just wrong, it’s SIN. When Noah and his family left the ark, God said, “…fill the earth.” (9:1) Notice that Noah’s descendants wanted to build themselves a city for their own names so they could do the exact opposite of God’s command – NOT SCATTER over the face of the earth. Comfort and self-seeking leads us in the direct opposite direction of God’s command to move and fill the earth with His presence.
Gen. 11:5-7 – “But the LORD came down to see the city and the tower that the men were building. The LORD said, ‘If as one people speaking the same language they have begun to do this, then nothing they plan to do will be impossible for them. Come, let us go down and confuse their language so they will not understand each other.’”
- Think about it. Did the LORD need to come down because He couldn’t see from heaven? Duh, no. He came down so humankind could watch Him assess their sin. Evidently, there was no human being alive God wished to confide in, fellowship with – as he once had with Adam and Noah. It’s as though He had to break into their world to remind them He was there.
Gen. 11:8-9 – “So the LORD scattered them from there over all the earth, and they stopped building the city. That is why it was called Babel--because there the LORD confused the language of the whole world. From there the LORD scattered them over the face of the whole earth.”
- Humankind tried to thwart God’s good plan by settling into their selfish desires. But God WILL have His way on this earth, and in His perfect wisdom, He allows each human being to make his/her own choices to become an obedient or rebellious part of that plan. My job is simply to focus on God and let His plan work its way through me.
Lord, sometimes I get more concerned with knowing the plan that knowing You. Maybe that’s why the comfort of my familiar ways is so appealing, and the unknown path toward You is so frightening. Give me the courage to keep my eyes on You, not the plan – on becoming more familiar with my Heavenly Father, not self-focus and self-satisfaction. Your plan has never been to harm me or to make me uncomfortable just to see me squirm. You call me to move, to stretch, to grow in order to fulfill a plan beyond my small-sightedness. Give me the courage, the desire, to seek You when discomfort comes. Give me the discipline and grace to seek You when I’m comfortable.