Thursday, August 30, 2012

The Foolish Man Built His House Upon the Sand

I've always loved the song about the foolish man and the wise man. It's a common song throughout contemporary Christianity, has fun hand signs, and boasts a rockin' melody just perfect for head-sticking. During Sunday School this past week, the song came up, and I visualized the song in a whole new way.

As a child, I imagined a guy going down to the beach and slapping together 2x4s and a roof, which would crumple into the waves at the first big swell. Conversely, the wise man found a big rock at the beach and slapped his 2x4s down and it was fine. But people don't actually build houses like that. I grew up on the beach, and, while there are beach houses, they work a little differently.

On the southern Oregon coast, the mountainous land frequently ends in cliffs at the water's edge. Much of the land bordering the ocean is sandstone, a soft, easily crumbled, rock-like substance that grows ugly crabgrass, salal, and shore pines. When Californians retire, they see these picturesque cliffs and immediately go about slapping their houses on them. Sometimes they hit a rock/dirt composition; sometimes they don't.

In high school, I babysat for a family from Florida who's summer home was on one such sandy cliff. It was a gorgeous view, and the entire west side of the two story home was one giant bank of windows. This beautiful home had front row seats to one of God's most beautiful masterpieces: the Pacific Ocean and its coastal geography. They also had a fantastic view of the cliff's edge, which was crumbly sandstone. That edge crept, year by year, foot by foot, closer to the house. Some years it only lost a few inches; some years it lost three feet in one storm. But that edge still creeps on.

Eventually, the house will start slipping. It'll take years, but that's the fact of life on the coast: much of it falls into the ocean, some with startling regularity (there are spots along Highway 101 that slide completely every especially rainy year).

Men don't go down to the beach and slap some 2x4s together. They pick a spot on the cliff and build their dream home with granite and maple and double ovens and a gate, then watch, stuck, while the earth and the elements try to eat away at their paradise. Sometimes they get lucky and build on rock. Sometimes they get a geologic survey before they buy, and make an informed decision to stay away.

But after that house is built, you can't get out of a crumbling situation without losing a lot.


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