The Lord has been speaking different messages to my heart this semester, but a message of hope was spoken to me a few days ago in Baton Rouge, Louisiana. I feel Him whispering to me that He, and He alone, is a solid foundation for my hope to be set on. But before I get ahead of myself, let me give you some back story.
This semester, I got really involved in the Baptist Student Ministries (the BSM) at TAMUCC (I’m even going to be in leadership next semester holla). The BSM provided an opportunity to take college students to Baton Rouge on a mission trip during winter break. The trip was focused on rebuilding homes that had been destroyed in a flood last August. When the trip was mentioned at a Bible study during October, I knew immediately that I wanted to go.
On December 15, seven students plus the leader of the TAMUCC BSM, packed up in a church van and drove 1o hours to Denham Springs, which is right outside of Baton Rouge. We stayed at a local church and spent four days working and putting up drywall and insulation in two different homes. I didn’t understand the effects of the flood until I arrived in the victim area. In the neighborhood where my team and I were working, all the homes had been gutted and were empty. The homes weren’t livable. There were a lot of trailer homes on front lawns, where families are living. I also was told that some people were having to stay with other family members and such until their homes could be repaired. My point is that these homes looked fine on the outside. The exteriors were all still up and some of the homes even looked beautiful. But, the insides. There was nothing there; these were some literally broken homes.
My team and I focused on two homes during our four work days in Denham Springs, Louisiana. In one of the homes, we installed insulation throughout the entire house and then put up drywall. I can honestly say that I’ve never done as much work, or been as sore, in my whole entire life (while this was because of the workload, it was also because I’ve never done squats in my life. This taught me that squats are important). We work from eight in the morning to five or six in the afternoon, and it ranged from 3o degrees to around 80 degrees Fahrenheit. One of the days got pretty toasty, while the other days were freezing. One of the houses we worked in had heat in it, but the other didn’t have electricity in it yet. While the work was hard, it was incredibly joyful because I knew that I was furthering the kingdom of God.
One day around three in the afternoon, when I started hitting a patch of tiredness and exhaustion, I looked up from the piece of drywall I was working on and through a window. Through this window, I saw the most beautiful thing I’d seen on the trip. In the backyard, amidst piles of trash and things damaged by the flood, there was an orange tree. The orange tree was full and vibrant and seemed to be thriving despite the wreckage surrounding it. This reminded me that although there are struggles and although things rarely go as we plan, through all the pain and sadness and shame, and despite the magnitude of our troubles, there is always hope and light and goodness to be found. God’s grace is abundant and His mercies are new every morning (from Lamentations 3:22-23). We can see His Love through something as small as oranges ready to be picked and enjoyed.
While on this trip, I saw a lot of parallels between the physical labor of our mission work to the spiritual mission work that Christians should always be doing (telling others about the Gospel, so that their lives can be transformed). As I mentioned before, the homes we were rebuilding were fine on the outside; but inside, they were so broken and damaged. This idea reminded me of people. We tend to try to appear fine on the outside, like we have it all together, but inside we’re struggling and broken. When I say “we”, I really mean me. I’d like to think that we’re all in the same boat, but if not, I’m giving this advice to myself. With the new year, I want to find the orange trees in my life. I want to rebuild the homes where I’m letting my spirit live, meaning that I want to work on myself. Something I still find myself consistently struggling with is shame and insecurity, and I want to rebuild that broken part of my heart. I want to remove the place from my table where I’m letting the enemy sit, so that there’s only room for me and the Lord.
Christ is a firm foundation. He’s planted orange trees everywhere in our lives. He’s given us these symbols of hope that point to the fact that He alone is our hope. This year, when floods inevitably come and bring destruction, plant the foundation of your new home on Him. He can do immeasurably more in your life than you even imagined (from Ephesians 3:20).
In this blog post, I speak in metaphors a lot. If you have any questions on what I mean, please feel free to leave a comment and I would love to talk about it with you. Thanks for reading!