Two men, two houses, a gale force wind and lots of rain provide the necessary elements for a telling tale told by Jesus.
There was nothing obviously different about the two men. They both had the required amount of arms and legs. They were not too tall, not too wide, maybe even moderately handsome. One of them did not have eyes too close together, a noticeable limp, a hunch back or eyebrows that met in the middle. They were just men.
There was nothing obviously different about the houses. They had doors and windows and lots of bricks. They were not too big, or too small. One of them was not the secret meeting place of the Mafia with guns hidden under the floor boards and wads of rolled up money concealed in the toilet cisterns. They were just houses.
There was certainly nothing different about the wind and the rain that fell on them. There was no light breeze caressing one house while the other house was battered by hurricanes and tornadoes. There was no gentle sprinkling of spring showers on the one while the other was drowned in a demonic deluge. It was just normal weather for that part of the world.
Both builders wanted to have a home they could bring up their families in, come home to after a busy day at the office, mow the lawn, trim the hedge and have the occasional al fresco meal watching the sun set over the still water. They wanted a house that they could grow old in.
The difference in the men and in their houses was below the surface where people fail to look.
If we could look into the hearts and minds of our two ordinary men, below the surface, we would see motives, intentions and values. One man took too many shortcuts and not enough advice. The other man recognised his limitations. He was a builder. He wasn't an architect. He wasn't a surveyor. He wasn't a meteorologist. He asked advice and he took his time.
If you could look beneath the houses we would see foundations. It's what houses are built on. One house had deep foundations. Rivers of sweat, blisters by the palm full and a liberal sprinkling of choice swear words had been sown into the foundations as one man dug deep. He dug for solid rock to rest his house on. Our other house also had a foundation, deep into the sand. This man's short cuts were not so short that he neglected to put in a foundation. He just didn't sweat so much, or have quite so many blisters or have cause to swear so often. He didn't go down to the rock because he didn't know it was there or that he needed it.
One day the storm came, tearing at the houses, leaving only one standing firm.
I can imagine that night a knock on the door of that house. A group of bedraggled neighbours, a variety of generations perhaps, hoping to be admitted, holding pathetic armfuls of possessions rescued from a house that had been pummelled into a pile of debris.
For me, seven weeks ago, it wasn't a knock, but a telephone call. The storms of life had beaten so ferociously on a friend's life that she had collapsed under the strain. Sectioned under the Mental Health Act, she was confined to hospital. Her children, no strangers to foster homes, waited to see what would happen to them.
We opened our door and welcomed them in.
It was a stormy seven weeks. There were breaks in the cloud and beams of sunlight, but there was plenty of rain. We don't have children and it is reflected in our house. We don't have a box of toys, packets of chocolate covered breakfast cereal or roller skates cluttering up the hall. We don't have tantrums, slammed doors, wet beds, nit combs or plasters with comic book heroes on them.
For seven weeks we weathered the storms that only two insecure children can generate. We always knew that we had a good foundation for our lives, in Christ. Below the surface of our lives lies a God given, incredible love and compassion. We always knew that what we had built our lives on was not going to collapse - but sometimes it felt pretty close!
Yesterday the children went home and I was given a bunch of flowers.