In the above image, my father Jim Bass was putting the final touches on a sign he’d built for the Chidomoyo Christian Mission compound in Zimbabwe Africa. He is now with the Lord.
It was fascinating to watch my father work. He was a true craftsman in every sense of the word. Whether working with steel, wood, rock or concrete, he could build most anything. But I was not content to simply observe. When dad added a beautiful extension onto our Florida home, I stood watching wondrous things take shape under his deft hands. Oh how I wanted to be like him, and I wanted be a part of his improvement projects around the house. He would put me to work on tasks that would effectively keep me out of his way.
Above is preacher & missionary Jim Bass and his construction crew getting ready to put a roof on a building for one of the village churches of the Shona people.
Patiently, my father showed me how to add the right proportions of sand, cement and water to mix the mortar he used in laying masonry blocks. I made batches of it in a wheel barrow using a hoe to blend the mixture together. It was hard work for the little wisp of a boy that made up my twelve year old frame. At times, I’d simply be on hand to pass tools to him, and afterwards there were always cleanup jobs. But in my heart I knew the little bit of help I gave was insignificant. I wanted to do what my father was doing.
Laying those masonry blocks looked so easy. Constant badgering would finally lead to my father giving in. I watched closely how it was done, and then, finally, it happened. Dad stood up, handed me the trowel and said, “Have at it.” It was dumb luck that my first two blocks were set just right. But as I laid the third, and began to go on to the fourth, dad stopped me. Together we walked around to the other side of the wall where it was easier to see how the last block I’d layed was not level with the others in that row. And it was setting crooked. I was all ready to take that one block back out. But dad simply said, “I will take over now.”
My father did not do as you might think. He leveled that askew block, but left it as crooked as a dog’s hind leg. For many years afterwards, whenever I questioned my father’s decisions, he would take me outside the house and together we would look down at that one masonry block that stood out of place from the rest of them. Still today, I wonder at my father’s acceptance of that flaw in our wall, leaving it there, just to have a permanent life lesson for his son. Was I really that important to Him? Today, that out of place block can still be seen. And every time I think of it, there is a warm assurance of my father’s love for me. It is the most beautiful flaw I’ve ever seen.
During this, the sixth decade of my life, more changes have been wrought in who I am than in all the previous decades put together. It’s like running downhill, the further you go the more speed you pick up. At forty years old I was so certain of what I wanted my legacy to be. If only I could be remembered as a man of faith, a servant of God, all would be well. At fifty-seven I now realize that it’s not at all about what I do, but what I allow God to do, in me, and through me.
If I were to die today, I have no certainty as to what words might be used to describe anything close to a good legacy. We hope to leave behind something of ourselves that indicates we’ve left the world a better place for us having been in it. But I continuously see how inept I am to do anything of eternal significance. It is all accomplished by Christ in me, rather than by me. If there is anything to boast on, it’s merely to be a good helper. I do my best in submitting to God that He may work through me. But I need to stay out of God’s way, and not run out ahead of Him, and make certain I don’t hinder what he is doing. This involves a lot of listening, submitting and remaining available—doing as He directs. It’s the same as when I was helping my earthly father. I still feel rather insignificant in the overall scheme of things, but God thinks differently about you and me.
The bible indicates that each one of us is an important part of God’s plan. He sent His own Son to die in our behalf, that we may be a part of Him, and a part of the work He is doing here on earth.
Thoughts for reflection
- What flaws or scars do I have that remind me of my Heavenly Father’s love?
- The book of Revelation indicates that Jesus still has scars from His crucifixion. Why did He keep His scars?
- Am I taking credit for the things God is doing through me?