Recently my family sifted through objects from the past and the memories they inspired while cleaning out a sway-backed old horse barn that had long borne our "treasures."
We expected the physical demands, but not the spiritual journey that God provided through visual reminders of his unfailing care and grace to our family of six.
First, as an old basketball hoop resisted removal with one last rusty bolt, its tenacity suggested that in life only sports are important. I'm glad our children outgrew that idea as they learned to enjoy satisfaction in life's work as well as in its play.
Next, some old camping equipment revived vivid memories of distant destinations and cozy campsites near the van, along with the annoying backseat bickering so much a part of "family unity." Peace was restored, however, around the many "meals on wheels" lovingly prepared by my wife on picnic tables from Boston to Bakersfield. Now our children camp with their own families, remembering that closeness to God can simply mean being close to the sights, sounds, smells, and textures of God's creation.
Our daughter's wooden Bible school stool and the three wooden toolboxes I built for our boys also appeared. Each was simple yet sturdy, and each avoided the dumpster better than store-bought articles—showing that investments of time can have more lasting value than investments that require only money.
Outside the barn stood our car, never again to be sheltered by a structure built around the time cars were invented. Earlier vehicles rested in the barn after various family trips, where they were repeatedly spared from serious accidents and breakdowns throughout. Our vehicles rarely required expensive repairs, much like the Israelites' sandals that didn't wear out in the desert. God blesses not only by what he gives, but also by what he prevents.
I don't fish, but some old fishing poles reminded me of how I tried to be "Dad" as best I knew how. I soon realized that fatherhood is far more challenging than providing your kids with fun activities. It also includes loving them unconditionally and wanting only good for them, in the hope of projecting at least a pale image of our heavenly Father's abiding and supporting love for all.
Some objects spoke of dreams unfulfilled. One of my sons once found a sail and had grand plans to build a boat to match. The boat remains unbuilt, but God has blessed our family beyond what we could have asked or imagined in richness and design.
A box of old checks offered a tangible account of how God provided for routine and special needs throughout our family years—daily manna sent faithfully by God in exactly the right amounts.
This historical account, of course, does not match the magnitude of Joshua's before entering Canaan, but I was glad to be reminded through an old barn and its contents how God supplied all our needs and more.
The next day the barn was demolished. Most of it was discarded, but my youngest son wisely salvaged dozens of its boards and beams, later resurrecting them as tables, toys, and other creations.
The barn is gone, yet it lives on in memory and in use, a fitting symbol of how our Creator, Redeemer, and Lord builds and renews the structure of our lives for today and for eternity.