The Lord bless you and keep you. The Lord make His face to shine upon you and be gracious unto you. The Lord lift up His countenance upon you and give you Peace. (Numbers 6: 24-26)

Monday, July 12, 2010

A Reflection on Plumb

Imagine the relatively easy task of putting up a new curtain rod over a bedroom window. Once all the due diligence is performed, the measuring, the marking, the re-measuring, the leveling; the proud curtain hangers stand back to admire their work and discover that, despite all the effort, the rod is not level. Curses! The level comes back out, but the little bubble of air falls mockingly dead center where it should between the two little vertical lines. Yet, from the other side of the room, the eye of the beholder betrays an awful fact: the rod does not look level!

But wait, thinks one of the dedicated decorators, there might be something else afoot. Taking the level in hand, a suspicion is confirmed: the rod is indeed level, but the ceiling is not.

It all comes down to a matter of perspective. When we look at a picture on the wall or at the curtain rod above a window, we measure it’s symmetry based on what else our eye sees around it. I dare say that very few houses, even of the finest construction and quality are completely “square”, especially when you consider the effects of time upon the structure and the land upon which it was built. We have lived in several old houses whose “character” was easily visible in the slants of its floors and curves of its lines.

This is all well and good when one is considering wall hangings or draperies, but there are greater implications to us and to our lives as we consider how we determine what is plumb and what is not.

He showed me: behold, the Lord was standing beside a wall built with a plumb line, with a plumb line in His hand.  Amos 7: 7
When building a wall, it is crucial that it be built plumb, or vertical, so that it can be reasonably sure to remain upright and sound. The first course of any wall should be set on firm and level ground, yet how does one ensure that the ground itself is level? As the wall is further constructed, does one merely trust the “eye” that compares the verticality of the growing structure to the land around it, or to the tree in the background, or even to another wall nearby? In order to ensure that the wall is sound, the mason must be able to compare his work to a true representation of what is vertical. In other words, he must be able to follow something more reliable that his own perspective.

Behold, I am setting a plumb line in the midst of my people Israel….    Amos 7: 8
When looking at the world around us, it is easy to become convinced that the wall we just built is completely straight and sound. In fact, there might be many people who pass our wall as we work and complement us on how magnificent is our construction. Swelling with pride and satisfaction, we continue to build, confident that our wall is right in line with the world around it and that nothing could be more perfect or more desirable. Until it begins to lean, threatening to topple over under its own weight.
I will restore the fortunes of my people Israel, and they shall rebuild the ruined cities and inhabit them; they shall plant vineyards and drink their wine, and they shall make gardens and eat their fruit.   Amos 9: 14
In order for our walls to be straight and true, we must have a reference that is itself straight and true. God has revealed to us the Truth in His presence with His Chosen People, in the words spoken by the prophets of old, and in the Word made flesh, Jesus Christ, His Son. We cannot build our lives based upon the fallen condition of the world around us. The standards of this world are much too corrupt and unreliable. Rather, if we are to build for ourselves a life like that which is desired for us by our Father, then we must use a true measure of plumb, and we must rely, not on a mason to guide us in our work, but on a carpenter to show us the way.

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