God is our Glue!
Listening to every word in directions is very important when building something. I know this from experience. The latest reminder occurred about three weeks ago. Jody and I took a week off from work to build a bar on our pool deck. We planned to construct two stone columns to support a beautiful piece of blue pine that we had had a friend finish earlier in the year. We had a great plan! We knew exactly where we wanted to put it- right under our pergola off our back porch. We carefully picked out beautiful stones, bought all the necessary supplies, including a wheelbarrow, a wet stone saw, and a mason’s best friend – a notched trowel. A friend or ours, who builds buildings for his living, gave us brief instructions and helped us place rebar into our slab to secure the two columns. Then we watched two You Tube videos of This Old House where Bob Villa did some basic stoning on a wall. Bob made it look easy. We could do this! Wrong! Keep reading. The next day we laid the cinder block bases without a hitch. Perfectly level, we were off to a great start. While the columns were drying, we made elaborate patterns with stones and cut off edges so that they had perfect seams. We had an intricate numbering and lettering system for how we would use the stones. We had never used a wet saw, but Jody quickly became a professional - he was wetter than an average person in a shower, but given the 98 degree heat, he didn't much care. The next day, we mixed up the mortar until it looked just like peanut butter, per Bob’s suggestion. We then buttered the two cinder blocks and made scratches with a notched trowel. It felt a little bit like icing a cake. Been there, done that. It looked picture perfect. We had this in the bag! Then one row at a time, we stacked the stones and smashed then into the scratch coat. But this is where things took an unfortunate and unexpected turn.
When we let go of the stones, sometimes they fell off, sometimes they didn’t. If they fell off, we decided it was because they had not dried. So, we re-smashed them and applied tight straps to hold them to the cinder block. We hadn’t seen Bob do this, and our contracting friend hadn’t mentioned this either, but in the heat of the moment, this was all we could think of. It was back breaking work that took all our strength and coordination. We had to keep the stones on the columns while we quickly and awkwardly applied the straps. This took reaching and bending ourselves into human pretzels. It was not pleasant work. It looked strange when we had finished (see picture 3), but hey, it was still kind of pretty! And, as far as we knew, it was done. We went to bed exhausted, muscles aching, but thankful the worst of the job was over and praying it would all be dry and stuck together in the morning.
The next morning, we took the straps off the columns and 2-3 stones popped off. Uh-oh, not good, but we could fix it. But within 30 minutes, 10 more stones followed suit. By noon, half the stones were off. UGH! We were exhausted and discouraged. Our friend was out of town, so we turned to the only other fix-it man we knew, Bob the Builder. We re-watched Bob stone that wall on You Tube for the third time. This time though, we saw it! We saw our glaring mistake. Each time Bob put on a new stone, he buttered the back with mortar! He didn’t really say much about it, but he did it every time. It was as if the angels started singing and the whole fuzzy frustrating world snapped into focus! We had tried to make a stone wall without cement! That’s harder than trying to make bricks without straw. I only make that reference, because at least a dozen times the previous day, I felt like one of the Hebrew slaves on the famous Moses movie – “You are too old for that clay dance.” I digress. Why had we not noticed this important step - why had no one told us, “Put the mortar on the back of each stone?” Probably because EVERYONE IN THE WORLD ALREADY KNOWS THIS! Everyone, but Jody and I.
We then got the pleasure of correcting our mistake. We had to remove 60 pounds of mortar off the columns. This is so easily typed, but such a nightmare to accomplish! I can’t stress the nastiness of this job. Jody and I were both covered with mortar dust, not to mention our neighbors on either side of us. The dust went everywhere! Every surface was now white, it looked like it had snowed. We used a power grinder, a chisel and a shop vac. Jody was covered with both sweat and mortar dust, and he was began to mummify. I wish I had snapped his picture, but I value my life, so I refrained. If truth be known, we almost had to shave all of Jody’s hair off that night. The cement and his perspiration had caused quite an effect. The first three shampooing attempts did nothing. I was beginning to get nervous, but then saw my conditioner and applied it generously. We let it set and then finally the cement began to let go of his hair. He lost quite a few hairs in the fight, but he still has enough to comb. So on with the story.
We hardly spoke that evening. We were both still in a state of shock that we would have to get up the next morning and redo all that work. I wasn’t sure my back or arms could take it. When I thought back over the whole process, I realized how little time we gave to making it work, we just envisioned how lovely the stone bar would be next to the pool. We imagined how our friends and families would enjoy it, but never how our backs would ache from building it. At 6:00 a.m. the next morning we were back at it – day 6 of our 3-day project. But before starting, we prayed for peace, and for those stinking stones to stick! I also prayed that if they didn't stick, I would control myself and not come unglued … so to speak!
This time, it worked! The whole experience was different, not necessarily because of the prayer, although I’m sure it helped, but the GLUE, or in this case the mortar, kept the stones on the columns. We didn’t need those straps. The stones stayed on the columns, all by themselves. The job took ¼ the time this go-round. Within seconds of sticking a stone on the column, we knew it would never come off, it was stuck! Wow! So this is how you stone something! No wonder Bob was smiling during his show! I was beginning to think he was a mean man, and over the past few days I mentally wrote a couple of letters to his producer. But now I found myself mentally shredding them. The fatigue of the past five days faded, and we turned up the music and got ‘er done! We smiled at each other and enjoyed the last day of our week off!
Now this situation is rich with blog fodder, but I’d like to hone in on the most important message for marriage in this story – husbands and wives need glue to stick together, through thick and thin. As Christians, we have an awesome Heavenly Father who is more than willing and to join us in our pursuit of a Godly marriage through the marriage covenant. The marriage covenant is included in most ceremonies, but not as talked about as maybe the color of flowers, bridesmaid dresses or honeymoon destinations. During most wedding ceremonies, the groom waits for the bride with the minister down at the altar. The bride is escorted down the long aisle to a glorious rendition of, Here Comes the Bride! When the couple is finally united, they are not facing each other, but instead facing the minister. At this time, they have the “I Will” portion of the ceremony. These vows are made to God, that’s why their focus is towards the front. These vertical vows invite God into the marriage and give it the stability necessary to face come what may, and the “may” does come! Then the couple turn towards each other, exchange rings and finish the covenant with their future spouse – the, “I do.” The wedding ceremony is not an announcement of today’s love, but instead is a promise of love for the rest of your life. That vowing, first with God, and then with your spouse, is similar to the subtle way Bob buttered the stones, and is equally essential to building a healthy and happy marriage. This is when the angels burst into song and your future world snaps into focus! This covenant, with God in the center, is the glue that holds couples together! Quite literally, the marriage covenant is the tie that binds the couple. The knowledge that we are in a forever relationship dissuades our insecurity and allows our hearts to grow in love. With God as the glue, cementing our hearts to Him and to each other, a couple can successfully navigate the storms of life. We won’t need straps, like our columns did. Some marriages are dependent on straps of grateful children and overflowing bank accounts to hold the marriage together. But if one of those straps break, which they surely will, everything starts falling apart. Sometimes just a few bits in the beginning, but the whole situation can dissolve relatively quickly. But with God in our marriage, we can survive disobedient children, sickness and financial issues, because our hope is not fixed on temporal things. We have the blessed assurance that God will never forsake us, and if the covenant or vows are taken sincerely neither will our spouse. We will practice forgiveness and repentance and our love will flower! We will never have to face the dreaded grinder, or the chisel that is separation and divorce. We will not have to bear those scars. Neither will our family, friends and neighbors be covered in the dust from that storm!
I know the wedding day can be a blur, and I’m sorry that our society spends more time preparing for the wedding than preparing for the marriage. The heart of my marriage and yours is wrapped up in those vows made in front of God, friends and family. New friends and kind readers - review your wedding vows. What did you and your spouse promise to do? Restate the vows, often. Those vows you made with God are the secret foundation for building a stone house that nothing can ever destroy! Keep reading!
Thank you again for joining me on this pursuit to a word washed life!
And now these three remain: faith, hope and love. But the greatest of these is love.
1 Corinthians 13:13
That is why a man leaves his father and mother and is united to his wife,
and they become one flesh.