A Cathedral? In Vidalia?
How do you measure 50 years? Anyway you cut it, it’s a long time; half a century. A few years ago I read the British author Ken Follett’s magnum opus, Pillars of the Earth, and its sequel World Without End. What struck me was the unbroken perseverance through years of trials and suffering to build a cathedral over hundreds of years. Generations of families, skilled builders and stone masons, worked tediously through corruption, strife, wars, famine, fires, life and death, and all the diverse machinations of which life on a fallen earth consists, to finally bring to completion a magnificent cathedral, towering over all around it. Though the cathedral at the center of this novel is in fictitious Kingsbridge, England, its story, comprising several centuries, could be told over and over of the hundreds of cathedrals that dot the landscape of Europe. Such awe inspiring stone edifices were not thrown up overnight. They were built with the blood, sweat and tears of generations of particular men, women, and children.
Though no great stone cathedral stands on the 50 acre campus of the Paul Anderson Youth Home in Vidalia, Georgia, over the last fifty years a construction project has been continuously in progress. Yes, there have been added physical structures through the years, and the campus looks significantly different than the campus of 1961. Yet you will not see towers and turrets piercing the sky. The cathedral that has been under construction for half a century is neither seen nor measured in rock and mortar. Its peculiar building stones are scattered throughout the country and the world. But I do not doubt that in its finished state, though still a work in progress, there is a cathedral of spiritual proportion magnificent to behold.
What is it exactly that the Psalmist has in view in Psalm 48? “Walk about Zion, go around her, count her towers, consider well her ramparts, view her citadels, that you may tell of them to the next generation. For this God is our God for ever and ever; He will be our guide even to the end. This is not physical Jerusalem on which the Psalmist has set his eyes, but rather a structure made up of redeemed men, women, and children; treasures of God’s grace. Transformed young men, brands plucked from the fire, reproducing Christian families, servants in His kingdom; these are the ingredients of an eternal “building which only the eyes of God see completely. We, the PAYH family, are not capable of pulling together all the many pictures giving us a complete view of the fruit of this work built one “stone upon the other. We catch little glimpses here and there encouraging us to greater perseverance; but we cannot see it this side of heaven in its finished and complete state.
So with what do we compare, how are we moved to the commensurate sense of wonder, awe, and gratitude when we cannot see the “cathedral which God has built in these past 50 years? I know I have been moved to silence and awe when I have stood before the great and magnificent cathedrals of the world, when I have looked over the edge of the Grand Canyon, when I have opened my eyes to the incredible expanse of the Milky Way. Our God tells us that these works cannot compare to the surpassing glory of what He is building with the work of our hands and the hands of our supporters in the lives of over 1200 hundred young men and their families. Fifty years of tribulation and trial has produced perseverance, character, and hope, because this is and has always been God’s work and He has not left us Fatherless. So it is I pray for wherever in His kingdom He has put you to work. May you see with the eyes of faith the “cathedral He is building. Sola Deo Gloria!
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