Spring is a season of emerging. Winter-weary gardens everywhere are enlivened by determined, purple and marigold crocuses dotting the dirt as they press upward. Those tenacious flowers have awaited the spring sunshine under layers of short days and winter snow.

This year there has been a different and unprecedented emergence occurring simultaneously. Unmasked neighbors and friends are resurfacing after having been hunkered down under layers of hand sanitizer and social distancing. The whole blessed time of return has been a welcome celebration of rebirth.

This season of emergence is an opportune time to look around and within to enable us to conscientiously attend to the details of the structures of our lives with care, as we dust off the remnants of a long winter, both literally and figuratively. It’s a valuable time to ascertain what elements of our lives served us well during the recent winter of COVID, and which ones might warrant adjustment or shoring up to render us more sturdy and useful.

Some years ago, I read a news article featuring the story of a house on the beach of the Florida panhandle. That house made the news as it endured in marvelous ways Hurricane Michael, the violent storm that wreaked havoc along the coast. A stunning photograph showed that house standing essentially unharmed after the hurricane, while all the surrounding homes were leveled by the violent wind and surf.

Image via Uplifting Today.

Eager to learn from the survival of that one home while all the neighboring ones collapsed, architects and scientists carefully observed and conducted studies to determine what the differences had been. They hoped that studies of the still-standing home could provide useful information for retrofitting existing homes, and reconsidered plans for those yet to be built to enable them to be more durable.

Their conclusions serve as mighty lessons for all of us who, more now than ever, are seeking to establish the metaphorical structures of our lives to endure whatever winter or storm may come our way. Surely, we all desire to have learned meaningful life lessons that can enable us to press forward better than ever after the impositions of a long season of COVID restrictions.

1. A fundamental and overarching starting place comes from the assertion by the builders of that surviving home that their structure was built to significantly exceed minimum building requirements imposed by a local building code. Those homebuilders valued their structure so highly that, at significant extra cost, they imposed safety standards of their own far exceeding any legal minimums.

The symbolic relevance for us as we build the structures of our lives is compelling and obvious. Serious life storms require demanding, assiduous attention to the foundational integrity of our lives. That determination must exceed simply minimum requirements if we expect to remain standing with confidence and capacity. Deliberate corner-cutting or even small intentional indiscretions inevitably compromise personal integrity. The quest is to commit to establishing a structure of self that reflects the highest quality, most conscientiously applied elements of our best potential.

2. That durable home in Florida had been built with 40-foot pilings buried in the sand and secured with extra-strength screws drilled tightly into the walls.

Our personal pilings are dependably deep when they are drilled down into the very bedrock of our lives by persistent Holy Habits. Those recurrent, but nonetheless profoundly significant Sunday School answers to every question are still and always the right answers to so many essential ones: pray fervently, study the scriptures, attend Church. That extra-strength spiritual hardware connects us with heaven during storms and always. Holy Habits cost something extra in terms of time, discipline, and exercise of faith, but they contribute significantly to durability.

Deep pilings are like anchors. Every determined disciple needs personal anchors to maintain steadiness when the winds of mortality rage. Everyone finds his own stillness via customized anchors. Some respond to a favorite scripture or a phrase or verse of a favorite hymn or song. Others find their steady place in the simple sound of a particular person’s voice, perhaps a parent or grandparent, or an essential friend. Others access stillness via the temple or a meaningful place in nature. The possibilities are as limitless as the need.

3. The surviving home was built on stilts. In order to keep that home above the surf, there was no first floor, enabling the waves to pass beneath the living space of the actual home. That home’s elevated construction raised it above low level disturbances and potential sea surge. Those builders knew that the location of their building, while beautiful and exciting, warranted extra care to keep it safely above the potential dangers of the environment adjacent an uncertain sea.

Surely, we are all aware of the potentially dangerous commotion of our modern moment. This season in time is beautiful and exciting in many wonderful ways, but it poses undeniable risks. Maintaining a safe distance from the possible hazards of aggressive currents and extreme tides is wise. The center of the path is the scripturally defined secure place to walk, not near the edges, whether we go there for the thrill of it or because of simple carelessness.

4. The Florida home had been built with unusual break-away stairs going up the exterior of the house. When the elements raged, that staircase was ripped away, just as it had been designed to do, while the main structure of the house was left intact. The outside stairs could be easily rebuilt, but the foundation and walls of the home were critical to the home’s very survival.

The framework of our lives may be likewise lavishly decorated with add-ons that are nice but not essential. It is wise to know what the non-essentials are to assure that we will quickly and unceremoniously part with those behaviors or habits, at least temporarily, if they ever risk jeopardizing the survival of the essential structure of our lives or faith. There may be times when we conclude that substantial time spent on social media or other screen time clouds our best selves, or that particular uncertainties about Church historical events feel at odds with our faith. If so, it may be time to let those things go for a time to preserve the hard-fought, glorious essential structure of who we are and what we fundamentally believe.

5. The roof of the surviving home was deliberately built with minimal space between the edge of the roof and the walls so that any strong wind couldn’t sneak underneath and lift it entirely off.  When the heavy rain that inevitably accompanied the hurricane began to pummel the structures, that single home stayed dry inside. The roof continued to shelter the home and the people within it.

I would hope that we are keeping ourselves spiritually covered to provide dry space within the structures of our lives for ourselves, as well as to offer safety and welcome for others who are suffering from storms. The whole world has watched with admiring wonder as Europeans have opened their hearts and homes to Ukrainian refugees to help rescue them from terrible storms. Their having paid the price to establish generous hearts and ready homes is serving others who are in great need of shelter, both literally and figuratively.

The builders of that durable Florida home shared that they had been hoping and trying to build a home that would last for generations. Our quest would be the same: to build the homes of our lives to stand now and forever as safe and secure places for ourselves and others in times of storm. Assessment, maintenance, and repair are essential for longevity for both a home and a disciple of Christ. Ideally, we are emerging from an unusually taxing season of limited exposure to each other and precious, ordinary experiences, personally determined to stretch upward – brighter, more sure, steadfast, useful and used than ever. Emerging. Better than ever.