My family’s favorite place in the world is Northern Michigan. Just about every year, we gather with my wife’s family at Walloon Lake to rest and play and enjoy the quaint towns and beauty of God’s creation. And every year, we get to see the big hole in the ground.
As you drive into the town of Petoskey from Walloon Lake, you are met with a gaping hole in the ground. At one point, the hole in the ground was surrounded with giant signs, announcing the impending construction of a beautiful new building – condos, I believe, overlooking Lake Michigan. However, one thing led to another, and the building project never got started. All that is left now is the giant hole in the ground that had been dug to prepare the site for the building to come. What was to have been the beginnings of a foundation is now the reminder of a failed effort.
When the Israelites returned to Judah from exile in Babylon, they immediately began an effort to rebuild the Temple in Jerusalem. “As soon as they came to the house of the LORD in Jerusalem, some of the heads of families made freewill offerings for the house of God, to erect it on its site” (Ezra 2:68). In chapter 3, we see the foundations for the new Temple erected, and all Israel shouts and sings as the building project gets under way. However, when the neighboring peoples offer to help, the Israelites refuse. Perhaps they had good reason to refuse. Perhaps they were concerned that if other peoples helped build the Temple, they might demand that their gods be worshiped in the Temple as well as the LORD. In any event, when Israel refuses the help, “… the people of the land discouraged the people of Judah, and made them afraid to build, and they bribed officials to frustrate their plan throughout the reign of King Cyrus of Persia and until the reign of King Darius of Persia (Ezra 4:4-5). We are told that construction on the new Temple ceased, and it was 16 years before a new effort would begin.
I think about that 16 year period, what it was like for the Israelites to walk by that vacant work site every day. The Temple ruins that had been reminders of Israel’s fall were replaced by a big hole in the ground that was a reminder of yet another failure, yet another loss.
Do you have any big holes in your life? What are the things that you started to do because you knew they were the right thing only to run out of energy, resources, passion, or desire to do? What are the efforts that started off with a bang but you gave up when things got too hard?
For 16 years, people walked by that big hole in Jerusalem. Some people wanted to see the hole filled in. Get rid of the eyesore and move on. But for some people, that hole may have been a daily reminder that one day, they were going to come back and finish what had been started.
Sometimes we leave efforts unfinished because we realize that the efforts were wrong in the first place. Sometimes we leave efforts unfinished, but we have every intention of coming back to finish the job. Fill it in and move on or finish the job and celebrate. Unfortunately, too many times, we just let ourselves get used to living with the big holes.
Allow me to share these words from 2 Timothy, the words of the apostle Paul as he looked back at his life. Hear these words and ask yourself: are these the words of a man who has looked back at his life and seen a lot of big holes left behind?
As for me, I am already being poured out as a libation, and the time of my departure has come. I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith. From now on there is reserved for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous judge, will me on that day, and not only to me but all to all who have longed for his appearing.