After building our fifth house together during fifty-one years of marriage, I found myself without a hobby. You see, moving into homes with an unfinished walkout basement had provided my hobby. It would take me four or five years to complete the consideration of the downstairs; but with this latest house there was no walkout—so no hobby.
After about a year I told Pam, “I think I will build a model railroad.” We agreed that I could utilize a nice part of the upstairs family room to do so. Within a year I had outgrown the space. What now? Four months ago I decided to convert the unfinished attic of our garage into a room for my railroad—the Pottsville, Reading, Philadelphia—Railroad.
You see, before solving the problem of space for building the model railroad, it was necessary to finish out the attic. This meant building knee walls, insulating the ceiling, and adding depth to the roof rafters to accommodate it. Once this structural framework was in place there was the need for appropriate floor covering and painting the wall and ceiling covering. With the structural framework for the room completed, it was necessary to build the tables upon which the railroad would be built.
It occurred to me one day as I was working by myself in the attic (yes, I’ve put in an air conditioner) that there was a great similarity between building my model railroad and building the lives with which I work daily. You see, before building the railroad it was necessary to build out the room. Many of the people I see in counseling do not have a biblical framework to support the practical elements of change.
Today I was meeting with a D.Min. student to supervise a dissertation project/practicum. The student made the observation that so many of the counselees in their practice suffer from doctrinal issues. They are not unlike my attic. They have the general structural frame work that would identify them as associated with the Christian community, but inside they are unfinished disciples lacking the appropriate structure to support the building of Christian walk.
As I’ve had to build the room out in order to develop my hobby of building a model railroad, so I (we) have to build out the doctrinal super structure of the counselee’s belief system before actually developing the practice of the model Christian life. For example, a counselee that I’ve been seeing a good bit longer than my usual tenure recently commented towards the end of a session: “I think I am finally beginning to get it!” (During the session we had reviewed a number of basic doctrinal issues that included the sufficiency of Scripture to inform his understanding of meaning and practice of marriage and the meaning and manner of biblical meditation.)
Working on the practical implications such as communication and daily assistance with a disabled child and the suggestion of a daily devotional had largely not penetrated his selfish agenda. But, the work invested in developing a growing theological understanding of such doctrinal matters as abiding in Christ, adoption, sanctification, and the analogical parallel of a relationship with God and a relationship with a wife began to have a accumulative impact on him.
In another case, a husband found himself the subject of the delivery, by a sheriff deputy, of those dreaded divorce papers. He had played the good guy in counseling eighteen months prior. He presented that he really wanted the marriage to work, but in reality for his own selfish reasons.
During counseling he was prone to prescription drugs while vehemently denying such use. Once the divorce papers showed up along with the threat that his wife was having an affair, he was ready to abandon his selfish ways. However, further investigation revealed both wrong doctrine and ignorance of right doctrine. While working to bring the marriage together, it was necessary to begin to build out a biblical belief system as well as doing demolition of the error.
In both of these cases we are now at the place where the actual building of the marriage is possible just like I am now ready to start building the railroad. And, just as the railroad will always be under construction adding track, buildings, and scenery so these marriages will be under construction. As my railroad will continue to grow in beauty and performance; these marriages will continue to grow in beauty and performance. As the railroad will have the support structure and framework; these marriages will have hearts equipped with a solid biblical doctrinal framework to support both understanding and growth.
Join the Conversation
How do you connect biblical understanding of truth (the foundation) with biblical application of truth?