Please Excuse My Dear Aunt Sally
There was something about the order of operations in math class that my little rebel heart just could not accept. I hated that things needed to be done only one way. Unfortunately, the more complicated my math classes got the more important it was to remember that simple, irritating acronym: Please Excuse My Dear Aunt Sally. Which stood for parenthesis, exponents, multiplication, addition, and subtraction in that order (and only in that order).
When I graduated an unspecified number of years ago, I was sure that I was done with this strategy so I filed it away with the other useless things that I learned while there and never thought of it again. Then we got a house.
Now, thank Jesus there has been very little complicated math other than some intricate drywall cuts, but this idea of the order of operations keeps rearing its ugly head. Specifically, when we ran into an issue with our foundation.
It’s an old house and the floor was sagging right where we were planning on framing out a wall. This doesn’t sound like that big of a deal except that we can’t fix the floor issue overnight. We have to be patient and take our time, slowly jacking it up an eighth of an inch at a time every week—seven weeks to be specific. If we put the wall in before the floor is level then our wall would bow as the floor is lifted up. And there it is, a real-life example of the infuriating order of operations.
You see I just want to get to the fun bits already. I want to be painting and tiling and buying light fixtures but I need to keep first things first and not run ahead of myself. We need to get the foundation sound before we can start building on top of it.
“I will show you what it's like when someone comes to me, listens to my teaching, and then follows it. It is like a person building a house who digs deep and lays the foundation on solid rock. When the floodwaters rise and break against that house, it stands firm because it is well built. But anyone who hears and doesn't obey is like a person who builds a house without a foundation. When the floods sweep down against that house, it will collapse into a heap of ruins."
- Luke 6:47-49 NLT
I love how Luke mentions in this version of the parable that the one who builds on the rock had to first dig deep. When I think of that I think of the extra time that needs to go into it. He’s not building a quick structure-–something that’s thrown up over a weekend—this is a forever home! A building that is worth the extra time that goes into it. A building worth observing the order of operations.
I’m learning more and more that there is a lot that goes into a building. The quality of materials and skill of the workman play a huge part in the final structure but the best materials that money can buy will still buckle if the foundation underneath isn’t sure. It’s important that we put the time into our foundation, that we dig down deep, that we don’t cut corners, because at some point a storm is going to come and when it does, the quality of our foundation will be put to the test.
“Because of God's grace to me, I have laid the foundation like an expert builder. Now others are building on it. But whoever is building on this foundation must be very careful. For no one can lay any foundation other than the one we already have--Jesus Christ.”
- 1 Corinthians 3:10-11 NLT
Jesus is our foundation, He is the cornerstone of our faith, everything hinges on Him, and without Him, nothing matters. He is our all in all. He is the beginning and the end and because of Him, the middle can stand in place. Everything that we do, everything that we build must be built on Him. Which sounds really good in theory but what does that look like in practice?
It looks like getting our order of operations right.
I love the miraculous! I love soaking in the manifest presence of God. I love feeling Him. I love dreams and visions, signs and wonders. I love seeing Him show up and having Him blow my mind. But those things aren’t my foundation. Neither are His blessings. The gifts of His hands must never be more important than His face. If those are what I’m building my faith on then my house is going to crumble when a storm comes. Our foundation must not be feelings or experiences, anointings or blessings but Jesus Christ Himself. Our foundation needs to be the Word of God!
All of those things are exciting, they are like the pretty bits I’m waiting to finally put in our house. But they are not the point! They are the extra and they mustn’t be what we live for.
Here’s the thing about all the “fun bits”, we have an enemy that likes to counterfeit the move of God. We are told that He masquerades as an angel of light, but we are also told that Jesus’s sheep know His voice. Just because our enemy is capable of counterfeiting does not mean that we should throw the baby out with the bathwater. It means that we need to be discerning and check everything against the foundation that Jesus laid, against the rock. God will never do anything that stands in contrast to His word! But you need to know the word or how do you know what voice is talking?
“All Scripture is inspired by God and is useful to teach us what is true and to make us realize what is wrong in our lives. It corrects us when we are wrong and teaches us to do what is right. God uses it to prepare and equip his people to do every good work.”
- 2 Timothy 3:16-17 NLT
It’s not just about knowing the scripture, it’s about applying it. That’s what Jesus was saying when He was talking about the builder who built on the rock. He dug down. He put in the work to make His way to the rock. He dealt with the drudgery, the tiredness and He kept going. Then he built there right on top of it. Which sounds simple but stick with me for a moment.
Getting there is only half of the battle, if it’s not applied then all is lost. It doesn’t matter if we realize what is wrong with our lives if we will not do what is right. God uses scripture to prepare and equip us, it's up to us if we’re going to put it to use. It’s up to us if we’re going to build on the rock or just look at it.
Written by Amanda Strauser