You can learn a lot about life sitting on a porch. Before the invention of television, radio and air-conditioning, people spent a lot of time on the porch. The porch was the place for family get-togethers, quiet conversation, observation, shelling peas, and whittling.
Last year, I had a medical procedure that required me to basically sit and do nothing, lift nothing, strain at nothing—mainly vegetate—while recuperating, for a whole week. It was doctor-ordered and wife-enforced. So, I planted myself on my favorite porch, with a beautiful view of Lake Hamilton in Hot Springs, Arkansas, and counted the days before I could return to life.
As I looked on from the porch, sometimes the skies dropped lovely, steady, needed rain. Other times I watched the sun come up, race across the sky, then sink in the west with golden orange rays reflecting off the water. Some days seemed three days long. But, my wife Pat, sat with me enjoying the sights and sounds of God’s creation at work, as I tried not to ruin it for her with my complaints.
So, what can you learn about life sitting on a porch?
One, you learn that life goes on, even without you. No one is irreplaceable or indispensable and most of us may not even be that essential. Though your life is unique and valuable to God, and you are the only one of you He ever made, not everything you do is that important. The universe does not revolve around you. The sun will rise tomorrow and no matter what happens today, life will go on. Some day, after you make your final exit from this life, the world won’t stop.
Two, on the porch you learn that the people who really matter in your life are those who come closest when you are in need—your spouse, your children, your church family and close friends. The first institution God made was marriage and the home, followed immediately by children and the family.
With good reason, Paul wrote that if a man is not a good husband and father; he is not qualified to be a pastor, deacon, or church leader (1 Timothy 3:1-13). Howard Hendricks used to say that means if a man cannot lead in a limited sphere, don’t enlarge it! On the porch you learn that no people are as important as your family. For most of us, the greatest joys in life are connected with family. Nothing comes close to that, and no amount of fame, fortune or success can ever replace that.
Another institution God planned for your wellbeing was the church. When you are in need of comfort, encouragement or care, that group of people you meet weekly will come to your aid. Years ago, a pastor sarcastically wrote: “You better get to know Pastor What’s-His-Name, because Billy Graham will not preach your funeral!”
Paul compared the church to a body with many functioning parts, of which, if you belong, you are one. Church members care for one another, and “if one member suffers, all the members suffer with it; if one member is honored, all the members rejoice with it. Now you are Christ’s body, and individually members of it” (1 Corinthians 12:26-27). A true church is a group of sympathetic, empathetic people, who serves Jesus and ministers to people.
Three, you also learn that you should focus your life more on things that are eternal, and less on things that are temporal. Most highly desired things in this life that people strain and strive for are just fluff, pith and chaff. Much of what we think we want is fleeting fantasy. It does not satisfy and quickly disappears.
However, a life focused on things of eternal value is a life full, pleasing and well lived. So, what is eternal that should become your focus? Only two things you can see with your eyes are eternal: the Word of God and people. Learning and living by God’s Word as you love, interact with and minister to people, results in a life of eternal value.
Four, on the porch, you realize that the really wonderful and memorable times in life always gravitate around needs. With all that time to think, I was reminded that through four decades of pastoral ministry people did not remember the sermons I preached, but never forgot the love, concern and care I showed in their hour of need. One of the greatest joys in life has been those times ministering to the hurting, weeping with the broken, while praying and loving them through tragedies.
What a great privilege we have to share our lives and love with people. Mark Hall of Casting Crowns wrote and sang this chorus in the song “Love them Like Jesus:”
“You don’t need the answers
To all of life’s questions
Just know that He loves them
Stay by their side
And love them like Jesus,
Love them like Jesus”
The good news is that you do not need an excuse to spend quality time on your porch. Occasional porch time may be the most productive time you spend. In fact, you really don’t even need a porch. Stop and consider your life. Settle down to the real values in life and toss aside vain pursuits. Spend time in His Word then share its truths with others. Porch time is not wasted time!
So I encourage you to make time this summer to just sit on your porch. Be open to the surprises of God and the goodness of life that comes to bless you. Surround yourself with loved ones and see what God does in your heart on your porch.