Pause for Thought – a five minute read – 18

Matthew 7 v 24 – 27/Luke 6 v 47 – 49.

Back in 1967/68 I was a fresh faced (no beard then) twenty years old, studying at Bradford Technical College for a Higher National Certificate in Building (HNC). It was a day release program where I worked on site as a bricklayer in my father’s building business and attended college one day a week along with several nights. It was a great time of my life, which I enjoyed immensely. At that time I met Jean, my wife, I met great friends who I still go to visit, when Coronavirus allows, and everything seemed perfect, even college was great.

The HNC course was really good as it dealt with all aspects of construction many of which I did not experience on the sites that I was involved with during the day. I remember that we were told to purchase the ‘bible’ for the course, a series of books called’ Mitchell’s Construction’, I’m sure I still have a copy somewhere probably in the roof space. It contained everything that a student needed to know about building construction, but my favourite part was on the design of foundations. I can remember the lecturer saying that no matter how well you construct a building, if the foundation is wrong then you have wasted your time and it will fail.

Later in life , working as a Building Inspector, I witnessed many failed buildings , and that lecturer’s words kept coming back to me.

Whether the work relates to a brick garage in a rear garden, or a multi storey sky scraper in London or New York, the same principles apply; the foundations must be adequate and strong enough to safely support the structure.

Of course a great deal depends upon the type of ground on which the building is to be erected. We always hope for solid rock because when the ground is good the foundations are usually good. But what if the ground is backfilled with rubbish or is soft running sand? Then a special type of foundation known as piled foundations could be used. Columns of steel and concrete can be driven down through the soft ground onto solid material beneath, often at great depths. The structure is supported on the piles like a building on stilts.

Working in Nottingham town centre presented even greater problems even when the ground was rock, (Sandstone). Unfortunately, beneath Nottingham City Centre there is a labyrinth of caves, the exact location and extent of which are not entirely known. It is necessary to drill down into the rock to ensure there are no large voids lurking under the surface which could result in a failure. The Broad Marsh Shopping Centre in Nottingham became a tourist attraction when the caves and pile foundations beneath the building were opened to the public.

Due to the obvious importance of foundations it is surprising how many times an inspection reveals them to be inadequate and at least additional excavation is required or in extreme cases a complete redesign of the type of foundation.

But even in failure all is not necessarily lost, as emergency excavation and underpinning of the foundation can save it for prosperity.

It’s like life; if we build our lives on a good foundation then we can build on that with the confidence that whatever happens we can be safe. If our foundations are inferior then our lives can fail.

Both Matthew (Matt 7 v 24 – 27) and Luke (Luke 6 v 47 – 49) relate to the parable of the wise house builder. One builder built his house on the rock and, no matter how hard the storm raged, the house remained standing. On the other hand the one built on the soft sand, or on no foundation at all, fell down when the storm raged.

If we build our lives on Jesus no matter how hard the storms in our lives are we will receive the strength and support that will keep us going and see us through to the other side. Those who choose to substitute the rock of Jesus for the soft sandy ground will find that the storms can end in lives collapsing under the weight of life’s pressures.

Imagine negotiating life’s crisis like bereavement, illness, financial pressures, or even Coronavirus without the support and strength of our Lord Jesus Christ that will give hope and assurance.

The wonderful thing about Jesus is that he is always there to underpin the shifting sand beneath those who will turn to him in their time of need and accept they chose the wrong way and offer their repentance. Jesus is always looking to guide the lost sheep onto a firmer footing through his love.

Many years ago I as a Building Inspector visited a site of an extension to a house in Spondon. It was for a foundation excavation which proved to be unsatisfactory and required additional excavation to reach suitable ground. It transpired that the house was the home of a Methodist Minister. Several years later I was a member of the congregation when this minister was preaching. His text was taken from Luke 6 v 47 – 49, and he used as an illustration a visit to his house by a council inspector. He then looked at me and said that his house was still standing thanks to Derek (me)

Get the foundation right and the rest will follow.   

Derek T.