Kujenga is a Swahili word that means”to build”.
It’s also where we get the name for the tower of blocks game, Jenga.
You know the one: 53 narrow blocks stacked eighteen stories high, three blocks to a story. Slip a block out from a lower level and place it on top, stacking the tower higher and higher.
Collapsing is simply a matter of time, as the foundation gets weaker every time a block is removed.
Our faith sometimes feels like that.
We take the building blocks we’re given—scriptures we’ve read, services we’ve attended, worship we’ve experienced, messages we’ve heard, and so on—and we stack them up. Together they create a sort of altar that we can practice our faith upon. And for most people it’s a genuine and stable and lasting structure.
Until it gets tested.
Daily life, personal doubts, unanswered prayers, unexplainable tragedies, people that seemingly mock God and get away with it—one at a time might be manageable. But when storms like this start to build and collide into each other the resulting hurricane can knock the footings out from under even the most sincere believer.
And if too many pins get broken, the entire structure of faith could tumble like a house of cards.
But it doesn’t have to.
Our faith could be built more like a palm tree rather than a stack of blocks.
Unlike pine or oak or most other trees, a palm tree doesn’t create annual rings as it grows. It’s trunk is actually made up of slender, tough strands embedded in lots of flexible tissue, making the trunk more like a telephone cable with thousands of tiny wires that run the length of the cable.
It’s root system works in a similar fashion. Instead of a few large roots anchored to the soil, palms sacrifice size for quantity. They have a dense network of smaller tendril roots that spread out horizontally into the upper layers of topsoil as well as vertically down into the subsoil.
Lengthy strands in both the root system and the main trunk allow palms to withstand all types of weather conditions that destroy many other trees. Including hurricanes and gale-force winds.
Sometimes we do spiritual activities just so we can mark the box on our to-do list: Rattle through our prayer list. Go to church instead of sleeping in. Being kind to someone that needs to get what’s coming to them. Read the Bible for fifteen. Donate time and money to some place or person in need.
And we do them and stack the check boxes up as if they were on a cosmic scale of Goodly Godly Things That Matter.
And call it faith.
This isn’t anything new. God told Isaiah to call out his people for going through the motions to appear holy 700 years before Jesus walked the earth:
“Tell my people Israel of their sins! Yet they act so pious! They come to the Temple every day and seem delighted to learn all about me. They act like a righteous nation that would never abandon the laws of its God. They ask me to take action on their behalf, pretending they want to be near me. ‘We have fasted before you!’ they say. ‘Why aren’t you impressed? We have been very hard on ourselves, and you don’t even notice it!’
Isaiah 58:1-3, NLT
Checking off lists of spiritual things isn’t helpful to us and isn’t impressive to God.
Today, find one area in your life to grow your faith like a palm tree.
We’d be better to take one scripture passage and consider that single portion for an entire week.
We’d be better to take one prayer need and dig in, praying over that single thing until God answers.
We’d be better to take one lie we’ve told and consider it from God’s perspective, imagining the impact it was having on our life and on the lives of those around us. And developing a better understanding of why even “tiny” sins are deadly and destructive.
And tendril by tendril let these different things each help root our faith and grow in our lives through the core of who we are. Because in doing so we would begin to cultivate a more resilient faith.
As Paul said in his letter to the Romans:
And so, dear brothers and sisters, I plead with you to give your bodies to God because of all he has done for you. Let them be a living and holy sacrifice—the kind he will find acceptable. This is truly the way to worship him. Don’t copy the behavior and customs of this world, but let God transform you into a new person by changing the way you think. Then you will learn to know God’s will for you, which is good and pleasing and perfect.
Romans 12:1-2, NLT
Today, grow your faith. One tiny root at a time.