I want to tell you a story of something that happened to Ruthie and me when we visited the magnificent Taj Mahal in Agra, India. I will leave it to you to determine whether you believe it’s true.
The Taj is one of the most strikingly beautiful structures on earth. It’s made of white marble, taller than a 24-story building, and it sits ensconced on a stellar 42-acre piece of land on the south bank of the Yamuna River. The building and its construction is a story full of exclamation marks. It took 20,000 artisans more than 20 years to build, and I would hunch it is as breathtakingly magnificent as when it was unveiled in the mid-sixteen hundreds.
It was built by emperor Shah Jahan as the final resting place of his third (and favorite) wife, Mumtaz Mahal, who died giving birth to their 14th child. In his grief, the Shah determined to build a mausoleum so grand she would never be forgotten. Today, nearly 400 years later, between seven and eight million visitors still come annually to gaze in awe.
But an interesting thing happened on the way to the funeral. This is the part of the story told to us by a friend, a local, who assured us it was true: As the Taj began to take form it was determined that the elaborate catafalque and sarcophagus in which Mumtaz rested would not fit through any of the doors planned in the building, so as soon as the flooring for the main structure was in place, the entire regal casket ensemble was put in place and a protective covering built to protect it from the workers and the inevitable construction debris that would accumulate.
As the years passed and construction crews changed, the casket began to increasingly resemble the piles of building material and masonry debris around it. The project became the central focus; the purpose for which the project was being conducted was virtually lost sight of. Some of the workers lost totally the vision of their task; for a time they actually lost her body.
The parallel of the story is painful. But the future is bright. A high percentage of the folks I talk to, get it. To stretch the metaphor just bit, a beautiful exterior is not the end game, the tomb is – in this case, an empty tomb. Enough structure, though just barely, to get us where we’re going; ever-focused on the goal: the global proclamation of the everlasting gospel of Jesus Christ. Risen. Mansion-builder. So the old adage proves true: The main thing is to make the main thing the main thing.
By Don Jacobsen