I recently ‘took one for the team’ as the saying goes. That is, my family went on vacation for three weeks and I stayed at home to deep dive some renovation work, because it was the only way to get things done.
It all started when I planned to make some built-ins for our TV room. My wife looked at what I was building and said “Those aren’t going in until the floor is done, and the floor is only going to be done after the fireplace is done”. I think in life, that is called pulling on a thread. It mean in practical terms, many more little things, all of them disruptive to your original plan. Piles of dust and debris, cement mixing buckets, removing appliances, patching and plastering, ripping out the old flooring, carting things away to the dump, moving around ridiculously heavy objects, installing flooring and new trim, painting, touchups, and the particularly nasty job of scraping down a popcorn ceiling. It also mean some things you didn’t originally count on. Good example: putting in new flooring meant that the new taller floor height would not allow the fridge to roll back in its place. The fridge now was blocked by the cupboard above it. The old cupboard would have to go, and a new shorter cupboard would have to be made, to allow for the fridge.
And so, in addition to all the other work, I rebuilt a cupboard complete with new doors, in such a seamless way that no one really could tell anything had changed. Who would notice the new cupboard up above was now an inch shorter than before?
The problem of course, is that I wanted someone to notice. I had doubled down my efforts when the family was gone, coughing and sweating in what looked like a bomb crater, trying to move things along. When they got back my wife was disgruntled because she thought the reconstituted household was still a bit dusty. My kids grunted and said ‘mmm, yeah Dad, nice’ when I showcased my hard work, then went back to playing on their phones and tweeting their friends.
I felt a bit deflated. I really wanted someone so say, “Wow, that is amazing all the work you did. What a work ethic! And who knew you were so clever?” But no such praise came my way.
It’s the problem of everything working. When everything works, no one notices. It’s only when one tiny thing does NOT work that the world comes crashing down and we wonder what is wrong. Logistically, nothing should work, really. The many complex details which must perfectly align for a plan to proceed is mind boggling and statistically unlikely. You can only nudge a plan forward with a lot of planning, course-correct, and sweat equity. In contrast, it only takes a few things missed to make for a total disaster.
I was disappointed that my family did not recognize my monumental effort. The truth is, that to destroy our living space and restore it by degrees, was an onerous task. A fly on the way might have sighed in empathy with my pain. To accomplish what I did however, was calculated and deliberate. I really wanted to shout out to my family. “THE REASON THINGS LOOK NORMAL IS BECAUSE SOMEONE PLANNED IT THAT WAY. IT IS GOOD BY DESIGN.” The uncredited hand behind the scenes... it was me.
All of this is broadly applicable in real life, even as a point of theology.
We are all guilty of the crime of not noticing. We get up in the morning. We flick a switch and lights magically come on. It is cold outside but our house is mysteriously warm. We hop in the shower and hot water automatically cascades down on our heads. We take a breath and directly, our lungs perform. We get out of bed and our legs work. We feel hungry. Our digestive system kicks in. We get into complex cars which start up and get us to distant places, climate controlled, with entertainment included. You get my drift. We take these many things for granted all day, and yet not a single item is random. Some are the result of human work and ingenuity, and others are the serendipity of nature provided by an invisible hand.
Does God ever want his due? Does he ever want to shout out, “THE REASON THINGS JUST WORK IS BECAUSE SOMEONE TOOK A LOT OF EFFORT TO MAKE IT THAT WAY - IT IS GOOD BY DESIGN?”
“Seeing, they do not see”, the Bible says. I think it is talking about you and me.