Wednesday, September 7, 2016

Constructing Faith: A Lesson from Roger Purser

At our old house, where the garage was also my workshop, Lisa and I had a firm agreement that each night, no matter what I was working on, her van would be safely parked in the garage before I went to bed.  Moreover, at the conclusion of any project, my car would also be parked in the garage.  We like having a garage.  Don't judge!  So we knew from the moment we decided to buy our current house that we would convert the carport into a garage.  I'm a pretty handy guy, and I had imagined framing for the door myself, but as I discussed in a previous post, the desire to get the job done eventually eclipsed the desire to save money by doing the work myself, and we paid a guy to come do it.

Roger came to us very highly recommended by people I trust.  We had to wait a long time for him, but my friends kept saying, "Wait.  Just wait.  He's worth it."  So we waited.  He showed up the first day, and I walked him through what we wanted done.  Then I left for work while he got busy on the project.  It looked to me like he hadn't done much when I got home.  Just a few 2x6's and a partial wall.

When I called to talk to him about it, he said that he had worked very hard all day long, but our house had been a challenge because the walls weren't plumb and square.  He had done all his Tapcon work (setting the first pieces of lumber in place and securing them to the house and floor, which is concrete), but he had run out of time.  I was skeptical that it could take so long to screw down a few boards, and I was frustrated.  Then I got out my level...  Sure enough, none of our existing walls were plumb.  And I mean they were way off.  But his walls were right on the money.  Perfectly plumb and level.

When Roger showed up the next morning, he got out of his van and started to say, "Let me show you how..."  I stopped him.  "Roger, you don't have to say a thing.  Your work is perfect.  I don't even know how you did it.  I'm sorry I disturbed you last night.  Please accept my apology and continue doing an excellent job."  When I got home that day, the wall was finished.  The opening for the garage door was perfectly square and exactly the right height and width.  Given how out-of-whack our house was, this was nothing short of a miracle.  I asked Roger how he did it.

"Well, it was all that work yesterday," he said.  "Taking all that time in the beginning made the rest go pretty fast."

I finished up the inside of the walls myself, painted the garage, and got ready for the door.  Last week the installer came to hang the door.  When I walked out to meet him, he was already measuring and getting ready to work.  He spoke first.  "Wow.  This sure is clean.  Just how it's supposed to be.  This install's going to be easy.  Shouldn't take long at all."  Ultimately Roger's care back on that first day made every stage of the process go better and faster.

There's a universal truth in that.  Carefully preparing a foundation is critical to long-term success.  That's because errors tend to grow and compound over time.  Even seemingly insignificant oversights at the outset can lead to catastrophic failure in the end...or at the very least require a lot of time and effort to work around.

Our children's minister, Robin, talks about this in her ministry: never teach something the kids will have to unlearn later.  That means spending a lot of time carefully considering what she is teaching well beyond the single lesson in question.  There's really no such thing as a basic theological concept!  That's one reason I respect her ministry so much: she understands how important these first steps are, and she spends a lot of time making sure they are done right.

All of which has me wondering about my role--our role--in shaping the faith of those around us.  Each interaction with another person is an opportunity to grow our faith...and theirs.  That's true whether regardless of whether you'd call yourself a believer (whatever that means!).  When we call ourselves Christian and then lash out in hate, what are we teaching those around us about being Christian?  What lessons are we teaching, just by our everyday living, that will have to be unlearned?  How will those lessons, those errors, compound over time and ultimately work counter to Christ's call to make disciples?

Most importantly, how can we engage our heart, mind, soul, and strength to consider our actions thoughtfully so that the foundations we lay will be solid and true?

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