Friday, June 13, 2008

The deck came tumbling down

We hosted a last day of school barbeque for about 60 people this afternoon. By hosted I mean, we provided the house, bowls, garbage bags and deck. Oh yes, we provided the deck alright. And after about 30 of those teenagers managed to crowd onto it, while I was down in the yard throwing for Jamaica so she'd calm down a little (I know sounds counter-intuitive, but I know my dog!), there was a sudden crack or pop, and the deck dropped. All the conversations came to a single crashing halt as well, and then there was a pop of noise as 30 high-pitched voices immediately retold the last few moments--I like that we humans always instinctively tell each other our stories, even to people who are living those moments with us. I shook my head, walked into the house to find Steve, and when I came back outside, all the kids were standing down on the grass.

We've known for a year that we have to replace our deck this summer. It's on our 'to do' list, actually. Just yesterday--literally yesterday--the plan and materials list came in the mail. Our delivery date for the lumber is June 20th. So that the deck is 'soft' and bouncy in places is not news to us. The places where people shouldn't walk, we've just strategically placed tables so no foot could step through the boards. We thought we had it covered. Apparently we were dead wrong.

After the party when we went out to check the damage, it was clearly tilting away from the house and toward the yard. So the Beve got down on his belly (and Maica puppy thought it was quite the game and joined him immediately!) to check the beams holding it up--and discovered they're too thin and too far apart. The deck was poorly built. My engineering father (who built more than one deck in his life) would be turning over in his grave, if he had one to turn over in! All this time we thought the worst of the problems were those we could see, when, as bad as those were, they were only cosmetic.

I stood there looking at the steps that no longer line up, thinking of how those kids could have been hurt, how we could have been sued (I know, I read the news), knowing we procrastinated last summer (rather chose to remodel our bathroom instead!), and shook my head. If we hadn't already planned to do this, we'd have to do it now...

It's the simple thing to say that the foundation must be solid in order for the structure to be firm. This is both true in the physical world and in the spiritual world. But building a solid foundation, and keeping it solid after it's been lived on for a while--those are the keys to living on a deck. And the keys to most of what we do in life, when you think about it. Marriage, parenting, certainly life in Christ. Of course, you can't keep something solid if it wasn't solid to begin with. But you can start over, break it down and rebuild with better materials--right on the same footprint. I love that. We always have the chance to build from where we are. Right now. It isn't too late at 50, for example, to shore up my foundations--not with the Beve, not with my kids, and not with Christ.

Now I'm not an engineer. I don't know how to even build a little deck. And to tell you the truth, I'm not very good at thinking in terms of lists and 'how-to'. It's too dry and systematic for me. But for some people, that materials list, that pile of lumber stirs their blood. They see those concrete blocks and can hardly wait to get hot and sweaty setting them in place. And theologically, I tend to live more intuitively than objectively. I can't stand bullet points that all start with the same letter of the alphabet. Like, the Christian life involves confession, commitment, community. Things like that--they really annoy me. They just miss so much, I think. But whatever helps you build your deck, build it strong enough to live on, strong enough to hold a whole community along with you--that's what your goal, your life with Christ should be about. Just picture it, our lives in Him, strong enough to hold whoever He walks through our doors. Whoever He walks through our door, we'll entertain because we're strong enough to hold them.

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