I’ve mentioned before that, as men get older, many of them will look back fondly to those years growing up when it seemed everything was an effort to control one’s environment. The better way to say it is that guys, when they are boys, want to be the boss of the world – at least their world. As they grow up and grow older (some would say, as they mature), they begin inch by inch to give away that urge and dream, and many end up not being able to decide what they want for dinner, and they find the only thing they have “conquered” is to be in charge of the TV remote control. Even with that, in today’s TV world, the controls have become so complicated that they have to pretty much hand over that last bit of power to their young children, who apparently are born with the ability to run all things electronically, or with a computer installed. By the time many men are ready to retire, they go one of two directions: one, they sit around, sharing with anyone who will listen their insights and wisdom and big ideas that they will no longer ever be able to take on. This is often met with a huge part of the family and friends finding ways to avoid that lecture series at all costs. The second path is when the old guys will seek out at least something they can try to control, like being in charge of mowing the lawn, or weed whacking – that’s a big one – or they take up golfing, spending hundreds of dollars and tons of hours trying to control something that really can’t be controlled…
There is one other category of old guys. They are the ones who are easily transported back in their minds to the time when they played with and enjoyed their favorite toys. I fall into that category, and have found myself eager to somehow find the toys of my childhood that are now long gone. However, it’s amazing how many of them have not been tossed out, and how readily many folks are to sell you your childhood, at often not so reasonable prices. Still, I have populated my office with a number of replacements, and never tire of looking at them, and enjoying the memories they bring.
Now, we had all sorts of different building blocks that were pretty much communal possessions. Our grandpa made what seemed like an unending pile of maple blocks, of different shapes and sizes that we would frequently build into fortresses with secret rooms and such. We also had a collection of small white lock-together blocks that took tons of our time as well.
Even though they were invented by the time I was a child, we never owned nor played with Legos. Now, my sons certainly did, which explains the big box that sits in our storage room labeled “Legos – do not open!” However, over the past number of years, I have been sucked into the world of Legos, just like I did with other building blocks in the past. The gateway to the passion was the fact that the Lego corporation began manufacturing sets exclusively targeted to adults – and probably to old guys who are trying to remember how to play once again.
The sets that hooked me first were the ones that dealt with space. I have in my office a Lego construction of a Saturn V rocket that is nearly three tall, a very complicated model of the Apollo lunar lander, and a very fragile model of the international space station. All very cool indeed. Once they have you hooked on Legos, however, they are relentless. Catalog after catalog are sent, inviting you to dream of building “just one more” item… my goal someday is to build a scale replica of the Roman Colosseum, which has over 9,000 pieces to it. Someday…
For my birthday, however, my family did splurge and buy me a set that, when built, will replicate the White House. I have already built the Capitol, so this will be a nice match. It’s only about 1,500 pieces, so not quite the mammoth effort to accomplish.
I started working on it yesterday. I like to take my time, in part because they are pricey little critters and once built, that’s kind of it. The other reason, however, is that they don’t give you instructions with any words on them. Only pictures. Each step shows you the number and kind of pieces you will need, and then gives you a drawing of what it looks like if you are able to put the pieces in the right places. Sounds easy, right? However, until you have gone through about five complicated steps of placing bricks, only to realize that back on Step 2, you put an entire wall, or an arch one or two places over from where they should have been put, which spells disaster at Step 5, and you need to bring the wrecking ball and pretty much start over again, then you know it’s not quite as “easy” as you might think. I expect around the world, there are old men holding fistfuls of colored Legos with tears running down their faces because what they tried to conquer had instead conquered them…
So, I finished Step One, and later today, I expect to mount the effort for Step 2. Here’s the thing about Legos: they are extremely well made, and the construction is extremely well thought out. This means, however, that, just like a real building, there are items that need to go into it that remain hidden forever. After building the bottom foundation of the Executive mansion portion of the “people’s house,” I followed the instructions carefully to try to construct the next layer up. I was fascinated, as I built an open square structure about two levels tall, to find that I was then instructed to put two full-sized Legos into the middle of the square, and then cover them up for all time with some finished slats-looking pieces. Somehow, the engineers decided that the best way to re-create this portion of the building was to entomb Legos forever in the bowels of the White House. As I said, it was fascinating, and when I followed the instructions and did just that, it all fit together perfectly.
I think the Lego construction is a pretty good metaphor for life. As much as we might like everything to have that flashy, look-at-what-I-have-done feel to our lives, there are those things that simply have to find their places in the hidden areas of our lives, that no one can see, but that create foundations for what comes next. For instance, if I spend my life hearing my parents’ words in my ears, saying that I should always tell the truth, then that creates a far different foundation for who I am, rather than listening to “Do whatever you can to get away with something…”
Sure, there’s plenty of who we are that the entire world can see, and perhaps even admire or be in awe of, but those are the external “bricks” as it were that can only exist because there is so much else backing them up, supporting them, and silently and privately giving them what they need to be showy to the world.
Think about what holds your life up. Character, morality, relationships, honor, justice, love, and I would dearly hope it would also include your relationship with God through Christ. We and the rest of the world will only ever see the results of those foundational parts of your life – or the absence of them. It is for you and me to live honestly aware of what has been put in place, or what even now needs to find its footing in our lives. Now, you can try to avoid it, but I will tell you right now, that without those foundations, you will simply have a huge mess on your hands, and things refuse to fit, or they fall apart with the least bit of a force against them.
Build your life the right way. Teach your children/grandchildren and others within your sphere of influence to also live that way. When we build, or allow to have built, those wonderful footings, then we will know that our lives matter, and can offer a significant and intentional witness to our world.
Word for the day: obelize. Pronounced AH-bell-ize. It comes from Greek (as it sounds), the word obelos, which oddly enough means “obelus.” In ancient manuscripts, if an editor or scribe were to come across a passage that seemed to not fit with what the original script would have said, that somehow corrupted the word, or was spurious or doubtful that it should even belong there, the writer would insert an “obelus” to point out the potential error. The obelus for us today is the division symbol in mathematics, which is a line with a dot above and often a dot below. Anyone seeing the manuscript would then be alerted as to the question of the passage’s place or authenticity. For us today, it invites us to “divide” a number and create a new one. For the editors, it invited the reader to “divide” the true from the false.
We should “obelize” more often in our lives and in our world, testing what it true from what is just something added in …
After 43 years of ministry, Randy Cross lived his "fourth life" and shared about retirement, living boldly and intentionally in our world. To be sure, there was some North Dakota thrown in.