Tuesday, June 25, 2013

Never Wasted

After the Great Fire in London in 1666, architect Christopher Wren worked with determination to full redesign the city--getting rid of the old medieval planning and using, instead, an organized grid pattern that would make sense and allow for a new city to rise from the ashes of the fire that destroyed it.

Wren had not yet built what would become his masterpiece--St. Paul's Cathedral--but he had already proven himself to be a spirited, inspired, and clever architect. He submitted his plans for the rebuilding of London to King Charles II, but they were never adopted. The new London eventually emerged as a mere sibling to the old London. 

Wren's energy and hope--his plans for the new city--were wasted. 

When we teach, and parent, and write; when we dream and explore the world around us; when we chart a course for the journey ahead and become giddy with the possibilities--the plans don't always work out. Not the way we'd hoped they would, at least. Things change, and what we once designed in such bursts of passion and creativity sometimes seems wasted--pointless.

There is an old story I heard about ten years ago about a man and a boulder. God brings this man in front of the boulder and says, "Push." 

The man seeks to be obedient and passionate in his efforts, and so he pushes. And he pushes. And he pushes. But day after day, month after month, the boulder never moves. No matter how tirelessly the man asserts his strength, the boulder sits still. 

Finally, the man rages at God from his own apparent failure of God's direct call on his life. But God only laughs and says, "I told you to push only." 

The man becomes even more embittered--feeling this whole pursuit to be a wasted effort. But before the bitterness can consume him, God says, "Look at your arms. Look at your chest. Look at your legs." And them man is shocked to see himself: muscles have appeared and his body does, indeed, feel strong, capable, ready. 

His work was never wasted. He had assumed the call was towards an immediate result, but instead the journey had been something else altogether. God then says to the man, "Now I can move the boulder." 

Christopher Wren's inspired plans for the rebuilding of London never did come to any use in the United Kingdom. But across the Atlantic Ocean, in a city called Philadelphia, Wren's visions were given an exact reality. The whole city was built upon Wren's seemingly wasted efforts. 

When we cannot see the fruits of our work, and when we feel our work isn't worth being seen, it may be that we are growing strong though we do not realize it. It may be that we are designing cities oceans away from where our eyes now reach.