A group came together to work out at habitat this weekend from my church, and while we worked I pondered the number of nails that must go into a house. Googling this tells me that there are about 10 per square foot in a 1200 square foot home amounting to somewhere around 12,000 nails.
That’s a lot of time with a hammer… It’s even a lot of time with a nail gun.
It’s also time that does not feel terribly productive or useful. You get the nail out, line it up, and hammer it in. If you have a nail gun, you line it up, shoot, yell profound frustration at the missed line up, line it up again, and then shoot. Repeat… twelve thousand times. But every nail plays a part in the units that make up the whole.
I don’t usually find to many people asking for profound acts of love, but I know in my chest I want to enact flashy and big love that helps people almost as much as it shows off. So, perhaps a few other people are like me and need to think about nails more for the sake of humility. Every act of love is small but makes up a greater part of the whole.
A couple of ramifications:
1) Friendship – Friendship takes small moments that form a greater whole. This means that each little moment counts as part of the whole, and sometimes our brains process the whole in subconscious or visceral ways. Little moments can make up friendships from small acts making phone calls and drinking coffee or working on a house together. Most of us know what it is to look at someone and realize they are no longer just an acquaintance… They have become friends.
Evangelism calls for this sort of slow moving genuine mutual interest. There’s no immediate proclamation of God that is coherent between two strangers. How can there be? Someone once asked what I believed in after I’d just become a Christian, it took nearly half an hour to explain. They weren’t Christian, it takes time and effort and mutual interest in one another before we can really share enough in common to show that we are Christ’s by loving one another.
2) Love out of the abstract – You cannot practice love in the abstract. You can discuss the theory and practice of love in the abstract, but eventually the only way to learn how to love is to use a nail gun, a broom, a paint brush, or a kitchen stove. We often make love an emotion or feeling, a fleeting sense of satisfaction or desire. This may be a type of love or experience, but it cannot equate to Christian love which is always grounded in practice and is hard to discuss outside of practice.
To phrase it another way: Does your spouse or child know that you love them because you can articulate the words or because you did the dishes for them got down on the ground and looked them in the eyes and smiled until it hurt? Words are signifiers or reference pointers that refer back to tangible objects – if we only think about love it becomes a shell of what it could be and references only the theory of the thing.