Astana, Kazakhstan has more construction cranes per capita than any city in the world, or so I was told by a resident earlier this year. (See, you learn important stuff reading this blog, right?) I find cranes fascinating, and I recall one in particular that was involved in a construction project near my office once. I stopped for a few minutes once in a while to just watch it work, and to think about how important its role was in building that structure. They were using a modular process. Pre-formed sections of concrete and masonry were trucked in to the site one piece at a time. Huge sections of walls and concrete floors were lifted off the trucks by this crane and carefully lowered into place, where they almost instantly become a finished part of the building. I was freshly astonished at how much weight cranes can lift. Not just tons, but hundreds of tons were picked up as easily as I might pick up a piece of balsa wood. Lifting those pieces and carrying them to the place they needed to go by human strength alone would be beyond impossible. Even if the ‘Incredible Hulk’ was real, he couldn’t get mad enough or turn green enough to get that done. I found the whole process compelling, especially when considering the contrast between the tonnage being lifted and the personal effort exerted by the operator.
Not being a connoisseur of facts about cranes, I had no idea what kind of crane I was watching. Regardless, it was obviously a marvel of precision engineering, a carefully designed set of mechanical and hydraulic systems and sub-systems. It included all kinds of parts, made from a variety of materials, and assembled by a host of different people with different skills and abilities. This conglomeration of diverse elements was ultimately interconnected in a way that represented a potential for power that is genuinely awesome.
The operator’s first-hand knowledge about crane design would certainly have exceeded my own, but it’s doubtful he could have designed and built one. Even if he had the basic shell, multitudes of complex mathematic, mechanical, and geometric formulas would be required to compute and construct the necessary boom length, optimum lift angles, number of cables, pulleys, effective counter weights, and the number and size of hydraulic cylinders and accompanying diesel power needed. Yet, in spite of not knowing all that stuff, there he sat, manipulating with ease a huge machine he did not and could not personally create, and lifting things he would be powerless to move otherwise.
Occasionally, even simple and obvious things can be astounding, like the awareness that he didn’t have to know everything about how the crane’s power works to know how to work with its power. He didn’t have to memorize the blueprints of the structure he was helping to build, either. He could have been totally inept at any of the finish work needed on its interior, and clueless about plumbing, and it wouldn’t have mattered. All that mattered for him was proper handling of that crane. If he didn’t do his job, the other stuff would never get to be an issue, anyway.
What made the operator valuable was just knowing how cranes work, not how to build one. He needed to know which lever moves what, and which pedal controls which motion. He had to learn where to put his hands and feet, and how much pressure to exert where and when—simple movements, but vital when in contact with those controls. The end result was mesmerizing. He moved that huge apparatus with the grace and dexterity of an artist, slipping those tons of concrete and steel into place with a simple touch of his fingers. I had no idea what his name was, or how he learned to do what he did so well, and the anonymity of it all made me kind of sad.
That building is all done now—the crane’s gone, street’s quiet. No sign remains to show that a crane was ever there, except all that concrete and steel rising up from the earth. There’s no plaque with that operator’s name, and nothing to tell what his role was in its construction. The occupants are all concerned with other things and neither know nor care. I’ll bet the builder would care, though, and he would be proud. If he could have sat there with me in the car that day and watched his operator fit those huge pieces into place, he wouldn’t have cared whether the guy could design and build a crane by himself or not.
Some lessons emerge and grip my heart, like I don’t have to know everything in order to do what I’m sent to do. Like the crane operator, in my own strength alone, the tasks I’m sent to do are impossible—but the power source I’m offered is mind boggling. It isn’t my creation, and I don’t fully understand all of the intricacies, and that’s OK, because I don’t have to. For Him to do “… exceedingly abundantly above all that [I] ask or think,” does not require superhuman effort on my part, but is “… according to the power that works in [me]” (Eph. 3:20).
My part is not all that complicated. Like my friend, the crane operator, showed, sometimes getting things done that are overwhelming is as simple as putting our hands and feet in the right places, and keeping our eyes focused on the task at hand. We don’t need to know all the formulas. If we just put our hands and feet where God directs us, and move them the way He said we should, we might see loads being lifted and things being built that astound those who are watching. And if they never know our name or what we did, that’s OK, too. It won’t diminish in the least the importance of our contribution—and besides, the Builder knows, and He won’t forget.
© 2014 Gallagher’s Pen, Ronald L. Gallagher, Ed.S. All rights reserved.
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