More Flags Have Appeared
By JIM NICHOLS
Several weeks ago, small flags appeared in our front yard. Our next-door neighbors were re-financing their house and one of the legal requirements was to identify the true boundaries between the properties. Boundaries are apparently important to all of us.
In recent days, more flags have appeared, this time in our back yard. After asking my permission, a man positioned flags of several colors in the yard; some are yellow, some red, some blue, some orange. He also used fluorescent spray paint on the grass. As you probably understand, he was identifying the positions of pipes, cables, and wires under the ground.
When I was growing up, power and telephone cables were strung from poles out near the street and then to the house. In lots of neighborhoods today, this is still the pattern. Apparently, such placement makes the connections vulnerable to breaking due to winds, ice buildup, or squirrels with bad judgment. If those connections are placed underground, some of their vulnerabilities are reduced. Introduced, however, is the possibility of the underground connections being broken by someone digging. I have always liked planting small trees and bushes in the yard, and I have lived in fear that I would cut through some hidden underground connection during my planting activity. Machines and trucks in the neighborhood indicate there are professional diggers nearby right now; they want to avoid disrupting connections during their work. Thus, the connections need to be marked ahead of time.
I am impressed at how many flags and brightly painted lines there are in our medium sized yard. Evidently, there are sets of connections and communications there that are unknown to me. They are helping many of the house activities occur in secret; it is rather mysterious to me.
We are, however, familiar with things hidden beneath surfaces. As we look at our own lives and the lives of others, we realize that lots of hiding is occurring. On a personal level, I would mention again a friend’s statement that “. . . I find life to be much simpler if I am the same person all the time.” That is a reasonable goal, but, of course, I fail consistently. My hunch is that you do, too. Our honesty with ourselves and others, it seems, is incomplete.
I have led a life that has put me into many situations in which I have been given information that is clearly confidential. Some of it has been quite troubling, in fact. Because I am trying to live my life as a God-follower, my inclination is to try to rectify or at least smooth over the troubling information I receive. Sometimes that is impossible; the deed is done, the crisis is past, the words have been said. All that remains now is keeping the information from spreading and therefore limiting future damage. This is a serious dilemma for me. To be blunt, I believe I will die knowing some things about others that only a very few, maybe only one, knows. Spreading that information would not be helpful in my opinion, and I believe love commands that I keep it hidden. But I am not sure that is the correct judgment.
It helps to keep reminding myself that my views of life are severely limited. I may know a single piece of information, but not sufficient context. To make a scientific connection leap, I have often wondered how individuals with the first microscopes responded to seeing a world beneath their everyday vision. They had been drinking and bathing in water, for example, that was teeming with microorganisms; only with their crude microscope invention could they see that hidden world. What did they think? At the other end of the optical spectrum, the invention of telescopes has opened our understanding to unimaginable worlds beyond our own. Frankly, the ability to grind lenses and see formerly invisible items is an amazing capability and one that shows how magnificent (wonderful or troubling) the hidden world is.
The colorful flags in the yard are an illustration to me of the limits of my observing skills. Apparently, all manner of things are occurring beneath the ground surface. Much in the world is hidden from me. As a follower of God, how am I to respond to uncovering hidden items in life? Considering God’s grace, forgiveness, and guidance, where is the “working place” for us?
Jim Nichols is a retired Abilene Christian University biology professor and current medical chaplain