Tearing down our towers

building-blocks-1563961_1920“One. Two. Three.” She counts, one block at a time. The tower grows higher and higher.

I lay the foundations, a perfectly symmetrical square. The blocks meet in all the right places. It is perfection… until those little toddler hands give it a try. “One. Two. Three.” She counts. Each block is placed on the tower, and some actually complement the mighty frame which I built… but most of them add… creativity to it. No longer is the masterpiece a square, but a cockeyed leaning-tower-of-something.

It is easy to tell which parts I built and which ones she did. I frantically work to path the holes in the walls and keep the thing sturdy enough that it will withstand the next toddler assault without toppling over. “More blocks. More blocks, daddy.” These are the lyrics to the song in my heart, but soon the refrain is over and the bridge is out. The final chords strikes, an awkward finish.

“No more blocks. All done.” A pout smears her face as I say the words. I direct her attention to the empty bag which once held a mix of potential and the right dose of imagination. I feel the tears forming, great pregnant clouds behind eyelids.

“More blocks, daddy…”

“There are no more blocks,” I try to explain, “They are all on the tower. If we take it apart, we can have more blocks. Sometimes things have to be taken down before they can be built back up.”

My little girl follows suit, more than happy to destroy what we once so beautifully created. This part she has mastered. Me? I am struck by the words I just said. It seems we are all searching for the bigger tower, reaching for some sense of purpose so that we no longer have to work at life as if one day we will place that final block, sit back, and say, “I have arrived.” But this is when the tears fall. It is at these moments when we see the holes in our creation, the times when we were still new at this things called “life” and the mistakes we made along the way. The tower is never really finished.

If you’re anything like me, those unsymmetrical moments of confusion in your past cannot just be built on top of and forgotten. They will always be there, buried somewhere, bothering you. Not until we take apart what we thought was perfect do we find them again. There is always a way to improve our tower.

When playtime becomes philosophy and recess retrospection. This is the way of an artist’s mind. There is always a story to share, always a message behind our methods. Perhaps my little girl didn’t get it, just happy to be playing blocks with her dad, but do we truly get it either? Don’t we throw a fit when something stands in the way of the life we thought we were building? Don’t we rebel when someone says that we are putting the blocks of our life in the wrong direction and it will just make the tower shaky and unstable? Don’t we also struggle with those moments of deconstruction.

“Sometimes things have to be taken down before they can be built back up.” I so often reach those heights when I think that I have “arrived.” I can defend my point until I don’t even know what I’m fighting about. I can do a job–that should really take two people–like moving furniture all by myself (because I don’t need any help. I’ve figured it out.) I can back up my parenting style with logical reasoning, and my way of interpreting the Bible with enough “proof texts” to make my Bible College professor smile. I don’t like to take things apart, but oh the release I get when I finally give up, release those tears, and take the blocks off my tower.

Why does pride come before a fall? Pride won’t always “make” you fall, but sometimes it exposes the need. The fall doesn’t have to be hard and messy, it can be slow and voluntary–one block at a time.

As I go through the cycle of building blocks with my little girl and tearing those towers down again, I wonder how many towers I have held up too long when they should have fallen, how many questions I have refused to ask, how many blocks I don’t want to pull our and inspect because my whole life might come crashing down if I do. I don’t think I will ever stop building towers, but I hope that I won’t ever stop tearing them down either. I hope that I never settle for one tower so long that it destroys my whole world when someone starts to question the blocks on which my life stands. And, if I ever do, I hope that my little girl is around to help me do what I am not willing to do. She is already better at smashing towers than I ever was.

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