By Bill Harley
If you are sweltering in the late summer heat, here is a true winter tale to refresh you.
Six years ago, Jean and I sold our house of 35 years and bought a condo in a 15-story cooperative condominium. One of the things we like about this building is that there is an in-house fitness center where we work out with weights three times per week to fend off the ravages of aging.
We live on the 6th floor and the fitness center is on the 2nd floor so, rather than taking the elevators, we take Stairwell B down to the fitness center and come back up the stairs when we are finished. Stairwell B would be a great place to be during a tornado. Its four walls are made of poured concrete and the steel stairway is bolted into the cement. It’s a protected, well-lit world unto itself that neither storms nor stresses are going to move.
During the pleasant weather months of the year in Minnesota, Jean and I do a lot of outdoor walking to augment our weight lifting; but last winter was harsh enough that I determined to find a way to do more walking despite blizzards and sub-zero temperatures. Consequently, I started climbing the steps of Stairwell B from the 2nd floor to the 15th floor after my workouts in the fitness center.
At first, this was extremely difficult and my heart almost pounded out of my chest; but before long, I adjusted to the demands of climbing and my mind would contemplate other matters to escape the exertion being placed on my body.
One of the things I noticed was that despite the sub-zero winds buffeting the building, Stairwell B—notwithstanding one of its walls being an exterior wall—was always pleasantly warm. As I climbed floor after floor, I could see no heating vents, could hear no forced air fans; and I knew that the poured concrete walls of the stairwell would not admit heat from the larger condominium building. The heat in Stairwell B was clearly a blessing without apparent source or explanation; and I began to take it for granted.
One stormy day a few months later in the winter, I left our 6th floor condo to run a hurried errand and found the elevators being serviced and temporarily unavailable. I had heard that Stairwell B went all the way down to the underground garage in the basement of the condominium building where our cars were parked, but had never probed the stairway more deeply than the 2nd floor. On the spot, I decided to probe the furthest depths of Stairwell B.
As I entered the stairwell at the 6th floor, I again noticed the pleasant warmth of the air and puzzled again about the source of this heat. I descended to the 2nd floor, but did not exit the stairwell as usual; and continued downward to the 1st floor where there was no egress from the stairwell. Continuing downward and reaching the midpoint of the stairwell between the first floor and the basement garage, I suddenly heard a faint humming sound. As I approached the bottom of Stairwell B, I saw the source of that gentle humming sound: a small electric heater recessed into the poured cement wall.
Here was the mysterious source of that nurturing heat that I had been taking for granted. The heater seemed too small to heat the whole 15 stories of Stairwell B, but the architect of the building had accurately specified it; and here it was quietly blowing out the heated air that made the entire world of Stairwell B livable—even in the depths of winter.
To me, the depth of meaning in Stairwell B is the analogy it embodies. We are all striving in the world to achieve our goals—going and coming, climbing and descending—but all the while surrounded by countless blessings. Some of these blessing are flamboyant, but usually they are subtle and discreet. They sustain us and nurture us, but have no apparent source; and so we take them for granted. But only when we probe deeper—below the 2nd floor of our lives and routines—do we discover the Source and generation point from which these blessings flow.
Only when we go deeper and get closer to the Architect of our existence do we start to sense how many blessings, touchpoints and guiding forces He has designed into creation and is providing to nurture our lives and development.
This Creator is well described in scripture: “No vision taketh in Him, but He taketh in all vision; He is the Subtle, the All-Perceiving.”
All people’s lives are filled with these blessings, touchpoints and guiding forces, but they are easy to miss if we are not searching deeper and seeing them with our spiritual eye. To get better at seeing these dynamics in your life and leveraging them for growth, read Jean’s and my first book, Now That I’m Here, What Should I Be Doing?
To get better at making decisions in your life while taking these dynamics into account, read Jean’s and my second book, TRANSFORMED: How to Make the Decisions That Change Your Life.