I am installing a deck at the back of our house this summer. I’m handy, so it didn’t seem overly daunting. However, I had never built a deck before, so I did my homework. I watched YouTube videos and found blogs about decks and anything else I could find about the subject. I wanted to know all about decks and how they are built. From a deck that is low to the ground or one that is slightly higher like mine is going to be. I needed to understand how to set up the foundation or base of the deck so it would be sturdy and not fall over. I needed to understand the vertical vs horizontal aspects of supporting the deck.
The groundwork, finding the horizontal
After deciding what the deck would look like, I began laying out where the footings would be. My first problem was how to layout a square in a vast open space. I knew it was going to take some geometry. And being married to a math teacher, she helped me with the details of working it out. There is a rule about triangles; if one has a ratio of 3-4-5 for the sides, it is a right triangle. So, I could use this to measure the distance from the house to the deck footing and know I was in line with the other objects around me.
Since the footing is 1 foot wide, and my deck leg is not, I knew I would have room for adjustment after the footings were done. So, I measured where the footings should be and marked out with spray-painted places to dig the holes. Then we began digging. That evening we dug out two of the four holes for the footings. Everything was looking good. It was getting late, and I decided to call it a day. The next day brought a whole day of rain and delayed our planned work.
The following weekend was great, though. Holes were free of water; the ground was damp enough for digging to be easier. So that I wouldn’t have the same issue if it rained, I went ahead and set and poured the first two footings. I put my base at the bottom of the hole. Put the footing tube in and used a 4’ level to ensure that foundations were vertical and upright. I poured my concrete, and those were done. I moved on and started digging the final two footing holes. Once dug, I placed my footings tubes to see how things were looking. I thought everything was great.
Setting the base
So, I set my base and poured the concrete for the final two footings. After everything was said and done my wife informed me that things didn’t look straight. In that moment I thought to myself, “How could they be crooked? I put the level on them to make sure they are vertical and upright.”
Little did I understand she was trying to say that the footings don’t look square in relation to the other footings or the house. My problem was I was so focused on the vertical aspect of the footings that it did not occur to me to recheck the horizontal relationships. Sure, enough, everything was off when I went to install the brackets that will hold my posts for the deck. Nothing lined up straight. My footings were more of a quadrangle than a square. I had to shift my brackets to get them lined up. It didn’t help a lot, and I will not dig up these footings. So, I will keep those footing in the existing relationship, but they will always be off a little.
After I installed the brackets, I said to my wife,” yeah, I somehow missed the footings. They are not square.” As I was mulling over an issue, I believe the spirit revealed something in my life with those footings; my understanding of relationships and how I relate to God and other people was challenged. I needed to examine my vertical and horizontal relationships more closely.
Vertical vs Horizontal
In the vertical realm, how am I relating to God? Am I studying my bible? Do I view the world through the lens of Christ? Is my communication with God a continual conversation? What is flowing out of me as an overflow of my heart? Can I genuinely say in every effort, I pursue what it means to be Christ-like? I am striving to finish the race! What else can be said? Am I perfect? By no means. Are there areas that need improvement? Absolutely. But I know I must keep moving forward.
The horizontal relationship aspect hit me a little more complicated than the vertical. How often do I invest in those in my sphere of influence or my Oikos? I challenge those in a sphere with their vertical relationship to God but miss our horizontal relationship. To want others to be spurred on and to pursue righteousness, but at what expense, and I am doing it. I what to check your vertical, and I don’t examine the horizontal. I don’t see where Jesus was ever not invested in the horizontal aspect of relating to people. He knew exactly where people were always. I think an example was Matthew 9:9, when Jesus called Matthew from the tax collector’s booth.
Where are you
How many times do you think Jesus passed by Matthew’s booth? Knowing that Matthew would go as soon as Jesus said, “Follow me.” And I say to that, but He is this Son of God. He has insight that I don’t have. I believe this is where we are short-sighted. Yes, we will have to work harder at those horizontal relationships. However, this is how we lean in to find out where we are in those relationships. To be curious about someone other than ourselves and want the true answer to “How are you doing?” We need to be the Church and truly love one another.
John 13:34-35 says, “A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another, even as I have loved you, that you also love one another. By this, all men will know that you are My disciples if you have love for one another.”
By this, all men will know that you are My disciples. Does anyone know I am a Christ-follower by the way I love those in my horizontal relationships? Not how much scripture I can or can’t quote. Or how many things I avoid in my life. But it is how I love others. Do I have to live a righteous life? Yes. I must live a life worthy of the call by which I have been called, but I must also love others the way Christ loves us. I must get out of my way and exalt Christ so that others may be able to receive Christ’s love. Do I want others to walk in an upright manner? Can I help them find that level of measurement that holds them accountable to Christ? I want to. But what do they need from me?
All things to all people
Paul said that he became all things to all people. He had been in so many circumstances and had many credentials for who he was. I believe he knew how to meet people where they were and truly cared about them. In his letters, he would often mention other people. I think he got it. Today, we live in a culture that is so easily divided. A culture of if you don’t believe what I believe, then your worthless. I challenge us to be the Church. Meet those in our horizontal relationships with some grace. Let them see the love of Christ flow out of the abundance that is in us.
I also challenge us to know where our families are in this horizontal aspect. Never lose sight of those closest to us in an effort to win over a lost soul. Don’t just put that vertical level on them. Be curious about what is going on inside of them. What are they feeling, what are they experiencing, and how are they relating horizontally. We must get outside ourselves and think more Christ-like in our relationships. To be honest, open, and transparent with those around us.
Father, help us be who you called us to be. To work on our vertical relationship with You and know our horizontal relationship with the people around us. Please help us be others-focused and meet them where they are, but also point them to your son Jesus. Amen