If you visit Heinz Chapel on the campus of the University of Pittsburgh, you will pass through enormous, oak doors that are fifteen feet high and weigh 800 pounds each. The amazing thing about the doors is that they actually work. In many historic buildings there are massive doors but people enter through smaller openings – a normal-sized door within the larger door. At Heinz Chapel the 800 pound doors swing open so smoothly that a child weighing 75 pounds can open them. How is this possible? It is possible only because the massive doors are set on hand-crafted, wrought iron hinges that were built with great precision and care. When you walk up to the large, red-colored doors, you don’t notice the hinges (see picture). You see the intricate carving, the iron accents and the massive size of the doors, but you don’t see the hinges, which are hidden from view. Big doors swing on little hinges.
Just as those massive doors turn on small, seemingly insignificant hinges, the trajectory of our lives often turns on small, seemingly chance events. Twenty-eight years ago this fall I had a one-hour phone conversation with a man I’d never met simply because he was a friend of my father. My dad thought his friend might be able to give me a little counsel as I was considering options for graduate school. So I gave the man a call and we talked a bit. He suggested that I read a book, which I did. The book changed my thinking about my career plans. The man also invited me to come see him over the summer so we could talk more. The relationship that developed exposed me to Reformed Theology for the first time and eventually led my family into the Reformed Presbyterian Church of North America (RPCNA), the denomination in which I’ve served as a pastor since 2005. So from a human perspective, the entire direction of my life was changed by a single, one-hour phone call. That really is not an overstatement. The content of the Christian faith that my family and I believe, the way we worship God, our commitment to keeping the Lord’s Day, our understanding of family worship, the way we’ve raised our kids, the career path I’ve taken, the community in which we live are all things that have been impacted by that phone call. Big doors turn on little hinges.
Are we then, just at the mercy of “random” events that happen to us? Are we like corks bobbing along in the water being moved around by forces that we cannot control? There would certainly be nothing comforting about that concept! The real blessing comes when we recognize that God is at work in everything that happens to us. The reason the massive doors at Heinz Chapel work so well is because Samuel Yellin, the master craftsman who designed them, made it so. The only reason my one-hour phone call led to my being a pastor in the RPCNA is because God designed it that way. He knew exactly when I needed to meet my friend and what we needed to discuss. He knew what books I needed to read and what Scripture I needed to study. What seemed trivial at the time was the means by which our sovereign God directed my life, my wife’s life and even the lives of my extended family. Big doors swing on little hinges.
It is comforting for us to know that even when God seems uninvolved in something that is happening in our lives, He is, in fact, always at work to bring about His good purposes to glorify His name and to bless His people. The book of Esther teaches us this truth in a beautiful and hilariously ironic manner. Commentators have long noted that God is never mentioned in the book. While some have argued that this fact makes Esther “sub-Christian,” God’s absence as a direct causal agent in the text, is actually part of the whole point of the book. The book shows through a serious of incredible “coincidences” that the unseen God is always at work – even in the seemingly mundane issues of life. This point is especially clear in the central pivot of the book – the point at which the rising threat to God’s people starts to unravel and the enemies of God begin to hasten to their doom. Chapter 5 ends with Haman, the enemy of the Jews, building a gallows on which he plans to hang Mordecai, the Jew. It looks like Esther will be too late to save her relative from certain death. But chapter 6 begins, “That night the king could not sleep” (NKJ). Because the king cannot sleep, he asks to read the records of the kingdom. It just happens that the scribe reads the account of a foiled assassination plot from several years earlier. So the king is reminded that he has never thanked his servant Mordecai at the very moment when Haman is rushing to the king to request Mordecai’s life. Mordecai is elevated and Haman is humiliated. God delivers His people through something as mundane as a night of insomnia. Big doors swing on little hinges.
When our Lord Jesus hung on the cross, it appeared to those who were there that God was nowhere around. People taunted Jesus, saying, “Where is your God?” It looked to all the world as if God had abandoned His Servant. But of course we know that God did show up. He was at work there to reconcile His lost people to Himself by punishing their sin in the person of His Son. To most of the people there it was just another religious zealot being executed by the Romans – nothing unusual to see here. And yet in that seemingly trivial event that happened two millennia ago in Palestine, the sins of all God’s people were paid for in full and the power of the devil was shattered forever. Big doors turn on small hinges.
Perhaps you think God is not at work in your life now as He once was. Maybe God seems distant and uninvolved to you. Never think that God has abandoned you if you are one of His children. The God who is sometimes unseen, is always at work in the lives of His people. He wants you to trust Him even when you cannot see exactly what He is doing. And when you doubt that God could use you in any meaningful way, simply seek to be faithful when the phone rings. It may seem like He’s not doing anything but take heart – big doors turn on small hinges!