Every person, at least once in their lifetime, should experience the joy of setting up and knocking down a carefully spaced row of dominoes. Domino engineering has the perfect anticipation to payoff ratio. The more time one spends carefully aligning and designing a spiraling domino maze, the more rewarding the grand finale.
Playing with dominoes is a lesson in contrast. To set the stage, one must individually position every single domino in perfect, standing order. This can take hours if one has both the ambition and the domino resources.
However, to set the final creation in motion, one must only slightly touch a single domino. With a single tipped domino, an unstoppable chain reaction is set in motion. Hours of careful concentration and planning will lead, at best, to just a few exhilarating moments of tipping and clicking triumph. The task is successful if everything set up falls down.
There is a spiritual equivalent to the chain reaction of falling dominoes. Unfortunately, it is usually less exhilarating and more downright terrifying. It’s that moment in life when everything seems to fall apart, when one bad event sets in motion a feeling of hopelessness and despair. It’s that place we find ourselves when one failure brings everything into question. I call this a domino crisis.
In a domino crisis we are confronted with a failure or an unanticipated event that seems to tip everything against us. In a domino crisis we question the stability of all things we once held certain. We follow a logic of despair, we allow our most recent failure to taint our past convictions and mar our future dreams.
In this fearful place we assume that the stability of our life is uncertain. If one area of our life can fall down, what is to say all of it won’t fall down as well? We begin to confront thoughts such as, maybe our certainty in God’s plan is just an illusion or a misguided flight of fancy. Maybe this calling of mine is nothing more than a row of dominoes. No matter how hard or long I’ve worked to get to this point, with one crisis, it will all fall to the ground.
Many times I’ve found myself in the domino spiral. In response to a single disappointment I begin to question everything, including the validity of my calling.
What makes you think you can be a pastor? Why would you ever think you could lead a church? You don’t even like hanging out with people, why would anyone ever want to listen to you? Why would anyone ever follow your lead? You are wasting your life!
Soon every dream, plan, and aspiration begins to teeter and topple. I can hear my bold, secure path tip and click, tip and click, tip and click until I am surrounded by a spiral of fallen dominoes.
Sometimes my response is fatalistic despair. On other occasions I frantically try to reconstruct the path. However, there is also a third option, the one I’ve learned to embrace when I’ve abandoned both my strength and weakness.
Surrounded by my languishing dreams, head down, heart worn. . . I pause to listen. In the silence I hear my reason for everything. In the void I hear the one who speaks, the one who knows, the one who understands. I hear my Papa God. He lifts my head, he dries my eyes, and he asks me to come.
“Rise up from these ashes, my boy. You were created for more permanent things. Rise up from these ashes and move forward in my love. My favor is your reward, my presence is your inheritance. And these truths, they cannot be shaken.”
I rise up and leave childish things behind me, like a playroom full of dominoes.