There are many stories to be told from the years I have spent installing and repairing signs. One repair is indelibly etched into my memory. The job was to repair the word RUSH at Rush hospital in Chicago. These letters are six feet tall and are fifteen stories up. To reach them my friend Jeff (aka Scumbag) and I were using swing stage. So this climb would be right at 140 feet above street level.
For clarification, swing stage is the type of scaffolding you see on the side of tall buildings that use cables to go up and down. There are always a minimum of two cables and each cable has an electric motor that operate independently. Mostly they are used for washing windows or building repairs.
Jeff is a veteran combat Marine that served in Bosnia. I gave him the moniker ‘Scumbag’ as a term of endearment due to his colorful sense of humor. Together we have been successful at quite a few tricky and potentially dangerous sign installations. Bear in mind that in Chicagoland there are maybe three days a year that the weather is calm, clear, and comfortable. The rest of the time is a range of deathly cold to blistering heat with humidity and usually with a mixed bag of wind and precipitation. It would not take much discussion to convince me that God uses outdoor work to emphasize our human frailty. Anyway……
Jeff and I checked our equipment. Life lines secured and properly tied. Cables inspected and torqued. Recalculated the counter-weights and all the other safety details. We got onto the stage at ground level and connected our harnesses to the life lines. On my mark we were to begin the climb. When I pushed the button to go up Jeff’s side did not raise. In fact his cable was going the wrong way. I had him stop and brought my side of the platform back down. Unhooking my harness I walked over to Jeff and the following conversation took place:
Me: What’s the matter with your motor?
Jeff: I don’t know.
Me:(after inspecting motor) Have you been on swing stage before?
Me: Why wouldn’t you tell me that?!
Jeff: Because I Knew you wouldn’t let me get hurt.
Now folks, there was a sense of flattery mixed with humility and a healthy amount of anger came over me all at once. An untrained person should never attempt to use scaffold. A reasonable employer would be sure to not send an untrained employee up fifteen stories on the side of a building. This was what I call a no-joke situation. My friend has an incredible amount of faith in me but in that moment I felt very unsure of what to do!
After the shortest training class in the history of scaffold climbs we began up the wall. This wall has a protruding brick line every floor that causes the stage to swing out from the wall momentarily. To the uninitiated, being on staging that moves away from the wall is exhilarating to say the least. Jeff was pretty glad I made him aware of that ahead of time. Once we reached the top we took a few minutes to admire the view of Chicago from our vantage point.
As mentioned earlier the letters to be repaired were six feet tall. They are mostly made out of metal but the faces are plastic. The faces have to be removed in order to fix the lighting inside the letter. Removing letter faces that big requires paying attention and, no matter what, do not panic. That is especially true at the height we were working. When we removed the first face something completely unexpected happened. An estimated 1,000 spiders came scurrying out of the letter. If memory serves correctly some of them were barking obscenities at us……or maybe that was Scumbag…. Anyway, here we are on a platform about two feet front to back and twenty feet wide. Needless to say we had no place to go, but don’t think we didn’t try! We hooped, hollered, and ran side to side on that stage. It would have been quite amusing to see us and the spiders running for our lives without many options on direction. We momentarily forgot about being up that high. All four letters were infested with the creepy creatures from the pits of hell. To be sure, I have read every Bible verse that contains the words “do not fear” and none of them reference spiders! We did settle our nerves enough to complete our assignment despite the arachnids. Admittedly I had the heebie-jeebies all day.
Have you ever met a person of true, natural faith? Hebrew 11:1 defines faith this way; Faith is the confidence that what we hope for will actually happen; it gives us assurance about things we cannot see. Most people lose that sense of blind confidence long before they reach adulthood. This occurs through the various failings we encounter in life. My friend, Jeff, is unusual in a few ways. The most amazing to me is his natural faith. He almost automatically knows what aspects of a person can be trusted. To be sure, if he doesn’t trust something about a person they will know it. During our working relationship my friend learned I do not place value of objects over a persons safety. That is the reason he would readily follow my lead up the side of a building. For Jeff, placing faith in God was a different matter. It was very difficult to accept that there is a true God. Some months after the scaffold incident I had the privilege of leading him to Jesus. True to his nature, Jeff now places his faith in Christ even though he can’t really explain why. My friend is still some distance away from being a mature Christian but so are most of us.
It is my supposition that if you are reading this article most likely you have already placed your faith in Christ. What about your friends, co-workers, neighbors, and family? Maybe you are in there life to show them by example what faith looks like. Maybe you have the blessing of being someone of natural faith that can be an inspiration to others. Leading a person across the line of faith in Christ is another example of a no-joke situation. In that moment both people involved have a mix of emotions that can range from joy to uncertainty. Nothing in this world has value that can compare to an eternity in heaven. Keep that in mind and you will find the courage to share your faith with others.
Rev. Burt Schwab