As part of remodeling his home, my customer had carved out a small area where he intended to put a full bathroom. There would be just enough room for a corner shower, a vanity, and a toilet.
By habit, I cut out a cardboard shower and toilet to help us lay out the necessary dimensions of the room (o.k., it was actually luan plywood, but it may as well have been cardboard). The room would be as small as we could make it and still incorporate all the necessary fixtures.
Once we settled on the dimensions, the last task was to determine the size, placement, and swing of the door. My customer desired the door to swing into the bathroom so as not to interfere with any furniture in the bedroom. So I worked under that parameter, and eventually settled on 28” door which swung into the room. It cleared all my cardboard cutouts. All was well.
Until the day the door came, and I set it in place. The initial problem I found was that the door was going to bump into the toilet by a narrow margin. I think the toilet was on site when I made my cardboard cutout, so the dimension should have been correct. The likely problem was that I failed to account for how much the hinges would cause the door to protrude into the room. I was off by about a half inch.
But that was the least of my problems.
What immediately dawned on me, which I had totally not taken into account, was that there was no way to push open the door, walk into the bathroom, and then close the door. There was no place to step aside.
There’s probably a technical term for the breakdown in my planning. But I’m going to call it “The Limited Value of Cardboard Cutouts Syndrome”.
You see, my cardboard cutouts were only in 2 dimensions. And in my focus to plan out the desired end, I failed to anticipate that the actual fixtures were in 3 dimensions. I walked all over those cardboard cutouts while planning out the bathroom. Which was fine. Except the real world exists in at least 3 dimensions.
So from this episode, I have gleaned a few lessons:
- As hard as we try to anticipate and plan for the future, there’s a chance we are thinking in 2 dimensions. There are 3 physical dimensions, but really, there are others, like the dimension of time, the dimension of the spiritual, the dimension of other people doing things we don’t plan on, the dimension of the world turning upside down in ways we could never anticipate. So while our cardboard cutouts may be helpful, they can only go so far.
- Once we realize that even with our best intentions we got it wrong, there is always a way forward. In this particular case, it involved moving the hinges to the other side of the door and patching the holes where the original hinges were. It took a little time, but when it was done, it looked fine.
- In the big scheme of things, even when we screw up, we learn something. I learned something about getting too narrowly focused on solving a problem, and getting over confident in my own problem solving abilities. Had I not gone down that path, how else would I have learned that lesson?
Which really leads to my point, in a round about way.
This is the value of Faith.
Faith assures me that despite my efforts to plan out everything to the nth degree, I don’t always get it right, but it's O.K.. When that happens, in the midst of my stumbling, I learn. It’s the way God works. He has no need for cardboard cutouts. He is able to see the whole picture clearly. And for that, I am thankful.