Tower Building 101

For which one of you, when he wants to build a tower, does not first sit down and calculate the cost to see if he has enough to complete it?
— Jesus, Luke 14:28

I read this verse as a part of my devotional time two weeks ago, and, while the context applies more to counting the cost of following Christ than building towers, I have found myself thinking about it often in conjunction with my set design for The Prince and the Pauper.  

The set design suggested in the script was ambitious, and I knew we wouldn't be able to construct such a set with our space, time, and labor limitations, but I dreamt of a pared-down version: a raised platform, just not as high, that would allow us to have simultaneous action happening downstage and upstage. After talking over my sketch with a directing mentor, who helped me polish the idea into a workable plan, I moved on to blocking the play based off of that set design


It's unfortunate that I didn't read that verse from Luke back in August instead of October. Perhaps it would have given me pause to make sure I had considered everything before advancing ahead with my bold plan. However, I didn't read that passage until after I realized there were details I should have finalized before proceeding to block the play.

The biggest consideration I overlooked was safety codes and requirements. While OSHA isn't terribly clear about codes for theater set designs, it was clear that our current set design was in violation of the maximum height for a drop-off without a specific type of railing. With the limited time left to us, the recommendation of several engineers who were working with me, and the fact that we are working mainly with children who are more likely to be adventuresome than cautious, we decided that it would be safest to reduce the height of the highest platform.

Since October 24th, the day I realized I was not going to be able to raise my platform to the original height, I have daily wished that I had taken that last step to verify that we were working within safety codes. If I had discovered the concern back in August, I would have had time to work out a suitable solution to be in compliance with code, be safe for our actors, AND achieve my artistic vision.

It has been a good lesson for me. Players of the Stage hasn't had many opportunities for forays into complicated sets, and I would like to continue to move us in that direction, but now I know that I must explore all possible obstacles before I move forward with a particular design.

As I am writing this, it occurs to me that, my experience with this set design relates to my walk with Jesus. Just as I should have made sure that I had considered everything for my stage, so I should also be checking regularly (ie. counting the cost) that I am not overlooking an important part of my walk with Christ.

I can't sacrifice safety in the theater world, and there are many aspects of the Christian life that are essential to being a follower of Christ. If I am willing to sacrifice prayer, going to church, reading my Bible, spending time with God, or obeying Him, for something that is good but not as important as Jesus, then I have stopped counting the cost of being a disciple of Jesus, and I'm trying to build a stage without considering safety codes; I've stopped believing that knowing and experiencing Jesus is better than any other good thing on earth. That's something I need to remind myself of every day. Yes, sometimes there is a cost involved in following Christ; sometimes I have to sacrifice things that I enjoy for the sake of my relationship and obedience to Christ. But just as safety is more important than an impressive set, Jesus is more important than anything else. It's difficult to focus on and believe Jesus' supremacy over all things. I've been reminded of that truth and of how I need to be vigilant and determined in following Christ, because of my set complication. Thankfully, God can speak to us through anything. I wonder what He'll use to remind me the next time I forget.

Follow up: I wrote this post on Tuesday November 4th. Since then, I have daily had instances of putting something over spending time with God and obeying him. Being committed to following Jesus is not easy. I need daily reminders and daily grace!