The newest skyscraper in Chicago is 150 North Riverside, a shiny class A office building clad in blue and silver reflective glass and granite, tucked on the Chicago River between Lake and Randolph Streets. The building is quite handsome, but the aesthetics are truly overwhelmed by its startling structural design, featuring what seems to be a relatively tiny “base” on which the enormous structure appears to be precariously “balanced.”  From the small foundation, steel columns slope upward and outward to support full-sized floors starting 8 stories up and stacked all the way to the 54th and top floor. To my untrained eye, it looks as if the building would surely “teeter” in the Windy City, and one can’t help but wonder why the architects and engineers would create it this way.  It turns out that this was their ingenious response to a long-standing conviction that the previously vacant two acre site, bordered by train tracks on one side and the river on another, could not possibly accommodate another full-sized office building for Chicago’s beautiful skyline.  It seems that necessity was the mother of this invention.

A Bigger Question

As remarkable as such “monuments” to the ingenuity of highly skilled men and women may be, they get brought back into perspective with a far more challenging question than my neophytic “How’d they do that?”.  It’s the one that Job was asked by God after Job questioned the difficult hand he was being dealt:

 “Who is this that obscures my plans
with words without knowledge?
 Brace yourself like a man;
I will question you,
and you shall answer me.

 “Where were you when I laid the earth’s foundation?
Tell me, if you understand.
Who marked off its dimensions? Surely you know!
Who stretched a measuring line across it?
 On what were its footings set,
or who laid its cornerstone—
 while the morning stars sang together
and all the angels shouted for joy?  (Job 38:2-7)

The answer is obvious—Job and all of us were nowhere when God laid this ultimate foundation and we don’t know how God did it. God’s creative role is something that we believers accept by faith (Hebrews 11:3), but that doesn’t cause me any heartburn.  People who embrace other presuppositions about how anything and the many things exist inevitably do so by faith, whether or not they think themselves to be people of faith.  But if we’re intellectually honest, how we answer that question for ourselves has everything to do with how we ought to live our lives.

More Than Meets the Eye

For those of us startled by the appearance of 150 North Riverside, who find ourselves wondering whether the building can maintain balance over its tiny footprint, its creators want us to know that there is much more than meets the eye.  In addition to hi-tech materials, deep caissons sunk 110 feet below surface into bedrock, and precise mathematical calculations of load tolerance and distribution via steel columns sloping to the core supports, there are large vaults of water on the top floors which create a counterforce when the wind would otherwise cause the building to sway.  The water “sloshes” in resistance to the wind and prevents the building from toppling.  No, really. I suppose the true indication of one’s trust in the building’s creators and the foundation they’ve laid is whether one rents space and occupies the building.  The technical specs and mathematical calculations may elude us, but the proof is, as it were, “in the pudding.”

Similarly, a good indication of faith in the God who laid the earth’s foundation is whether we actually live as if he is the Creator, and not we ourselves. It’s not that we understand it all, or even comprehend all the physical and spiritual laws in play, but rather that we trust in God and acknowledge him in all our ways (Proverbs 3:5-6).  We commit to live as God calls us to live, even as we continue exploring, discovering and learning. With that foundation in our lives, we can withstand the inevitable wind and storms that life brings (Matthew 7:24-27).