The Back of Things

At my last job, I was sometimes involved in getting the stage ready for Sunday mornings or for church events. When I say involved, I mean taking notes during creative team meetings and occasionally lugging things around the stage. Everyone knew that having me paint or otherwise craft in any way was likely to end in disaster, but I did send out good meeting notes.

One way or another, I spent a fair amount of time around the stage and sanctuary during preparations. I saw everything from the back, and the side, and sometimes during the church services when (almost) all of the other eyes were closed. There was a dodgy incident with a fiberglass ladder once. The guys in the sound booth balcony at the far end of the sanctuary got nervous, but everything turned out fine.

I was up in the sound booth one day getting some technical things ready, and I could sense frustration steaming up off the stage. The worship minister was putting up the giant letters he’d made during the week, and he wasn’t happy. They were a little out of proportion.

Honestly, I hadn’t noticed. I said so, but this was less than comforting, since he was well acquainted with my lack of an artist’s eye. I could see it once he’d pointed it out, but I didn’t think it was that bad.

I stepped back to take a picture, and he said, wary, “Are you going to post that?”

Well, maybe. But not to make fun. I had noticed something else. I thought the front of these looked fine. The back didn’t look like much at all.

If you looked at the back, you could see exactly what the letters were made of, and where the paint had gotten a little messy. But it was not a big deal. Only about a dozen people were ever going to see the back of this stuff. All of them were people who saw the back of everything and were there to help make the magic happen, or at least the music. They’d all understand what they were seeing.

Luckily, the worship minister was not a prisoner of perfectionism. He made some adjustments, called it done, and went on with his day.

It’s easy to fall down the black hole of perfectionism. He could have killed another hour of his time — and likely mine — shaving the ends of the letters, worrying about the utter stability of the boards propping them up, and fretting that the back was unfinished.

None of it would have mattered very much the next Sunday. Absolutely none of it still matters now, eighteen months later. There are probably people who noticed that the legs on the E were a little long that morning, and on the following Sunday mornings it was still on stage. The percentage was probably pretty small. And the number of them that remember it now and care is either approaching or actually zero.

I get so wrapped up in the details sometimes, worrying that people will notice that I haven’t perfected everything I put out into the world, and that my kitchen counter is a mess. I mean, what if someone dropped by and saw how we really live? What if they saw the back of everything?

Maybe everything doesn’t have to be perfect before it can be released. Maybe it can just be ready to do the job. Maybe the people that see the backs of things understand what they’re seeing. Maybe we can believe, at last, that they’re not coming to criticize, but to help make the magic happen.

Or at least the music.

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