The Unseen Parts: Horology and Mostyn Gale

Reed JolleyCommunity News

If you’ve had the time to meet and get to know fellow SBCCer Mostyn Gale, it may be totally his fault.  You see, Mostyn has a passion for clocks.  Yes, you read it correctly: clocks.

Have you enjoyed the clock at the Santa Barbara Courthouse?  Mostyn is responsible for its maintenance, for its accuracy, and for the fact that you can see the inner workings of the clock from inside the courthouse tower.  If you have been to Mostyn and his wife Debbie’s house, you probably noticed a preponderance of clocks.  He loves clocks.  He studies them, repairs them, and likes to talk about them.  Mostyn is officially “retired” after being an engineer at Raytheon for the past 31 years, but don’t tell him that.  He and Debbie have just left Santa Barbara for England where they will spend a year so that Mostyn can complete a master’s degree in conservation studies.  Mostyn’s specialty will be horology, the study of time, or, in his case, clocks.

When I learned of Mostyn’s passion for the mechanical inner workings of clocks and his willingness to spend a year studying clocks, my interest was piqued.  Instead of settling in to a retirement of leisure, this engineer desires to couple his God-given calling to be productive with his interest in mechanics.  Here is a man, I thought, who understands a Christian view of work.  As novelist Dorothy Sayers said, the Christian understands “that work is not, primarily, a thing one does to live, but the thing one lives to do.  It is, or it should be, the full expression of the worker’s faculties… the medium in which he offers himself to God.”

It is not that our work will finally and ultimately fulfill us.  If we make work our god, it will surely disappoint us.  But neither is our work merely a curse.  Work, in the Garden of Eden, predates the Fall.  And we will work in heaven!  Mostyn understands and delights in this.  Hence clocks!  He understands that as workers, we are the fingers of God in our society, and Mostyn quoted to me a favorite poem from Henry Wadsworth Longfellow:

In the elder days of Art,
Builders wrought with greatest care
Each minute and unseen part;
For the Gods see everywhere.

The Gods see everywhere.  Mostyn worships the triune God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob.  He follows Jesus, the God who cares about the unseen parts.  Think about Jesus for a moment.  He is the God who cares about good food (lunch for 5,000 hungry people), and weddings (great wine when the Charles Shaw has run out), and skin disease (healing for lepers, most of whom don’t even bother to thank him).  Even for a Syro-Phonecian woman with an unmentionable twelve-year malady.  The unseen parts…

Tim Keller has written an excellent book on how we, as believers, should view our work.  In Every Good Endeavor: Connecting Your Work to God’s Work, Keller analyzes how younger people, facing their future careers, tend to look at work.  They often see three options.  They can sell out, join a major corporation, and climb the proverbial ladder.  They can work for a nonprofit and seek to change the world. Or they can become involved in the way-too-popularstart-up.  Keller sees this as a limited understanding of work.  Instead, we should understand virtually all work as contributing to human flourishing.  The plumber, preacher, and pediatrician are all working for the good of human society, each making his or her contribution.  And thus their work is endowed with meaning.

It was the prophet Jeremiah who called his fellow Jews who were exiled in Babylon to seek the welfare of the city.  Those who were 1,000 miles from home were told to pray for the city and to make it a better place, for in its welfare you will find your welfare (29:7).

Again, Dorothy Sayers:

The church’s approach to an intelligent carpenter is usually confined to exhorting him to not be drunk and disorderly in his leisure hours and to come to church on Sundays. What the church should be telling him is this: that the very first demand that his religion makes upon him is that he should make good tables.  (Creed or Chaos)

The goal of our work is not, ultimately, retirement, but the glory of God.  Yes, in a fallen world there will always be drudgery and alienation from our work.  We will accomplish our work by the sweat of our brow, whether literally or figuratively.  But, in the end, our work is a God-given gift that unites our lives with our worship.  As Keller writes,

Work is so foundational to our makeup, in fact, that it is one of the few things we can take in significant doses without harm. Indeed, the Bible does not say we should work one day and rest six, or that work and rest should be balanced evenly—but directs us to the opposite ratio. Leisure and pleasure are great goods, but we can take only so much of them.

Mostyn Gale is going to work on his master’s degree not simply because he loves clocks, but because he loves to work.  He knows he is made to work.  And Mostyn loves God!  He loves the God who cares for the unseen parts!  This engineer is going to study those unseen parts, and the welfare of the city will be better because of his efforts.

After I talked with Mostyn, an old movie came to mind, The Hiding Place (1975).  The film chronicles the lives of the Ten Boom family during World War II.  Papa Ten Boom was the father of Corrie Ten Boom, who became famous as an evangelist, speaker, and writer after surviving the war.  Papa Ten Boom owned a clock shop, and he loved this trade.  In one riveting scene from the film, the Gestapo comes to arrest him because of his role in sheltering Jews from Nazis.  As Papa Ten Boom is led from his clock shop, he stops and pulls the weights of one of his clocks so that it will be fully wound before he is led to his certain death.  He is a Christian believer who realizes that because God exists, everything matters, even the winding of a clock which he will never see again.

Work is fundamental to being human, to being made in the image of God. Our work is, ultimately, an offering to God.  Let us know and relish this truth.  And then let us fix clocks, teach school, practice law, do plumbing, wait tables, raise children, preach sermons, cultivate gardens, build houses, serve as government workers, do public relations, sell real estate, broker stocks, build websites, and lay bricks… to the glory of God.