There is always something that needs fixing around the house. Yesterday I set out to complete one of these repairs, and it was a long time coming. After visiting Home Depot for the fourth time earlier in the week, I figured out what I needed to do. All I had to do was buy one six foot long piece (which Home Depot did not sell, so I had to go to Lowe’s), saw off a 40 inch piece to fit at the bottom of the doorframe and voila, done.
Well, easy for a “normal” guy. That is, easy for a guy who qualifies as a “handy-man,” able to fix anything in the house without breaking much of a sweat. When I discover something in the house that needs fixing, I break a sweat just thinking about it.
Yesterday afternoon Emily and Junia were out of town, so getting this project done was my first goal. Hours later I gave up in frustration.
I sat on the couch in anger and self-pity. I sat wishing I could be more than I was, more like other men, like friends and neighbors who were good at this sort of thing.
As I began to come out of my self-pity, I retreated to the backyard. The backyard is filled with its own set of frustrations, though at least here I more or less know what I am doing and how to deal with it. The frustrations are simply that the place is like a jungle, as the previous owners planted tons of vines and bushes that take a lot of work to keep under control. That said, a bit of time out there is usually refreshing. After doing a little work out there, I came inside and began to cook dinner for three guys from CSF that I had invited over for fun and food.
Cooking, unlike repairing the house, is something I am good at. In a brief time I had what I knew would be a fantastic dinner and desert ready for these young men. Of course, since I am competing with the food in the dining halls, I do not have to do much to make something better. But still, if I do say so myself, it was a pretty good meal.
I had a good time with my guys. We ate, we played a game of Settlers of Catan, we told stories (including my story of my earlier frustrations with the door). After they left, I sat down to do some reading and I came across this passage:
“Anything can become a spiritual practice once you are willing to approach it that way – once you let it bring you to your knees and show you what is real, including who you really are, who other people are, and how near God can be when you have lost your way” – Barbara Brown Taylor, An Altar in the World, 82.
Working on the door brought me to my knees. It reminded me who I really am. Eventually (it took a few hours) I was able to realize that who I really am is a broken, imperfect and loved person. There are a lot of things I have not learned how to do yet. I am not good at many things, including some things that I feel I ought to be good at to qualify as a “real man.” My failures and ineptitude makes me feel inferior to others.
Yet the truth is, I am loved, just the way I am. I recognize that God, my Creator, loves me as the man I am. My wife loves me in the same way – she fell in love with a man who was better at cooking and cleaning then at fixing things.
This is who I am. And I am loved.
I also was able to realize that though I am imperfect, I am still learning. I think back to other repairs I have done on the house, others that have been equally frustrating but some that have made me proud at the completion of a near flawless job.
I am still learning in a whole host of other areas in my life. There are a lot of things I wish I did better, and there are some that I know I am better then I was 10 years ago. What is most beautiful is that I know I am loved by God my Father and there is nothing I can do, no amount of house repairs or tasty meals, that will make God love me more. And there is nothing I can fail to do, no amount of shoddy repairs or messed-up meals, that will make God love me less.
Yesterday, I had to get lost in frustration to be reminded of that.