Friday, September 21, 2012

My "special" gift

Some have very unusual gifts and talents.

  • Ere Karjalainen won the 2012 Mobile Phone Throwing World Championship, hurlinging his device a staggering 332 feet

  • Russ “Rock Bottom” Byars managed an impressive 30 skips to take the pro division of the World Stone Skipping contest (yes, there is an amateur division but the best they could do was 24 skips)

  • Allen “Nasty” Nash is the current Toe Wrestling World Champion

My unusual gift to the world is being able to do just about anything totally backward. Looking at a problem to figure out what to do or how to put something together, try as I might, my inclination leads to getting it totally wrong. Give me anything to put together that has more than 2 parts and I will figure out a way to assemble them wrong. During my time as a father of young children, the days before Christmas were always frustrating. You might as well ask me to calculate the correct speed and course for Captain Jean-Luc Picard to engage warp factor 7 through the hyperdrive then to be able to assemble toys correctly.

This was not an acquired skill; I’ve always had “the gift. As a kid putting together plastic models, I became especially skilled at pulling sections apart after gluing the wrong pieces together.

After all these years I still have to say “righty – tighty, lefty – loosey” to myself because my inclination is to turn either wrench or screwdriver the wrong way. You would thing that after the first million screws, nuts and bolts that I’d have it figured out by now.

Instruction manuals might as well be written in Sanskrit. I can read the words but they make no sense to me. Even the diagrams don’t seem to connect. Yes, I seed the lines on the page giving a detailed illustration, but it doesn’t connect in my brain. I look at the diagram, then the real thing, back to the diagram and I just don’t get it. Sometimes I put the diagram next to the actual item, thinking that will help – NOT.

Here’s another one – I can’t read a putt correctly to save my life. I look at the green, shadows, even where water would run off and I still get it wrong. Now I don’t just misread the putt by a little, I get it 100% wrong, 100% of the time. To me it looks like it’s going to break right, but breaks left.

One of my more famous backward incidents happened while we were living in Connecticut. There was a shower stall in the basement bathroom that had a curtain for privacy and keeping water in. Both Mary Ann and I thought it would be a nice change to put in a glass shower door. After talking about it for a few minutes I said to myself, “Hey, I can do this.” Carefully measuring, making a diagram and writing everything down, I drove to the local “big box” store in search of two things;

First – a shower door that would be simple to put together and install. Ideally, it would come pre-assembled to my exact measurements. Realizing that was highly unlikely, I was really interested in having as few pieces as possible.

Second – an experienced person who would be willing to talk with me about the process and steps needed. I’ve found that I learn best when I can talk with someone who’s been there, done that.

Walking into the “big box” store, I carefully start examining the staff, looking for that special someone who has “the look” of experience. You know the type; dressed in working cloths that bear the marks (frayed, dirty, stained), a bit overweight, hasn’t shaved in a couple of days, fingers covered with callouses. Looking over all the people working there, I saw Walt and knew that he was ‘da man. I walked up to Walt, waiting till he was finished helping some other poor intrepid homeowner who was also lost and in need of help. Introducing myself and my problem, Walt took me on a tour of the “big box” store, picking out the right glass shower door, waterproof caulk and everything else I would need. Taking out the installation manual, Walt walked me through all the steps needed to install the shower properly. As we went through each step in the process, Walt stopped and gave me invaluable tips for what to do and what to watch out for.

Returning home with newfound confidence and information from Walt, I immediately started assembling and installing the shower door. Even though dinner was only 30 minutes away, I was certain that I could easily install it and be ready to eat with plenty of time to spare. And everything did go remarkably well – the pieces went together easily, I cut the aluminum trim and it fit first time, drilled pilot holes for the screws, everything was progressing just like a well-planned NASA launch.

But I did do one thing different from what Walt told me – I did not fully tighten any of the screws, nuts and bolts. Experience has painfully taught me that I always have to undo something, so I leave everything tightened firmly, but not too tight. And it’s a good thing I didn’t.

Now was the moment, everything was ready for me to install the door. I carefully lifted the door, guiding it into position as I backed into the shower. The shower door was heavy, but I slowly guided it into position until it slid and “clicked” – just like Walt said it would.

There was dancing in the streets, church bells rang out, fireworks exploded, bands played, people invited their friends and family over for great feasts and gave presents to one another. And I had the settled self-satisfaction of completing this great task, for the betterment of all mankind and the unwashed masses in our family.

Did you notice the phrase I used above; “I backed into the shower?” Now under normal circumstances this is not a big deal but I had made one slight error during the shower door installation – I installed it backwards. So, instead of opening out as every other shower door in the inhabited universe, mine opened inwards. And this would normally not be a problem if I installed it from outside the shower. But not me, I installed the door from inside the shower and the door opened inward, trapping me inside.

Do you know this kind of panic? I called out to one of our kids who were so sweet and supportive as they fell over with laughter. Try as we might, we could not get the shower door out; remember that click I mentioned earlier? So I had to start taking the shower door apart from the inside, now you understand why I didn’t fully tighten everything. Mary Ann was able to keep dinner warm until I could remove the door, setting myself free from shower prison.

Now I can laugh at myself about the shower door incident. Hopefully I’ve learned a thing or two about projects requiring me to work with my hands; I now write checks to people with skill, experience and the right tools. But I also see the same thing in life where we think we’re doing the right thing but it turns out all wrong. Looking back, our words, thought, actions and attitudes were the exact opposite from what we should have done. And once we start down that wrong path, we need to change directions.

When Jesus said “You must change your hearts—for the kingdom of Heaven has arrived”(1). The word “repent” is sometimes used in place of “change your heart.” Repent means to change direction.

Jesus is calling us to change direction and follow him. He is fully God, fully man, and his direction is for us is to fully realize that we do not have the answers in ourselves. All the answers in life are to be found in him as we turn over our rights, wrongs, hurts, hang-ups, anger, disappointments, fears and joys over to the only one who can guide and make sense out of this life and all eternity.

So I encourage you to turn your eyes, heart and life towards Jesus. He is the only one that can turn our backwards life forward again.

Blessing – Chet

Chet Gladkowski writes and speaks on practical topics that touch culture, life and faith. - email, Facebook & Twitter - blog
GladAssociates - YouTube

Matthew 4:17

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