I’m currently putting a drop-leaf table together from a flat pack by myself, and it is hard work. I don’t have to listen to someone order me around and tell me how I’m doing it wrong, but I’m also probably doing it wrong. The whole way through this three-hour building process I’ve asked myself, “Am I being prideful by doing this alone? I’m not a DIY person after all.”
A Lack of Independence
My dad was very old-fashioned and didn’t let me mow the lawn or hammer a nail. I didn’t try all that hard to encourage him, either, but I was a reader, not a builder.
I’m more capable than I think, or so I’m told by friends who weren’t there when I bloodied myself with tools. A few clumsy mistakes with sharp objects during my 20’s (just one scar and an amusing memory, which involved a staple gun and nail clippers) left me, my husband, and various witnesses with a certain impression.
“We don’t give her anything sharper than a bread knife” was a common mantra. He is a very handyman, so why would I ever try to “help” him? These days, if he has a two-man job in mind, he conscripts one of our daughters.
But there came a time when I needed to find out if I was really as clumsy and useless at building things as I believed. How could I know without trying? Changing a light bulb or the faceplate on a wall socket seemed like feats of engineering because screwdrivers were kept from me for the longest time, and I bought into the story of my ineptitude with some embarrassment.
Later, when I started to risk some routine maintenance, my husband got me my own set of screwdrivers. He showed me how to use a low-powered sander safely, and even an electric drill (not that I had much use for one). One difficulty was lack of practice.
How often was I going to change a tire, really? Patrick would wind up doing that job anyway because it took longer to show me (again). Meanwhile, a good friend was buying power tools and renovating her house. Another girlfriend could change the oil in her car, and a third was able to wire up small electronics. There was no way I was going to be left behind.
Independent and Stubborn
I wanted to feel smart and useful and independent. So, since I needed a desk and a new bed, I bought these items flat-packed, ready to assemble, and started to build. The daybed with a trestle took one hour and was simple. The computer desk took about one and a half hours and was also simple.
Then I purchased a wardrobe, and it was not simple. In fact, even with a second pair of hands from my daughter, after two hours and a terrible “crack” we had to admit defeat. Were we staring at a $300 pile of glossy white firewood?
Call in the Expert
So, having eschewed his help, I asked Patrick to rescue me. He did this adeptly and graciously. “Those instructions were garbage, and it would have been a flimsy final product. I reinforced it for you.”
Sure enough, I just moved this item to a new home without anything coming loose. I also unwillingly gave my husband a chance to demonstrate grace and to rescue the situation, which he loves. He needs affirmation too.
Asking for help felt like a defeat, but up to that point I was on a roll, and it was good. I don’t have to say “I can’t do that” every time a product comes with lots of instructions and 300 parts. As for the table, extra pieces remain plus a sensation of dread that I’ve forgotten a critical step. I’m sure the whole thing could be sturdier, even if those items had been inserted.
Patrick taught me that DIY furniture sometimes needs reinforcing if it’s going to be anything like “stable.” He always said that this stuff is made to be disposable; to last a few years before falling apart or appearing shabby.
And sometimes, assembly is hopelessly convoluted because it was flat-packed for convenience rather than nailed together and moved from the location where it was built (presumably before building a house around it. How does one get any of that big old stuff through a doorway?)
He really is an expert in these things and, even though I had to watch when I wanted to participate, he was still able to convey some information that I would not have gleaned without his help.
A Prideful Project
Okay, so I’ve learned I am capable within limits. I built the table. It boasts wheels and hinges. I’ve not used it yet, I’m going to add some nails and brackets for additional support, but it looks about right for the time being. How do I feel? A bit triumphant actually. I did this. It’s the equivalent of my flat little kingdom, raised and ruled by me.
Pharaoh possessed a proud streak like that. He was too proud to worship the God of Moses (Exodus 5). I am like haughty Pharisees who “love the place of honor at banquets and the chief seats in the synagogues, and respectful greetings in the marketplaces, and being called Rabbi by men” (Matthew 23:6-7).
I want to show off my table to my husband and hear him say “good job” and if he won’t say it, I’ll parade enough people past that table until someone does. My ego is pulsing with the desire to hear praise for the very small thing I did.
The job isn’t even proven yet (wait for me to load it with Thanksgiving dinner) and it’s not like I built a shed, just a table. When I read these words, I realize how tiny a matter it really is; how it’s not worthy of sinful pride, even by worldly standards.
Lord, forgive me for my childish pride. Please steer my focus towards your infinite glory when I am in danger of getting caught up in my small world. Help me to enjoy this table for its purpose — to welcome people into my home and give them a place to sit down for coffee or dinner. Please instill in me a joy over its Kingdom value only. In Jesus’ name, Amen.
An Important Step
God gives our lives meaning and purpose. Sometimes we have to do stuff on our own in order to obey him. We are commanded numerous times to not be afraid, but also to work for Kingdom purposes. “Whatever you do, work heartily, as for the Lord and not for men” (Colossians 3:23). I believe that my home is meant to be a safe place for bible study, worship, friendship with unbelievers, and fellowship with believers.
Turns out I am capable, and just saying out loud “I’m going to build this table” made me accountable. I had to do it. “In all toil there is profit, but mere talk tends only to poverty” (Proverbs 14:23). I learned that I could follow through to the end of a DIY project within limits. I think I might even know my limits.
I didn’t cut myself or break anything (yet, let’s be honest). I learned not to give up too easily, but I also know from this experience that I will always have to ask God whether or not I have crossed the line and pray for discernment. Being proud in a stubborn way is not good, even over a small achievement.
Once we “have forgotten God,” wrote Benjamin Shaw, “we have begun to follow other gods and have become committed to their ways.” It’s all too easy to drift slowly down that slope and slip into pride that rejects and forgets God altogether.
A Closing Prayer
Most of all, Lord, thank you. I have a home. I have a table and food to put on it. I will soon have chairs to arrange around the table (besides camp chairs) and all because of your generosity. God, all I have is yours, including my small folding table. It’s not a lot by worldly standards, but it’s a symbol of what you have facilitated in my life: a chance to provide hospitality to your glory. Lord, thank you in Jesus’ precious name, Amen.
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Photo Credit: ©iStock/Getty Images Plus/AntonioGuillem
Candice Lucey is a freelance writer from British Columbia, Canada, where she lives with her family. Find out more about her here.