I drove by one of our local big-box home improvement centers the other day. Out front, they had a sign encouraging customers to take their purchase and “Get It Installed.” Below that heading was a whole series of interchangeable placards: “Flooring,” “Windows,” “Water Heaters,” and so on. Unfortunately, someone had hung the sign for “Fencing” upside-down.
One hopes it wasn’t the person who actually does the fences.
But it’s not like I have much reason to boast. I pride myself on being a fairly avid do-it-yourselfer (at least more so when I was a wee bit younger). It started when my wife and I were first married, and then in graduate school, and couldn’t afford to pay anyone to do anything. So I learned a little bit of everything: from plumbing to electrical, flooring to roofing, drywall, cabinetry, tile…and yes, fencing. Not expert craftmanship, perhaps, but I could always console myself by thinking that if I really had the right tools, it would have come out perfectly.
That’s probably one reason why I became (and still am) a person that tends to scoff at the idea of reading directions. Come on, I think to myself, how hard could it be? Just hand me the screwdriver. And most of the time, things turn out just fine; I get the satisfaction of standing back and admiring my handiwork.
But then, there was that microwave cart I put together for the office. No sweat, I thought, as I promptly assembled the kit, and then stood back to admire how I had installed the shelf upside-down. Permanently. Nobody ever said anything. They didn’t have to. The cart itself mocked me openly every time I came into the office.
Or the drawers in the master bath we added to the house nearly 20 years ago. The impressive thing is that I built all the cabinets in the addition from scratch. The not-so-impressive thing is that when I installed the drawer glides (center-side-mount, for those of you who are keeping track) for the bathroom vanity, I put them in upside-down. The glides are designed with a safety stop; you can only extend the drawer so far before you have to lift it out of the track. The way I have them, you extend the drawers all the way–and then they want to fall out onto the bathroom floor. Hmm. Something doesn’t seem right here…
Twenty years, and they’re still that way. I’ve never got around to changing them. I figure it’s a good test of reflexes.
Even less impressive: I distinctly remember that when I was marking the pencil lines to install the glides, I noticed that the manufacturer’s name was stamped into the metal, so that after being installed the name would be upside-down. That’s stupid, I thought to myself; what were they thinking?
Wow. It still amazes me how easy it is to be both blind and arrogant at the same time, with the latter feeding the former. I thought about getting my wife one of those t-shirts that says, “I’m with stupid.” But I haven’t got around to doing that either.
It reminds me of how important it is to have an understanding of sin that embraces not only arrogance of soul but the stupidity it breeds. We don’t suffer merely because of each other’s direct malice, but the indirect consequences of stupidity and short-sightedness.
The persistent obtuseness of the Twelve should give us a clue. Perhaps Jesus should have worn an outer tunic with “I’m with stupid” embroidered in Aramaic with a dozen arrows pointing in different directions? Perhaps we should all wear t-shirts like that when we come together as a church?
It depends. I know that there’s a way I chastise myself for my stupidity that only feeds the underlying arrogance: I should have known better. How could I have been so stupid? Translation: I’m one of the smart ones. This kind of thing isn’t supposed to happen. It would serve the cause of Christian humility far better to embrace those brain-dead moments with good humor and gratitude, knowing that eternity doesn’t hang on God’s estimate of my competence.
I think I have a better slogan for Jesus’ tunic (with apologies to Karl Barth): I’m for stupid. That’s good news for a world that gets everything upside-down.