Over the past year or so I’ve been trying to get into carpentry. I don’t know if you can actually call it carpentry because I’ve only made a few little things out of wood. But you know, I’m just trying to be like Jesus.
No one has ever shown me what to do when it comes to wood projects. I didn’t grow up working in the shed with my dad. YouTube has become my father, now. I’ve been learning as I go. And when you learn as you go, you make a lot of mistakes you don’t even realize you are making.
This chair took about 25 to 30 hours to complete. I followed instructions as closely as possible, and even doing so, I still had a lot of trouble. I did most of it by myself, which left a lot of room for error.
As a result of the errors, I had a few tricky spots where the measurements were not coming together. It’s pretty frustrating when you do a lot of work and then realize you did it wrong. I put the back beam of the chair on the wrong way twice. If you look at the side of the chair you’ll see a lot of holes from the drill bit. The chair looks like it got shot up in a gunfight. After I had finally put that piece on correctly, I realized I had just put yet another piece on the wrong way. I was trying to unscrew it and it was not cooperating.
At this point, I had a meltdown.
I basically ripped the piece of wood off of the chair and threw it across the yard and began to angrily tear myself down. My wife, Brittany, happened to be outside with my dog Walter (who was now hiding on the other side of the yard). She listened to me cuss myself out and tell myself how much I suck at everything I do. I felt so stupid because I couldn’t make it come together.
There was a part of me standing outside of myself telling myself, “Hey, calm down. It’s not a big deal. It’s just a chair that people are going to put their butts on.” It was like that scene in Father of the Bride where George flips out over the hotdog buns.
But I ignored that rational me and continued berating myself. Brittany came over and hugged me. I didn’t hug her back. I stood there with my arms down at my side, still fuming. She began to speak softly to me.
“You have been under a lot of stress this year. Your job has been tough, feeling like you have to make enough money for us. And all the time and energy you’ve spent on your book. Now all the edits you’ve been doing are hard to go through. You put so much pressure on yourself with everything you do.”
I sighed and the tension started to release. Tears began to work their way into my eyes. She continued.
“You don’t always have to sound smart or be smart. I hope you’re not holding me to these standards of perfection you’re holding yourself to. Because I’ll never be enough.”
That hit me square in the chest. Hard. And just like that, I came down from the rage. I sat down and said, “You’re right.”
I hadn’t realized I had been living under this stress all year because I’m not that uptight of a guy by nature. I’m really passive and if something or someone is bothering me, I usually just try and ignore it and move on.
The trouble was that I wasn’t moving on from it, I was burying it. And when you bury stuff like that, you end up flipping out over something as stupid as a wooden chair people put their butts on.
And why should I pursue perfection? I’m a terrible perfectionist. If I make something to the very best of my ability, it’s still not going to be perfect because I’m not perfect. When some people tell me they are perfectionists and then I look at what they produced, I can’t help but think, “Wow, you have a really low standard of perfection.”
I told my friend Scott about all of this and he told me, “Turn your goal of perfection into ‘God’s best.’ Since perfection is unattainable, put your efforts into glorifying God. Even in the efforts of building a chair.”
If we can get that concept down, it changes everything we do. The work of our hands will always be limited to our imperfections and lack of abilities. If we expect perfection out of ourselves, we’ll never attain it, and it will cause us to expect it out of other people, and they will never be perfect. The only outcome to living like that is disappointment and public meltdowns.
I don’t have to be the smartest man. I don’t have to be the richest. I don’t have to be the most creative. I don’t have to be the best at anything I do. Though I always want to better myself, my goal cannot be my own ideas of perfection. My goal needs to be God’s best.
So now my goal is not to be profound, I just want to be honest.