When I was a kid, there was no internet. Gasp.
I grew up in a tiny Bureau of Indian Affairs town on the Navajo Indian Reservation in Northern Arizona. For basic supplies, we had a small community trading post. Really...a trading post.
For groceries, clothing, medical care, and other normal needs of life back in the 1960's, we had to drive 80 miles to the small town of Flagstaff.
For everything else, there was the Sears and Roebuck catalogue. The Sears catalogue was a combination of reading material, product guide and dream book. Each new edition of this mail-order connection to the bigger world occupied a special place on our family coffee table.
When I was 12, I wanted a ten speed bike. I mowed lawns to raise the money, and spent countless hours dreaming over the three options for ten speed bikes that Sears offered at the time, trying to decide what color and what exact features I wanted. Finally the day came when I had enough money saved up to place my order. I was so enamored with the features of the red bike I selected that I failed to notice two fateful words in fine print at the bottom of the ad: "Assembly required."
I sent in my order and waited impatiently for the day when my bike would arrive, expectantly waiting for the postman to deliver my gleaming new ride, so I could immediately jump on it and race off to show all my friends.
Weeks passed. Finally the doorbell rang and there was the postman with, not a bike, but a huge box emblazoned with the Sears logo. "There must be mistake! Where's my bike?" I asked. "Son," the mail carrier said, "Sears always sends these things for you to assemble. Good luck with that." And with a little smirk and a shake of his head, he departed.
Anxiously dragging the box into the living room, I tore into it to find what looked like at least a thousand parts. Some of the boxes and bags of parts had come open during shipping and bits and pieces of my bike were scattered everywhere. Clearly, assembly was required. A lot of assembly.
But, how hard could it be? I knew what the bike was supposed to look like...after all, I'd seen a picture of it in the catalogue.
I plunged into the project, bolting, screwing, attaching and wrenching away. Several hours later, when my Dad came home from work, he found total chaos in the living room, a heap of metal that looked like anything but a bike and one intensely frustrated 12-year-old boy.
"Dad," I yelled, "They sent me the wrong parts! They even forgot some! This thing will never go together. I've wasted my money. I've wasted my time. And all I have to show for it is this mess!"
Sitting down next to me on the floor and smiling at the odd looking contraption I had assembled, he asked gently, "Son, did you read the manual?"
As it turns out (who knew), Sears had included an instruction manual to show you how to put the thing together. Oh, I saw it in the bottom of the box, but who needs to read a book on how to assemble a bike? It should be simple, right?
Once we disassembled the work I'd done and turned to the owner's manual, the parts and pieces went right together and I had the bike of my dreams.
Sometimes I live my life the same way I attacked the bike project. Perhaps you do too. After all, how hard could it be to put a life together? We sort of know what a good life should look like, right? And then, one day in despair, sitting crosslegged on the floor, looking sadly at the mess we've created, we realize, "We should've read the instruction manual."
And then sure enough, like every time before, once we tear apart our dysfunctional creations and systematically rebuild them based on the principles of the Bible, everything goes together so much better.
Let's remember to read the Manual...daily.
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