My husband was not a handyman. When I married him, I thought being mechanically inclined came naturally to most men, and that he’d automatically be my Mr. Fix-it. But when I asked him to do manual labor of any kind, he always bristled. I couldn’t figure it out, but that didn’t stop me from asking or him from complying.
One day I thought maybe I was asking beyond his expertise. If I could find a simple task, things would go better. When our old toilet seat cracked, I came home with a new one and asked him to put it on. Two bolts. How hard could it be?
An hour after he started, I returned to inspect (and hopefully praise) him but found him spreading all our bath towels on a flooding floor.
“What happened?” I said.
“I couldn’t get the bolts off the old toilet seat, so I tried to hammer them off. That’s when water started pouring out the bottom!”
Not being mechanical myself, I hadn’t noticed the bolts were old metal ones, rusted and stuck. I probably would have used a hammer, too. The bottom line was a cracked toilet bowl that had to be replaced.
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Remembering this incident reminded me of something I heard last week about unnecessary use of a hammer: “If a hammer is the only tool you have, everything looks like a nail.”
Isn’t that sometimes true of the way we try to get the attention of certain people in our lives? Sometimes we’re so passionate about making our point we “hammer it home” with excessive force when force isn’t needed.
Jesus described himself as gentle (Matthew 11:29), which didn’t preclude him from using force in the rare situations that warranted it. But he taught us by his consistent example that the most powerful tool was usually to use gentleness. That makes sense, since disproportionate force closes people off and prevents them from even hearing us.
Concerning the toilet bowl incident, a better approach would have been for Nate and I to have had a gentle discussion early in our marriage exploring why he disliked mechanical tasks so much. It would have saved a good deal of unnecessary angst and offense. Thankfully, we finally did that, and I learned the simple answer to the problem: he’d never been taught to do the tasks I was asking him to do. He certainly gets credit for trying, though, and I wish I’d given him more of it.
Eventually God surprised us when he endowed several of our children with the natural mechanical abilities our family (and our house) needed. And they knew how to use all kinds of tools…. not just hammers.
Paul said, “What do you prefer? Shall I come to you with a rod of discipline, or shall I come in love and with a gentle spirit?” (1 Corinthians 4:21)