Sunday, April 15, 2012

Just three-eights of an inch?

April 15, 2012

Dear friends,

A friend who is a gifted carpenter was in town this week and stopped to visit me. While we were sitting at the kitchen table drinking coffee he told me a story that is worth thinking about.

He recently visited a young couple who were living in a new house. The front door stuck as they attempted to open the door for him, and stuck again as they attempted to close it behind him.

“Seems like that door isn’t working so well,” my friend observed.

"Yes, and it’s really frustrating,” the couple explained unhappily. “It’s the second door we’ve had installed and it’s still not fixed.”

During the visit the curious carpenter who lives inside my friend’s head thought, “Two doors? And neither fit? H-m-m. That looked like a pretty good door.” With the permission of the owners, he whipped out his trusty tape measure and examined the door and the frame, then fiddled with the lock. After a bit he smiled.

“You could buy a dozen doors,” he explained, “and none of them would work. You could replace the frame and the lock and the door still wouldn’t work. You see, the problem is the two-by-four that supports the frame and the door. It wasn’t installed properly. It’s not straight. You can’t see that two-by-four, but there’s the problem. I would guess by my rough measure that there’s at least three-eights of an inch difference between the top and the bottom.”

It is a fact that I can hit a nail with a hammer only by chance. I could not set a piece of framing lumber straight if I had two levels and three carpenters to help me. My natural sympathy is with the framer whose three-eights inch mistake resulted in a great deal of difficulty for the contractor and the home-owners as well. But my interest in the story was not a carpenter’s interest—I began thinking about the point of the story in respect to relationship building.

If there is something out of alignment in the way we structure relationships, we may go from person to person, from situation to situation, and still find ourselves stuck in relationships that just don’t work.

Faulty expectations of ourselves and others, impossible life goals, unwillingness to act out of a grace-shaped understanding of both ourselves and others—these are only a few of the ways we can set the frame of the relationship off by far more than three-eights of an inch.

Faulty use of forgiveness is particularly troublesome because, something like the framer’s error in my friend’s story, faulty use of forgiveness is difficult to see, and even more difficult to correct. [See the grocery store story 1/1/2012]

When you think of the way in which you frame relationships, how have you structured forgiveness? When are you obligated to forgive? When is forgiveness the responsibility of your partner? Your friend? Your employer? Your employee? Your parent or child or spouse?

And what does forgiveness look like? How do you define that thing Jesus said we were to do seventy times seven (at least)? What do think you do when you forgive? Is what you do different than what you wish that you did?

Thinking with you this week that it isn’t only builders of houses that make mistakes in the framing process.

See you next week.


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