Following Directions Isn’t Enough!

We are trained from a very early age, “Just follow directions!” “Just do as you’re told and everything will be fine.” Seems simple enough, black and white even; I don’t know about you, but sometimes I have a deep craving for a black and white, two-plus-two-is-four solution to my complicated life. And so, with this simple “truth,” I embarked on a very important quest: putting together a bookshelf…

No DISTRACTIONS! Full Speed Ahead!!

I had been needing a new bookshelf for my office for quite some time now because I’d outgrown it, but with the middle shelf breaking, I could not put it off any longer. My wife and I headed to Target and found the perfect one. I decided I would work on it non-stop until it was done because I wanted to have it ready by Monday. I also decided that I would NOT take a RISK; I was going to FOLLOW DIRECTIONS given to me in the assembly manual that came with. (Mind you, it wasn’t my first choice, but Target does not have an in-store crew to assemble furniture…) With a fiercely determined attitude, I plowed my way from Step 1 through Step 15 in only…3 and a half hours 🙁 I checked and double checked each step, and after much work, I victoriously stood my masterpiece upright to admire the fruits of my labor…

Tah-Dah!!! Not quite

It smelled like a bookshelf! It stood like a bookshelf! It looked like a bookshelf…except I had placed the shelves in backwards (with the veneer facing back). And, to top it off, I had already SCREWED IN the back (meaning I had drilled holes in to the veneer part of the shelf). I didn’t say a word…
I laid down on the floor and literally wanted to cry because I was so frustrated! It was 11:30pm, and the only way to fix my mistake was to take the ENTIRE shelf apart again; it was simply too late, and I was too tired. I thought things over and over and over. I had double, no, TRIPLE checked the directions, and I was certain of that!

WHY didn’t I just…

Here was a very unique situation for me because I had single-handedly messed up. I felt like blaming somebody, not me, but I didn’t have anyone else to blame! So, like every self-righteous individual tends to do, I found the culprit and I decided to blame the directions. Yes, dumb I know, but it was only for a couple of seconds. I think God, being so loving, interrupted my self-righteousness so I could learn something, and brought the realization that I could have easily:

taken a break, with the probability that I would have noticed something was wrong (slow down!)
Asked my wife to come and take a look at my progress (take another’s opinion)
Gotten my head out of the manual and looked up (big picture, not tunnel vision)
What are we building?

In my early years of teaching piano, I remember putting so much emphasis on following directions (score): notes, counting, dynamic signs, ritardandos, plus anything else I could think of adding myself! But, just like in life, if we bury ourselves in the fortes and ritardandos of music, we run the risk of missing the big picture, the true message, the opportunity to share the true beauty of music. This experience also made me remember conversations that I’ve had with more experienced persons. It’s sad to hear someone else share that they spent most of their lives intently following directions, not looking up, or listening to anybody’s opinions, and much less slowing down, only to realize they built something LIKE a bookshelf, but not the bookshelf they wanted.