Do you know the three most frightening words in the English language? “Some assembly required.” You order something online; a toy or a bicycle for your children. Or you go to a big box store to get a grill or piece of patio furniture.
When UPS brings it to your door or you find the item you’re looking for in the store, it’s not ready to go like you saw in the online catalog or the advertisement in Sunday’s paper. “Some assembly required,” the tag on the box says.
So, you lug this box the size of a queen-sized mattress out to the garage and open it. There are buckets of screws, connectors, rods and unidentifiable small pieces of plastic that you will never use no matter what the directions say. And for the next six weeks you attempt to put this thing together.
The worst case for me was construction of the dreaded children’s play set. When I was growing up our swing sets were just tubes of lightweight aluminum. If you were swinging too high the front side of the entire swing set would rise off the ground a solid foot. Now, we have these play sets made of concrete-anchored-treated-timbers, and screws the length of baseball bats. Assembly requires a civil engineer and a degree from MIT.
When I bought one of these behemoths for my children I was in the back yard with a slide rule and a skill saw for the entire summer. And I lost all credibility with my neighbors. There was no way they were going to that pastor’s church, not with the raging four-letter obscenities flying out of my mouth. When we moved, to my children’s chagrin, I left the play set there; not so much as a gift to the family that bought our house. No way was I going to disassemble it and attempt to put it back together. Once was more than enough.
Some assembly required: This is true of the products you buy, your relationships, the children you are raising, and the person you are becoming. We are all works in progress, even as this relates to our faith. The Apostle Paul said: “Continue to work out your salvation.” We have been given this wonderful gift of grace, salvation and grace. We have come to understand God’s love and have answered a call to a life of faith. This gift is like getting a bicycle in a box or a swing set bound by straps and smothered in Styrofoam peanuts. It’s like possessing a new piece of patio furniture but it’s in a dozen pieces, the materials scattered across the yard.
You’ve got to work it out. You’ve got to put it all together. You can’t ride the bike if it stays in the box. You can’t play on the swing set if it remains disassembled. You can’t enjoy your furniture if you don’t connect the pieces. And faith will not be what it is intended to be – what God wants it to be in your life – if you don’t work it out, if you don’t open the box and put it together. Maybe faith has become such a burden for some of us because we’re lugging around on our backs the box full of assorted spiritual materials rather than putting it all together.
So much informs and shapes our spirituality: The reading of Scripture, prayer and fasting, meditation and retreat, good works done in the name of Christ, service of the poor, worship, periods of contemplation and reflection, times of doubt and frustration. These all come together to make us who we are. Somehow these things become transformational in our lives. Somehow these pieces fit together to form something useful, something valuable, something that looks a lot like faith.
So pop the bands off the box that’s waiting for you in the garage. Put on your work gloves and break out the tool chest. Call your neighbor to lend a hand. Before you know it, all the pieces might just fall into place.