“Tools” have become very important to me recently. The dictionary defines a “tool” in this way … “a device for doing work; a means to an end; something used for a job…” All of those definitions have taken on new importance in my life since I fell and broke my arm.
There are thousands of moments each day when I find myself frustrated or at least temporarily inconvenienced because I only have the full use of one arm and hand. (Thank God it is my dominant hand that lives outside the sling!) But the gift, in these days of recovery, is the chance to re-discover creative problem-solving. Even simple tasks like brushing my teeth, washing dishes, walking the dog, typing this article require me to slow down, think a little, and improvise. Sometimes I find there is a tool that can extend my dexterity or control. It may be a stepstool placed beneath a cupboard to hold the stereo in place while I detach it and remove the screws (okay, that was probably my most ambitious one-handed project to date). Sometimes the best “tool” for the job might just be another part of my body (legs are handy tools for holding jars while opening them … and teeth!...it’s amazing what teeth can do!)
Don’t get me wrong. I would be thrilled to turn back time and recapture the moment just before the dog tripped me and avoid all this experiential learning. But since that is not the way of this world, I might as well learn a little bit in this moment. I might as well find the blessing in creativity born out of necessity.
I think the same might be true for most of us in one way or another. While we may not have been tripped up, we certainly have experienced frustration, or at least inconvenience as the world around us has changed...as economies struggle and communities turn inward, as globalization brings the world closer while fear pushes us further apart. For some the challenges have felt almost overwhelming, while others have managed to find some new tools to empower dynamic, vital expressions of life. What is the difference? Why is it that some individuals and communities flourish while others give in to decline and despair?
I think it goes back to finding the blessing in creativity born out of necessity. This is a time for every one of us to re-discover creative problem-solving. It is a time to slow down, to think a little and pray a lot, and to improvise. That may mean finding new ways or times or places to work. It may mean finding new means to the end of building real relationships of care for those beyond our closest circle of family or friends. It may mean developing new structures and empowering new leaders to get the most important jobs accomplished.
And the good news is, we can do this. The apostle Paul encourages us to risk learning in this very moment, when he writes: “For this reason, because I have heard of your faith in the Lord Jesus and your love toward all the saints. I do not cease to give thanks for you, remembering you in my prayers, that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, may give you a spirit of wisdom and of revelation in the knowledge of God, having the eyes of your heart enlightened, that you may know what is the hope to which God has called you…” (Ephesians 1:15-18a)
That we may know the HOPE to which God has called us… that may be the best reason yet to learn to use a few new tools!