Tinkering uncontrollably

I need more self-control. I tinker all the time. I’m an incontinent tinkerer, according to my wife, ’cause I tinker constantly. I tinker in my house, in my basement, in my car, in my head, in public, indoors, outdoors (not to be used for the other use!), you name it. I’ve tinkered there.

What is tinkering? Strictly speaking, it was used to describe a metal-worker of tin, usually a maker of pots and pans for selling from his cart (see Laura Ingalls Wilder’s Little House series). However, it has become synonymous with tweaking, adjusting, and messing around unnecessarily with anything that is fine just the way it is, and it is this definition that qualifies me as an incontinent tinkerer. I just can’t leave it alone, even if I’m not qualified to render anything like an informed opinion to whoever is bothering me at the moment.

I got all hot and bothered by a facebook post recently, and shot my mouth off digitally, not responding in love, and what happened? Potential friend blocked me off of their page. Too much tinkering. What reaction did I expect?

I yell at other drivers as though they need me to inform them of how dumb their driving decisions are. They probably already know, or would if they could put down their cell phone. It’s good that they can’t hear me. I’d have been to the hospital many times if they could pick up my signal. Now my kids yell the same way. Why didn’t I see that coming? Does someone have a mirror handy?

I pray for friends, family, and those in need as though the results depended upon not only the right diction, but upon repetition towards a high score or something. (sigh) Who’s in control again? Put down the worry and fret, and no one gets hurt. Put it down…walk away from the kneeling spot…

I rail against the opinions expressed on tv, facebook, newspaper, and magazines. I invent scenarios in my head where I outsmart, outshoot, and outfight all bad guys of all kinds…forgetting that I don’t really wrestle against flesh and blood, but against the influences that suck me into these scenarios during prayer time in the first place. My spiritual radar gets messed with so easily. Maybe if I…wait, I’m doing it again!

Now, I know men were made to take action, to intervene and cause change, but you have to know when to make your move. Too soon, or too late, you may as well not make any move, and our timing isn’t God’s timing, plain and simple. So we have to learn to sit still, to wait, to trust that God will give us the green light when things are ready. Why is that so hard to do?

Little boys don’t sit still, you know. I’m convinced Heisenberg had several young boys around when he came up with the uncertainty principle for the electron – that you can’t know its location or its (something; weight, charge? Somebody help me out; where’s my research assistant?) at the same time because the electron is always in accelerated motion around the nucleus. What’s funny is we men are also prone to laziness. We just sit there, doing nothing. Surely, we can find the balance with God’s help.

Actually, I think tinkering is one of several extremes that deviate from God’s perfect timing. Willful ignorance or escaping to entertainment are others. I’ve done all of them, as most of us have. So now that we know all this, what do we do about it? How do we overcome incontinent tinkering and leave well enough alone when we should? How do we distinguish between those situations that need our intervention and those that need to be left alone?

 Well, I’ve been tinkered with, spiritually speaking, and here’s what I’ve found. God is the Great Conductor of the cosmic orchestra, living and non-living forces alike. He alone knows for sure when to intervene and when to let well enough alone. So our success in this endeavor depends upon staying connected to Him and learning from His direction as we go. Easy? Ha! Easy means there’s nothing powerful to overcome, and no glory in doing so. But it’s a skill worth acquiring. Your family, company, team, and Church are depending on you to step up…or to allow others to step up. Both can triumph; both can be tools of the enemy.

If you like to intervene, practice trust instead of fear. That’s what micromanaging and dominating comes from. Oooo, this hurts, doesn’t it? Someone else might do it wrong. Remember, just because you have an answer doesn’t mean it’s always the best one. Maybe you need to learn from someone else’s good ideas. God doesn’t just speak through you. I know, hard to adjust to this “team” thing, but that’s what God wants. Give it a shot. It might be nice not getting blamed, or complained about, or ridiculed, and you can be the best friend of the leader. After all, you have experience, and when they know you’re not trying to subvert them (this may take some effort), they will love to have you to lean on. And you might find you like being in the second-in-command position. You can exert a lot of influence on the leader, but no one bothers you with the annoying questions, the complaints, or the second-guessing. Sound tempting?  

And if you like flying under the radar and letting everyone else take charge…and all the responsibility (blame), you need to get off your big, fat patootie and get out front for once. You have good ideas, too, and it’s your turn to take the risk, take the lead, and take the fall if it doesn’t work. You may have to fight hard to be taken seriously at first, or to convince others to give you a shot, but remember that God is in charge of the timing and results. When He says go, there’s a reason.

We need you. Sign up and join the fight, says Andrew Peterson. “Ah, fiddlesticks, just open your mouth and let it come out.” – Pert Kelton in The Music Man. Live out loud, says Steven Curtis Chapman. You, then me, then you, then me, says Rebecca St. James. (Yes, all my favorite music is from my college years; so’s yours.) So go for it; give it your best shot…without tinkering all over the place. It’s hard to clean up.

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