A man in Denver called me one day, to ask if I needed some extra work. His bike shop was going through a re-model, and they needed some hands to help finish the displays. He asked if I could come up with a buddy, and install the wall units for their products to hang. It was going to be a two day job.
I called my good friend, Cory, and went up the next day.
Gil explained how our job was cutting the metal sleeves to fit into the wall units for all the products to hang. We were going to take 8’ X 4’ sheets of MDF, cut it to size for the wall, and then hand saw each individual metal sleeve to fit the unit. And slide them in the long narrow slots.
He took us to the back to give us a workstation. It was the bike repair shop.
The place was immaculate, like the garage I had always wanted, every type of tool hanging off pegboards, numbered coded, organized, and neatly put into its place. It was my grandfathers workshop upgraded into the 21st century. All the men gathered around their workstations. The shop was buzzing. It was a place where things were happening. There was action, and movement. Guys talking, joking, and laughing while they were repairing spokes, re-doing chains, replacing front shocks, and building all types of bikes.
There were probably around 8 guys working on bikes, all around us. Gil grabbed the tools we needed from the bench, a (type) saw, and a few files to wear down the rough cut metal. We went to work, moving back and forth from the back, to the front, putting up pieces, and going back to do the next.
The guys mainly ignored us, and we ignored them, even though we stood right in the middle of their area. As the day dragged on, and our metal screeched, drowning out their conversations, you could feel them being upset we were in their space, this office of theirs we had come into. But their boss had put us in there, and said we would be fine. So we just ignored it.
I had spent the morning measuring, sawing, filing, and then heading out from the repair shop into the retail store, to put in a few slots, then head back to the repair shop, to do it all over again. Replacing one metal piece after another. And for the most part, I was doing ok. Cutting, measuring, sawing, sanding, and filing.
But as I went back into the shop near the end of the day, I noticed the file was missing. I looked around the bench, but it was nowhere, as if it had just disappeared. I worked awhile, cutting the pieces, but not finding the file to use for it. Where did it go? It was gone. Did I lose it? Did someone take it? I asked Gil for another one, still confused on what happened.
A minute later, one of the men came around the corner and talking on his way out the door. “That was a new file you were using. We replaced the old because people were using it like you.”
He never stopped to talk, walking around the corner, and out of the shop. The place fell silent. And I just stood there. Frozen. Looking at him, and then burying myself back at the bench. Not sure what to do with his words.
Cory came back into the shop as I stood there. He was trying to get at what was going on, why I was acting so strange. The whole shop just heard me. I didn’t even know what to say to Cory. He just looked at me confused.
I pretended I was fine. Blew the whole thing off, and kept working with the tools that I had. I went out to Gil, who brought another file over a bit later to use. I rubbed the file with my hand, trying to figure out which was to use it. I didn’t want them to see me doing it. I felt so foolish. I didn’t know how to use a file. Was it away from my body, towards me? I grabbed Cory, and asked. I felt so stupid. I am 26 year old who doesn’t know how to use a file.
After a few minutes, anger rose up. I was so ticked. So mad at this guy. The nerve of him for coming in and doing that to me. Walking off, and doing it in front of all these men.
I wanted to kick his teeth in. I thought to myself, these are 40 year old men standing around a bike shop. What do they know? There are only a bunch of 40 year old boys, playing with bikes anyways. We drove back from the job, and I just fumed, with a sense of anger, and part grief, and confusion of what it was all about, and why something like this even happened.
But that evening, I had some time on my own. Jayne was working, so I went to a park nearby, and started climbing some rocks and made it on an overlook to see part of the city. I sat there with my journal. Finally able to sit with what had really happened to me. I sat there, trying to be with God and understand what was happening, why did I feel so foolish, so mad and angry?
What was so deep about this God?
Then it came…
“You were in a world of men, working with tools, and you didn’t know what you were doing.”
I sat there. Not sure if that was God, or me saying it. But bam. It was true, wherever it came from.
I thought about it a bit. It hit something so deep.
It was my worst fear. Being in a world of men, tools in my hand, and not knowing what to do. And not only that, but instead of someone coming over to teach me, the tools will be taken from me.
“I am on my own. It is up to me to figure it out.”
Then it came. Like a great damn blocked for years, holding a reservoir of years of water. I am not trying to do this, not wanting them. But they are coming. My damn somehow collapsing.
I don’t feel anger. I feel, sad. It is all up to me. Always up to me.
If I was honest, It is how I had got by all my life. Learning on my own. Picking up things, doing my best to figure it out. The self-made man. I picked things up. Asked about things in private. Searched things online, or by just picking it up by doing it, and on my own.
It’s what I felt. Loneliness. Feeling like a boy. Shame for not knowing what to do. Sitting there on the rock. Me and God. It hurt so much to say that. It was true. My deepest fear was what happened. “I am in a world of men, and I don’t know what I am doing.” And as opposed to a man coming over to help me, I will be called out. Exposed in a group of men. And not taught how to use them, but the tools would be taken from me. “I am an orphan without a father to guide me.”
It was probably the youngest and rawest I had felt since moving to Colorado. I sat on the rock, and cried.
I asked God, in that desperate place, in that place of tears, that felt to true to where he was
leading me. TO feel and grieve this place, and not be ok with it any longer. I said the words, I had wanted to say, but felt so much shame to ever give to a man, or even God. I asked, “Would you teach me. Don’t leave me in this place.”
As I woke up in the morning to head back, there was a sense of peace. As if the tears offered me a place of rest, and my prayer to God, a relief that I was not looking for myself to do it. I had asked someone else to do the thing I had always done on my own. The pressure almost off. I was not angry, not ready to rip this dudes head off. It was unusual. Not my angry self.
As we drove, and I talked to Cory, I felt like I was supposed to talk to this guy. It was the thing I was so afraid to do, so ashamed all of my life. Approach this man who shamed me? And not only that, I felt like I was supposed to ask him to help me. It was crazy, I couldn’t believe it. But by the empty hole I felt in my gut from the thought of doing it, I knew that God probably was in it.
It felt like the greatest exposure of my life. To tell this man, I don’t know what I am doing. I need help. Gosh, how I hated those words. I need help. I need. My whole life was set up to stay far from that.
As we went back to work, I saw the guy walk in. My body sank. As my heart raced with emotion. Everything rising up, so much fear, and hesitation. I was starting to think, its not that big a deal. Just leave it alone. Do not worry about it.
But I knew what I was supposed to do.
I walked by his station. And introduced myself shaking a bit. I told him I was sorry for messing up the file, and thanks for pointing that mistake in me out. I told him, “Ya know, I really don’t know that much about tools, and I would love if you see me today doing something wrong to come over, and show me what to do. Come by, and just given me a few instructions.”
He looked at me. Almost shocked, as much as I was shocked that I was saying it. We just starred at each other. Then he took out his hand, shook mine, and told me his name. I didn’t know how to continue this conversation, I was out of breathe, and empty, and so I bolted about as fast as he did the day previous, over to my work station, to start cutting metal.
Within five minutes, as I sat cutting the pipe, he came over. Approaching me with a saw in his hand.
“I saw you working on that metal. I think this saw with the smaller blades might cut better.”
I tell you, it was the most awkward moment of my life. I was receiving what I had asked for, both God, and this man, and it just felt so weird, so unusual, so uncomfortable to receive it. I looked at him, and I wasn’t sure what was just happening, it was so awkward to feel, and to think, I had asked for this, and here he was showing me. It was the greatest and most awkward experience of my life. I took the saw, maybe thanked him, and realized this was probably the first moment in my life where I had asked for what I needed. And not only that, but God was providing it.