Monday, August 17, 2015

Some assembly required

Well, if you have never experienced the delight of shopping at IKEA on a Saturday afternoon, you have missed the adventure!  My daughter needed to exchange something she bought for her craft room and I just thought it would be nice to find a few things I have wanted for the kitchen to assist with organizing a few things.  Forgetting the utter chaos of what Saturdays are like at this store, let alone that it was the beginning of school season and folks would be flocking there to get those great starter furnishings for the dorm rooms, I agreed to go along.  Lest you think this was an "outing" to just "kick it" with my daughter and two grandsons, let me set you straight.  First, we had to find a parking spot - a challenge even with mom's handicap parking privilege! Then we had to find each other as we had gone in separate cars - one with her return items in it, the other with the family.  Upon finding each other, we had to wait until her "number" was called to actually do the exchange. Thank goodness for her wisdom - she purchased the next set of items she actually wanted as a replacement to the ones she purchased right there!  Alas, I still wanted those couple of kitchen items, so we also needed to traverse to the kitchen area to obtain them, but not before my daughter realized she needed to move her vehicle out of the loading area, resulting in us having to connect once again. With the waiting finally over, I imagined my purchase expedition would be short-lived, finding 'exactly' what I wanted with the greatest of ease!  You know where this is going, don't you?  Circling the entirety of the large warehouse space not once, but two times, we finally were ready to check-out.  Now, if you have never been there on a Saturday afternoon, let me just tell you they run all the registers, but the lines are forever long!  With purchases finally in hand, my daughter then decides to visit the little deli section where you can purchase candies.  Finally, we were all done!  Except for loading the new bookshelves into her truck.  With air conditioning running full blast in my vehicle in order to cool it down in the Arizona sun, the two of us loaded the boxes into her vehicle and made a plan to meet at her house in order to unload and assemble.  Yep, you heard that correctly - assemble!  When she heard I actually intended to come help her put these boxed items together, you should have seen her face - she smiled from ear to ear!  Why?  I excel at this and actually enjoy it!  Every part of it is a delight except one - trying to figure out what those stick figures are trying to show me to do in the instructions that come in the boxes from Sweden!  Have you ever noticed they make these instructions these days without any words - just pictures, arrows, and little stick figures showing you to use a particular tool to attach piece A to piece B?  I am so glad God's instructions to me come with a little more than diagrams - although the diagrams are nice - the words actually help to give a little clarity missing in the image!

Children, listen to your father’s teaching. Pay attention and you will learn how to learn. The advice I give is good, so don’t ever forget what I teach you. (Proverbs 4:1-2 ERV)

As I read through this passage again this morning, I saw something I had missed before.  A child listens to the teaching of the parent, no just to learn, but to "learn how to learn".  You see, we all begin with some form of "knowing", but it can be a little self-centered and too limited in focus to really help us learn fully whatever it is we are to develop knowledge of.  A good example of this is when a baby has not yet discovered he can trust his parent will return after the nap. In his eyes, the parent disappears around the corner and his world as he knows it comes to an end.  He cries desperately because he cannot associate the disappearing act of his parent to a re-appearing act!  It takes a while for his to develop this awareness - something he must be "taught" by having the parent put him down, leave him alone to cry a while, and then allow him to sleep, awakening to the knowledge of seeing his parent come when he calls.  He develops a sense of trust - something he has to learn, but he hasn't the capacity to learn without the parent being willing to teach.  A child (and even an adult) needs to learn "HOW" to learn.  Learning occurs in life-circumstances, but we have to be open to getting the most out of them.  Learning also occurs while being instructed, but we have to be paying attention to get the lesson.  It also occurs in those moments when pictures are being painted for us, but it takes us a little longer to "get" those lessons because we have to learn how this line blends with that one, until we finally see the image of what is about to come!

As I sat with my daughter on the floor, surrounded with shelves, drawer parts, a variety of hooks, screws, dowels, and that dreaded instruction booklet before me, she went to get the pizza to help us "boost our energies" for the task ahead! It isn't that she isn't capable of reading the instructions, but that I actually enjoy the task of figuring out what it is they are trying to tell us to do. Let me assure you, this isn't for the one who suffers from attention-deficit disorders!  If you don't pay attention closely to the direction they give, you find yourself unscrewing a lot of pieces you "thought" went together a certain way and then putting them together again the "right" way.  In doing these projects, I inevitably manage to select the wrong screw or "connecting device" at least once!  There are so many parts which are close to each other in appearance, but are different lengths or thicknesses.  The diagram or image just doesn't help us to avoid those errors because you have to keep referring back to page one which gives you the measurements of the screws and other pieces!  When you are on page 15, to go back constantly to page 1 seems counter-productive to me.  Why on earth can't they put the little diagram in the margin of page 15 to show you the screw diagram so you can just put the screw up to that picture and see you have the right one?  If I wrote those booklets, I would do it that way because it would help to prevent us from making those "assumptions" we were using the right part at that point in the project!

I share all this to remind us of the importance of "learning how to learn".  We all go about "learning" in different ways.  Whoever wrote these instruction booklets thought the words weren't necessary, the one page of size diagrams was enough, and the individuals who would be assembling the products would have the ability to interpret the pictures without problem!  In other words, they expected us to "learn" as they see things - from their vantage point.  I daresay, we all learn differently and we need to be taught according to our ability to learn. My method of learning is to see one, do one, and then I can demonstrate it over and over again with pretty accurate consistency.  In seeing, I associate the steps which need to be taken.  I actually like the "words" because they help me take the right steps - they "elaborate" on the illustrations I am given (what I am seeing).  I think this is why God gives us both examples (illustrations) AND the words (his truth in the Bible).  We need both because they help "cement" the learning - bringing the two together gives us a fuller "picture" of what we are expected to learn.  As a parent, he understands we need to be taught how to learn what he teaches - it isn't up to us to interpret his teaching according to our "plan" - he wants us to understand his plan and then learn how to fall in step with it!  (Much like the illustrator for this shelving booklet)  Just sayin!