Disappointment. He had failed in his task.  All he felt was disappointment.  Well, that and embarrassment.  All eyes in the bank’s office space were on the young apprentice electrician.  There weren’t many sympathetic faces attached to those eyes. They didn’t care that he had nearly been electrocuted a moment before; didn’t even care that his new pliers were damaged.  Seconds before, their anguished outbursts had drowned out his surprised yelp as the sparks flew from the outlet near which he stood.  They might be angry.  He was disappointed.

The instructions had been clear.  “We can’t shut off the breakers, because they have to have the computers up and running.  It is essential for us to change out the outlet without interrupting the power.”  The journeyman electrician peered doubtfully at his helper.  “Think you can handle that?”

“You know it!  I can do this–no problem!”  The cocky young man had no doubt that he was up to the task.  What idiot couldn’t undo a couple of screws and move a wire from one device to another without messing something up?  He whipped out his screwdriver and had the cover off in a few seconds, pulling the outlet out from the wall carefully.  Using his screwdriver again, and being careful to avoid touching the metal part of the tool, he loosened the screw on the side of the outlet.  Knowing that he also didn’t want to touch the bare wire with his hand, he reached for his tool pouch at his waist and slipped his new rubber-handled needle nose pliers out.  With the tip of them, he gripped the bare wire and started to work it off of the loosened screw.  It was right about then that the sparks flew.

The apprentice had forgotten how thick the pliers were and had touched them momentarily against the metal box which held the outlet.  Since it was grounded, there was instantly a dead short between the live wire he was removing and the box.  The resulting fireworks may have been brilliant, but they certainly weren’t pretty.  Neither was the language which he heard coming from the surrounding cubicles, as they realized that all their data was lost.  With the breaker popped in the main panel, the very thing they absolutely could not do had happened–the power was off to the computers. He stood dumbly and stared at the melted spot near the tip of his new pliers.  He doesn’t remember much about what happened after that.  Somehow, they got the power back on and the job finished.  He does remember his supervisor being quiet and tight-lipped for all twenty-five miles of the ride home.

The pliers remain in his toolbox, nearly thirty years later.  He still thinks about that day almost every time he picks up the pliers.  Perhaps, that’s the reason he has a different pair of them on top of his workbench for daily use.  Disappointment is a powerful emotion, bringing back an avalanche of feelings time and again.  Even now, decades after the event has become an amusing story to laugh about with his former co-worker, the embarrassment and regret come flooding back anyway.  It might actually be time to dispose of the old pliers altogether.

This aging man is beginning to realize that there are different types of disappointment.  There is the kind of disappointment, or regret, that the electrician felt because of his personal failure.  That young man had a number of subsequent chances to redeem himself in that job.  It seemed to him that his boss was genuinely sorry to see him leave the job a year or so later, so he must have been successful in recovering from that misstep at least.

There is another sort of disappointment, one from which it is more difficult to recover.  Throughout our lives, we place our trust in other people.  And, throughout our lives, they fail us.  Heroes falter; friends waver; family members founder–the list goes on, almost without end.  Funny.  We are surrounded by humans who, like ourselves, are flawed.  Still, we expect the best from them, and are unhappy when they fall flat on their faces.  The reason it is difficult to recover from these disappointments?  We can’t make them right ourselves.  We didn’t falter, or waver, or founder (this time).  The error, the sin, is someone else’s and can only be set right by them.

I am a fixer.  I think we all are.  We want to make things in our world function exactly as they should.  Does the door squeak? I have an oil can for that.  Flat tire?  I have a spare.  I even have advice for anyone who has a problem and asks me.  I want to help. Let me help!

The day comes though, when we arrive at the inevitable conclusion that some repairs are beyond our capabilities.  We all, on any number of occasions, take items to experts to be cared for.  When my car breaks down, I have a mechanic.  My bicycle is in the shop right now because I know that I am out of my depth.  When a family member is ill, the doctor is called.

Why do we find this concept so hard to grasp in other areas of life?  In the course of my own life, I have had numerous instances when disappointment with people I love has been so great that I lie awake at night and try to come up with a solution for their situation.  I weep, and worry, and fret, knowing all the while that I cannot bring about change in any way.  And, therein lies my real problem.

I actually do know the Expert personally, the only One who has the wisdom to help.  His shop is always open; there is never a backlog of jobs waiting before mine.  I have only to carry my friend, or family member, or hero there, to be left in His strong and capable hands.  Oh, I don’t mean that we must drag them there physically.  But, it is certain that our petitions for help from this Great Physician will not fall on deaf ears.

I realize that it’s time for me to make another visit to the repair shop.  I’ve been carrying around a huge disappointment for awhile now.  This particular disappointment is not mine to carry.  I think I’ll give it to Someone who can actually do something about it.  The OPEN sign is alight, even now, in the wee hours of the morning.  You know, there’s a repair shop in your neighborhood, too.

I will also keep working on the personal skills, just to avoid any disappointments with me on your part.  You probably don’t want to ask me to fix any of your electrical problems.

I can loan you a slightly used pair of needle nose pliers, if it will help any.

“Evil lurks where disappointment lodges.”
(George Foreman~American boxer and Baptist minister)

“Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God.”
(Philippians 4:6~NIV)

© Paul Phillips. He’s Taken Leave. 2013. All Rights Reserved.

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