Turning the Screws

It’s not like I’m a light weight.

In pounds, I mean.  And yet, all it takes is the turn of a screw and I’m carried away.

All the way to forty years ago, I’m dragged back.  Nineteen seventy-seven.  And all I did was insert the blade of the Craftsman screwdriver into the slot and turned.  Just a trivial flat-head screw.

The facelift on this old house has been a challenge.  Nearly every new task has loomed before my spirit in brazen defiance.  Several have very nearly defeated me.

In my deepest bouts of self-doubt during each of these tasks, I find myself turning aside for a few moments, or an hour, or even a day.  I abandon the difficult and unfamiliar to spend some time doing the easy things—the repetitive little chores which must eventually be done, but require no great amount of knowledge or resolve.

I remove knobs or door stops.  Here, a hinge needs to be replaced.  There, a brace.  Old screws are removed, the item repaired or replaced, and reattached, either with the same screws or new ones.

Almost without exception, the items I remove are held in place with slotted screws—the kind which require a flat-head driver to manipulate them.

I had one of those moments today.  Overwhelmed by the mental gymnastics required to make a repair to an old section of the ceiling, I decided instead to install that cabinet door latch we had purchased a couple of weeks ago.  Grabbing the Phillips-head screwdriver, I knelt in front of the cabinet and bent my head to peer inside the opening.

The tool I held was useless for the task at hand. You might think I’d be frustrated, but that wasn’t the case.

Smiling, I made my way back to the tool shelf in the utility room, selecting my favorite flathead screwdriver from the jumble of hammers, wrenches, drill bits, and pliers.  Returning to the cabinet, I removed the old, broken part without a hitch.

It was his house, you know.

Always.  Always, the white-haired man installed flathead screws if he had a choice.  I met him forty years ago, and it was never any different.

Even before I went to work for him full-time in the music store, I helped out if he had need of an extra pair of hands when I happened to be loitering about. I loitered about quite often in those days.

That first time (the place I was carried back to), it was a piano bench—the kind with a storage compartment concealed under a hinged top.

The old fellow—in his late fifties by that time (anyone over forty was old to nineteen-year-old me)—knelt beside one end of the bench plying a Phillips-head screwdriver, not quietly.

“Those things are terrible!  Give me a slotted-head screw any day.   I don’t know why anybody thought a Phillips was a good idea.”

He looked over at me and grinned.

“I mean the Phillips-head screw and driver; not you and your family.”

Even when he was frustrated, the jokester in him wouldn’t be repressed.

We replaced every screw in those hinges with slotted-head screws when it was buttoned up, as he called it—just in case he ever had to work on that bench again.

In all the years I worked with that white-haired man who would become my father-in-law, I never knew him to have a Phillips screwdriver that wasn’t rounded off or stripped completely.

He did the same thing to many of the screws he attempted to remove with the damaged tools.

Did you know that most screws in use today are Phillips-head screws?  The crosshead pattern, paired with the correct size driver, gives the person driving the screw greater turning power and a more secure seat for the tool.

Slot-head screwdrivers have—well—slots, places the driver can slide out of either side if it’s not held exactly flat and perpendicular to the screw.

It took me a year or two to figure out the old man’s problem with the new-fangled screws (they were patented in 1936) he fought with constantly.

He was using the wrong tool.

Oh, he used a Phillips-head screwdriver to drive Phillips-head screws, but there are, in fact, five different sizes of the tool.  Five graduated crosshead shaped drivers, which fit twenty-four different sizes of screws.

That’s right.  Five tools.  For twenty-four sizes of screws. No wonder his drivers were always mangled.

I’m still smiling at the memory I have stored away.  But, I’m wondering if there is something more to be learned here than not being set in one’s ways?  I think there is.

I find myself these days reading a lot.  As a writer, it’s a practical way to learn new techniques and different styles in writing.  As an aging man, it can be a frustrating discouragement.

Everywhere I look, I see formulas.  You know—if you do A, B, and C, the result will be D.

I’ve tried doing A, B, and C.  The result is categorically not D.

It never has been.  It never will be D, no matter how many times I repeat the process.

I don’t fit their formula.

I notice now that many packages which once stated one size fits all have been amended to state one size fits most.  I’m pretty sure even that is an exaggeration.

No one needs me to affirm that we are all different.  One look at me (and possibly yourself) will confirm that some of us are, indeed, quite odd.

One size doesn’t fit all—or even most.

Our Creator made us to be the individuals we are, all part of the same human race, but all marching to different rhythms.  We all have different sized dreams.

God gives us all different sized dreams. One size doesn't fit all. Click To Tweet

He knows each one of us—knows exactly what drives us—knows how we’ve been uniquely gifted to achieve His purpose.

Every one of us who will come to Him does so in the same way, by way of the cross.  From there, His Spirit is the driving force, perfectly proportioned for our life’s journey.

The apostle who wrote letters had a clear, personal understanding because of his own experience.  His assurance was that God’s grace was enough.

Enough—specifically for him. (2 Corinthians 12:9)

This is important.

God’s grace fits us—each one of us.

God's grace fits us—each one of us. Click To Tweet

His grace is enough for me.  It’s enough for you.  Whatever we’ve done, wherever we’ve been, His grace fits our precise need.

Not one individual is excluded.

He doesn’t stop there.  From the pen of the same author comes the declaration of infinitely more. (Ephesians 3:20)

Without limitation.

We come, every one of us by way of the cross, to find His grace enough and His provision more than we could ever ask of Him.

Can I say it?  I think I will.

The Right Tool for the right job.

It fits.

It always has.

Every time.



You made all the delicate, inner parts of my body
    and knit me together in my mother’s womb.
 Thank you for making me so wonderfully complex!
    Your workmanship is marvelous—how well I know it.
(Psalm 139:13,14 ~ NLT ~ Holy Bible, New Living Translation, copyright © 1996, 2004, 2015 by Tyndale House Foundation. All rights reserved.)






© Paul Phillips. He’s Taken Leave. 2017. All Rights Reserved.

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