Bought tires for my pickup and determined to install them myself. I no longer have the specific equipment, so tire work involves scrabbling on a concrete floor with hammer and pry bars.
The first wheel went well. In short order, the old tire was stripped off, the new one levered on and inflated. The only semi-sophisticated piece of tire machinery that I own is an ancient bubble balancer. It suggested that a small weight in one spot would set everything close enough to perfect. Back on the truck it went.
The second wheel went equally smoothly, so smoothly that I threw it onto the balancer with just a smidgeon of smugness. Who says that things are harder as a greybeard? But wait, something was askance. The tire hung awkwardly. The bubble was nowhere near the centre.
I began piling weights on the tire, but it would not true up. In my impatience, I decided that I would bolt it to the truck anyway, that the old balancer must somehow be faulty. If it was truly amiss, I could stop at a tire shop and get it trued up.
I picked the wheel off the balance machine, and bounced it on the floor. The tire responded with a curious thumping noise. Picked it up again, dropped it, that noise again. I again removed the tire from the rim, and inside I discovered my meaty 40-centimetre pry bar.
A boneheaded mistake. A mistake undoubtedly connected to my grey-beard status.
Immediately, it seemed important to share this story with those who would most enjoy jeering at me. The story went to a brother, a son, a son-in-law, and a couple friends. They responded as required, with giggles and mockery.
Later in the day, it struck me that my determination to immediately share that story was perhaps different than I might have done years earlier.
Author and mystic Richard Rohr points to the value of seeking out an “undefended spirit.” It seems worth some consideration.
We (including me) seem to spend much of our lives protecting our ego. We micro-manage every story that we tell about ourselves. If it’s a hard story, that often means we paint ourselves as the aggrieved person or the heroic one. How many of our tales paint us in self-righteous colours? How many of our stories fall into the inevitable good/bad, white/black framework? We emerge wearing the white hats. That includes our stories of faith.
Think of stories in the Bible. The Exodus from Egypt, by a clan referred to repeatedly as the “people of God,” the “chosen ones.” We might assign them spirits that had no need of defending. They were, after all, chosen. They would wear white hats. And yet the litany of whining, rebelling, denying and obstinacy is unending throughout most of those years in the wilderness. That included both the masses and their imperfect leadership. Yet this became the story of God’s people, the Old Testament story of salvation, a metaphor for our own escape from the wilderness that traps us.
Along with decreasing handyman skills, perhaps the years of the grey beard come with growing into that undefended space. A recent sermon focusing on reconciliation with Indigenous folks reminded us with some passion to tell all our stories, and that definitely includes the hard stories. We all have those hard chapters in our lives, and far too often we’ve held them close until they could be adjusted to have someone else as the villain. When we are honest, we know how well that has worked.
Find that “undefended” space in your spirit. Push back the boundaries.
Ed Olfert (firstname.lastname@example.org) delights in opportunities to laugh at himself.