It came in 483 pieces—slats, panels, and hardware wrapped in plastic bags and cardboard for “easy delivery and assembly.” My beautiful, new, black corner desk with the perfect number of drawers and more than ample writing surface was delivered to my office in two very large and quite cumbersome boxes. As my daughter helped me unpack and group everything into organized piles, she commented that the company might have just sent me a tree and an ice pick for the degree of work it would still require.
Once everything was unpacked I sat alone on the floor of my office, surrounded by what I sincerely hoped would one day become the desk I had ordered. What had I gotten myself into? At one point I wanted to lie down and cry. And I would have, too, if I had had enough floor space to lie down. I was overwhelmed with what seemed like an impossible task.
But what choice did I have? I could no more repack those boxes than I could unring a bell. The deed was done, and I had to deal. So I picked up the forty-eight-page instruction booklet, turned to page one, and began by putting the “twist-lock fasteners into outer ends A and C.”
That first step led me into the most enjoyable and satisfying experience of that summer some six years ago. Not only did it give me a beautiful desk, but I also learned a few things about accomplishing the impossible. And, since I come from a family where most jobs requiring assembly were done by men, assembling one desk out of 483 pieces of desk taught me a lot about accomplishing the impossible—as a woman.
I now offer those lessons to you.
Lesson One: Just because the task is bigger and scarier than what you’ve done in the past doesn’t mean you can’t do it.
In the two decades prior I had successfully assembled side tables, bookshelves, and a few children’s toys. While each of those experiences had taught me some basics, none of them prepared me for turning the debris before me into a usable object. However, I learned that just because I had never done it before did not mean I couldn’t do it now. I had to turn “I can’t” into “I haven’t yet.”
As I thumbed through the encyclopedic-sized instruction manual I was overwhelmed and immobilized. To make any progress I knew I’d have to narrow my focus. So I turned back to the first page and focused on the first step and the first step only. I didn’t move on to step two until step one was finished. By focusing on one step at a time, I was able to move forward.
Likewise, when faced with the magnitude of a task we’ve never done before, it’s easy to doubt our ability and give up. However, if we break the task into smaller, more manageable jobs, we often find ourselves more capable than we ever imagined. Whatever you feel God is calling you to do, narrow your focus from the entire endeavor to one task you can see yourself accomplishing. Whether it’s scouting out job openings, studying for this week’s exam, or completing the paperwork for that promotion—focus on that and that alone. Don’t let your thoughts wander into steps two, three, or beyond. For today, simply do today’s work.
Lesson Two: Don’t assume that a man is better equipped for the job God is calling you to do.
During the first day of desk assembly, colleagues stopped by my office to express their astonishment and offer condolences at my plight. And I admit it: I assumed that my male colleagues would have experience with a task of this scale and would have secrets to offer on how to begin. But to my surprise, and without exception, they each looked as overwhelmed as I felt and assured me they had never put together anything like this. They had no secrets.
Similarly, when the task God calls us to is one typically done by men, it’s easy to assume that men must be better suited to the task. However, very few occupations are inherently more suitable for men or women. Those who succeed in most things are typically those who have put forth the effort to learn the skill. The bottom line? If God is calling you to a task, you are the best person for the job.
Lesson Three: Avail yourself of the tools necessary for success.
When my husband asked on day one of three if I needed our power drill, I declined since the instruction booklet clearly stated that power tools were not necessary for this job. On day two, I grabbed our power drill before I left the house, and it was my constant companion for the duration. Having the right tool sped up the process and made each effort more effective.
Similarly, having the right tools are important for accomplishing any life goal. Whether it’s a formal education or on-the-job training, a dedicated mentor or a co-worker who will show you the ropes, make use of available resources.
Of course, sometimes resources are limited. Further education might not be possible. Your requests for assistance might go unanswered. I’ve found social media communities to be an effective resource for connecting me to like-minded people who helped me develop skills I lacked. And don’t overlook the abundance of information available online for almost any challenge you face. The right tools will accelerate the learning process and make your efforts more effective.
Lesson Four: Let others participate in the journey.
The first day I attempted desk construction Bethany, one of my students, came by and happily offered to help. “No, no,” I insisted. “I’ve got this.” It wasn’t until the second day when she stopped by again and suggested that she really didn’t mind helping that I gladly accepted her offer.
And I am so glad I did! Tackling such a monumental task together bonded us in ways that classes and mentoring could not have. Even though she didn’t know any more about it than I did, more than once she saw things that I missed—like the phone number on the instruction booklet where we could call for help.
Now, I not only have a sturdy, beautiful desk, but I also have a friend who loves the desk like I do. I have told Bethany that when our Lord calls me home, she owns this desk. The fact that it’s too big to fit through my office door, much less down two flights of stairs, doesn’t matter. If anyone has what it takes to disassemble this desk and put it back together somewhere else—it’s Bethany. The desk is hers.
We also posted a progress report along with pictures each day on social media. Later we learned our friends across several states were watching with interest as we progressed toward our goal. They cheered us on and celebrated with us when we finished.
Likewise, our journey is richer when we allow others to walk alongside us. Many of our friends, family, teachers, and spiritual leaders will enjoy being part of our journey in whatever way they can. Whether they provide tangible help such as financial assistance or pray for and encourage us along the way, people who care about us want to help us achieve our goals. Even those who quietly observe from the sidelines are often rooting for us and learning from our experience. When we invite others into our process, we have support when we need it and a ready supply of people to celebrate with us when we reach our destination.
My desk now sits in my office as a daily reminder of what I can accomplish when I focus on one step at a time, have confidence in myself, make use of the right tools, and let others join me for the journey.
For more information on overcoming barriers to accomplish your goal, I hope you will read my book: Buried Talents: Overcoming Gendered Socialization to Answer God’s Call.
Photo by Monoar Rahman on Pexels.
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