Yesterday, I had the pleasure of meeting Mr. James J. Funkhouser, house inspector extraordinaire, and a man with a name that just won’t quit. Halfway through our three and one-half hour inspection of a small home, and on the heels of my professed amazement at his attention to detail, he turned to me to look over the top of his glasses to smile and say, “Yeah, no one invites me to parties anymore.”
The occupational hazard for people like Mr. Funkhouser is obvious enough: after spending all day, every day looking for problems in random domiciles, there is no way he can turn off the flow of thought when he’s off-duty. His eyes will continue to dart around to trim details, flooring gaffes, and leaky faucets. He’ll always wonder if that fixture is grounded, if that tub has a working GFCI, and if there’s moisture in the crawlspace. He’ll always be fixated on the HVAC system, and with his speculation on when it might die. When one looks for problems, one sees them. Everywhere.
I can certainly relate. When I worked in the roofing trade, I was constantly rubber-necking to notice shingles, flashing, and proper venting. After that, my harsh taskmaster boss in the remodelling trade taught me to be fiercely intolerant of improper building practices. I can’t help but feel a tiny pitch to a floor. If a door doesn’t close with a crisp thunk, I’ll close it again just to make sure that I didn’t close it the wrong way. I still can’t stand to see trim work where the pencil marks remain long after the job is done. And if a faucet’s hot and cold are crossed, I’ll freeze or scald myself before I acknowledge that someone would goof up something so obvious. High standards lead to a prison of perfection.
Now that one of my jobs is gardening for the place where we live, I’m constantly looking for things that need fixing. Branches need to be pruned, weeds need to be pulled, and beds need to be mulched. Indeed, I often only see the weeds, missing the gorgeous plants under which they grow. And when a bush is flowering, I’ll mentally note the branches that need to be pruned back when the blooms fade. I miss the beauty, because my eyes only see the problems.
It’s probably just where I’ve been looking lately, but I’m seeing more and more people looking for trouble in the Church. Witch-hunts, doctrinal sentries, and people eager to point out what they see as foolishness and stupidity. When I see this stuff, I admit that I often want to respond in kind– to tell them that they are wrong, and foolish, and misguided. But once I’ve resisted that urge, I feel a sense of sadness at people who burden themselves as the progenitors of all that is right in the world, and the police of all that is wrong. It’s an impossibly difficult job, and it must be desperately lonely.
Sure, many people are making a lot of mistakes. I’m sure I’m one of them. Yet at the same time, there is a lot that’s right in the house of faith. And didn’t someone once say something about letting the weeds grow among the prized plants, rather than pulling the former and thereby endangering the latter? We’ll surely do a lot better, and accomplish a lot more good, if we can let each other off of our various hooks and look for the best, rather than the worst. And we might just be a whole lot happier and more productive in the process.