Where are the Instructions?!

Updated: Jan 13

My wife gave me a fire pit for Christmas. It came in a large cardboard box and required assembly. It was a nice model, its design featuring tree branches inlaid in the wire mesh and a dome-shaped cover with a door that swiveled upwards.

The assembly involved about twenty-five metal parts and three different versions of screws and bolts.

I set myself up on the floor near the dining area and pulled everything out of the box. To my dismay, I noticed there was no instruction booklet.

“Do they expect me to do this without instructions?” I muttered to myself as I surveyed all the parts and screws and bolts.

My wife sat nearby at the dining table, sipping on eggnog and reading a magazine.

“The online reviews say that putting this model together is tricky,” she offered.

“Not surprised. They don’t give you any instructions on how to put it together,” I replied.

I started fumbling around with the pieces, using the picture of the assembled fire pit on the front of the box for reference.

“You could go on YouTube,” my wife mentioned.

“Hmm. I’ll give it a go first. I’ll check online if I get stuck,” I replied unenthusiastically.

After ten minutes or so, I had screwed on the feet and started assembling four metal sections comprising the lower half of the pit. In looking things over, something didn’t seem quite right. I was running out of the longer screws. This section must require the shorter screws, I thought.

“This section does not look right,” I muttered to no one in particular, “I don’t understand why they can’t include instructions .. this never happens with the IKEA stuff!,” I added in a frustrated tone.

“Sorry about that, honey,” my wife said, “Check YouTube, they probably have someone explaining it on there.”

Forty-five minutes, several mutterings about having to rewind the YouTube instructions many times because the guy was going too fast, and additional rants about the missing instruction booklet later, I had the fire pit assembled.

After running to the store for firewood and Hershey’s chocolate, graham crackers, and marshmallows, we had a backyard fire with the kids, including Smores. We used taken-apart metal coat hangers to roast the marshmallows. The fire pit was a success.

The next day, I was in the garage. When breaking down cardboard boxes, I like to use a box cutter and slice everything into small, neat pieces for the recycle bin.

I started dismantling the fire pit box, cutting the different panels of the box. A thin booklet slid out from between two pieces of cardboard that were tightly fit together. The instructions for the fire pit. I picked up the booklet, leafing through the pages, looking over the much-maligned missing instructions.

There it was all this time, just tucked in between two cardboard panels of the box. Hidden from view. I could not suppress a laugh.

Later that afternoon, I went on my usual rosary walk with the dog. I thought about the instruction booklet and all of my going on about not having the instructions and having to use YouTube.

Was all of my whining and ranting really necessary? My impatience. My expectation as far as a “normal” set of instructions. My apparent discomfort with the perceived unmanageability of the situation. Why did I not go about handling things more cheerfully?

Clearly, not finding the instruction booklet put me out of my comfort zone. Why did I not get more recollected and trust that all would work out?

Of course, I am not saying that I should have trusted God to put the fire pit together per se. Clearly, I was there to do the work. However, in addition to just being physically present with two hands, a screwdriver, and the various parts, I believe that I was also being asked to dispose myself spiritually in a certain way.

This was a little test. A learning opportunity, if you will. After all, God always has work for me. Many times it’s important work involving my role as husband, father, or friend to my brothers and sisters. If I am irritated by the smallest, near-irrelevant things, does this bode well for doing His more significant work with faith, hope, and charity?

What I really needed that day was hidden. It was there waiting for me. However, it was not really the instruction booklet. It was Him. He waited, hidden. I was just too hurried, too swept up in things to connect with Him.

As I continued my prayers, I resolved to be more patient and accepting of situations that are out of my comfort zone with God's grace. To trust that in any and all situations, all is provided that is needed to do His work. Next time I encounter a bump in the road, I’ll take it slowly, even perhaps take a couple of steps back to see if I missed anything. Look for anything that might be hidden or that I forget to include. Like God. After all, He is asking me to do His work. Can I really do His work without Him? Without His wisdom and understanding? Without His patience and his peace?

Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God.” (Philippians 4:6)


David grew up in Germany and currently lives in northern California. He is married to Maya and enjoys spending time with their blended family. David works in banking and helps with RCIA in his local parish. He enjoys tennis, reading, and religious and creative writing. In 2020, he self-published a short suspense novel, “Point of Convergence”, and in 2021 a collection of personal writings titled “Turning Back”. He also writes a religious column for St. Peter’s Church that is published in the Dixon Tribune.