The three-hole punch in my classroom tends to fall apart. It punches perfectly well, but the front cover falls off every time someone picks it up. The blasted cover clatters to the floor, someone lets out a shout of aggravation (me) or apology (anyone else) and the cover is laid back on the apparatus.
Hole punching 200 mini-liturgical calendars today, the cover made its usual racket, and as I replaced it for the second time I thought “why am I putting this back on when it’s not an essential part of the tool?”
Because the hole punch is supposed to have that cover on it. Because it came that way.
I have learned to ignore “supposed to”s more out of necessity than wisdom. Ministers are ‘supposed’ to be sweet. Women are ‘supposed’ to be meek. Children are ‘supposed’ to be quiet. I am not now nor was I ever quiet, and if sweetness was ever in my demeanor it is far, far in the past. As for meekness…my mother tells a story of me leaning out the passenger window of her Chevy Nova when I was a toddler and screaming “I’m smarter than you!!!!” at a passing cyclist.
With the exception of that tendency toward intellectual arrogance, I have learned to accept and even value my straightforwardness, confidence, and volume. They are who I am, and if they defy the “supposed to”s, so be it. God, unlike hole-punch manufacturers, doesn’t make mistakes.
My little revelation with the hole punch today has me feeling uneasy, wondering what other “supposed to”s I am letting run my life. I am supposed to be admired. I am supposed to be accomplished. I am supposed to be independent.
All my life I have tried to pay attention, to listen to God and the world and to be ready to react to the messages. With each year that passes habits become harder to break, “supposed to”s become harder to foil, and I listen to their voices more than to the voices of grace and change. I’m going to get rid of that hole-punch cover today, in hopes it will help me get rid of my other useless trappings too.