We’ve had what seems to be a run of mechanical failures in our home lately. This is the kind of thing that holds a special terror for someone like me, who can count successful machine repair projects in my lifetime on one hand.
First the hot tub developed a leak. Next, the last reliable burner on our stove stopped being, er, reliable. Then the fireplace stopped working. The garage door opener disengaged from the ceiling. The power on one side of our garage went dead. Our septic tank began pooling wastewater across the front lawn and you guys know how delicate septic tanks are. Most recently, our microwave started to randomly turn itself off and on Sunday the hot water started leaking water across the garage floor and under the carpet, at a rate of a gallon an hour.
It is enough to make one wonder about being a homeowner. Maybe we didn’t get such a good deal on this house, after all … especially considering the pressing need for a new roof.
The curious thing is that most of these problems turned out to be a tempest in a teapot. As I wrote in my last entry, the hot tub only leaks when the circulating motor is off … we’re supposed to keep it turned on, anyway, so no harm, no foul. I bought Kathy a new stove to replace the old one … she really likes it, and the old one was free with the house, so we can’t really gripe. After I messed around with the fireplace for an embarrassingly long time, I discovered that the pilot light was off; I lit the pilot, and we were back in business. Twenty minutes’ work and a new metal strap fixed the garage door opener. The power problem in the garage was due to a tripped GFI breaker that simply needed to be reset. The septic tank was backed up because someone (probably me) had inadvertently turned off the power switch to the grinder (a machine that pre-processes our sewage before it enters the city sewer system). The microwave is probably really broken, but, hey, it is one that I bought in 1989 before I met Kathy, so we are probably due to get another one.
The hot water heater seemed at the outset to be a serious problem. I called the local Lowe’s store to see about getting a new hot water heater put in, and discovered that recent legislation in our town requires a complete rework of the ducting system for gas water heaters. “It could cost you a couple of thousand before you’re done,” warned the man in the plumbing department, with a worrisome indifference to exactly how many ‘thousands’.
Calling Home Depot for a second opinion, their plumbing guy wanted to know exactly where it was leaking. On closer inspection, I found that the water intake hose was leaking and the fix cost me $12 and about a half-hour of work, to my considerable delight.
I think a lot of trials and troubles in life are like these mechanical problems … when we first see them, we’re inclined to expect the worst and to forget about God’s provision and protection. But often when we face them, we find that they can be easily and somewhat painlessly resolved, with God’s hand leading us.
Let me give credit where it is due: in most if not all of the cases I listed, the positive outcome is rooted in the fact that we prayed and committed the problem to God. I think that God delights in answering our prayers and in providing for us in surprising ways. I don’t think we’ve prayed about the microwave yet, but it is clearly time that we did. Time and again I’ve seen God’s gracious hand in protecting our family from financial loss … I think it is directly attributable to the fact that we ask for His help in troubles like these, and that we are obedient in terms of tithing.
Sometimes we let ourselves be paralyzed by fear. When the power went out in the garage, I felt a sick feeling in the pit of my stomach. I’m hardly an electrician … and I know that they don’t come cheaply. The wall along which the circuit presumably ran is obstructed by a long storage shelf packed with stuff … it would be non-trivial to even begin looking at the problem. I let at least a week go by before I investigated the problem; it took me less than five minutes to move a few games and discover an outlet behind the storage shelf with a GFI fuse that was popped out. Hailed by the family as a hero, I felt pretty stupid.
Last night we were reading about the crossing of the Red Sea by the Israelites, and Rachel asked me why Moses had to hold his staff (or hand? I can’t remember) over the water. It seems to me that God enjoys our participation in the things He does. He doesn’t want us to sit idly waiting for Him to do it all for us, but rather desires us to step out in faith and action. That’s not to say that Moses could go around making paths in random bodies of water without God, but rather that God allows His children to be intimate with His miraculous power and builds our faith my giving us a personal ringside seat.