Thursday, March 26, 2009

Love Power

A common negative core belief/fear is “I don’t matter.” It takes many shapes: feeling insignificant, feeling as if I can’t make a difference, thinking no one notices or cares. It breeds a learned apathy – if no one cares about me, why should I care about anyone or anything else? My contribution is so small, if I just disappeared, life would just go on for others as if nothing happened.

The door latch on my clothes dryer must hold that core belief. It had given up on its job, allowing the door to pop open once the drum began to turn. Of course, then the dryer stops. When I investigate, I see the latch is not catching and looks out of alignment. However, there is no easy fix, so with skillful handling, kind words, coaxing, bribes and holding my mouth right, I can get the door to latch and stay almost every time. Until today.

With five loads of laundry sorted and waiting, I try the kid-glove approach. It doesn’t work. After several attempts at coaxing and bribes, the latch still refuses to catch. I finally resort to being the authoritarian and use blunt force. This time, I push too hard and a pivotal piece abruptly gives way. It falls, rattles and echoes like a hollow laugh inside the door of the dryer, out of reach. To retrieve it, I would have to dismantle the door. Now I’m a handy kind of girl, and I love power tools, but taking apart an appliance door simply does not fit in my To Do list item of “Write a story Wednesday afternoon.”

Now I don the troubleshooter hat. Since the door is reversible, a second catch sits perfect and unused on the opposite side of the door. I am dizzy with relief. I can just extract it and place it in the gaping hole where the broken catch disappeared into the abyss. It is a perfect plan and I am delighted. For a moment. After I spend several minutes trying to extract it; first with my fingers, then using a screwdriver as a lever, finally resorting to needle nose pliers to apply strongman techniques (and pinching two different fingers in the process) I finally surrender.

I am more than a little miffed (okay, so I vent with a primal scream or two). Now I am going to have to go out to the Parts department on a snowy afternoon when I intended to work on unleashing my creativity. Okay, let’s not make this any worse than it already is. I enter damage control mode. Will the part be in stock? If I call the 1-800 number to make sure, I can save myself an unnecessary trip. Perhaps they could FedEx it overnight.

The gentleman who answers my call dutifully gathers the model number and part description, spends too long trying to find the listing and then takes a deep breath. Oh, no, it IS worse. He informs me that apparently everyone else’s dryer has the same problem and there’s been a run on all the replacement catches. They are currently backordered and I can expect to receive mine in four short weeks. Ack!

I take a deep breath. The nice man with the soothing radio voice isn’t at fault here. Resigning myself to reality, I politely order the part and thank him for his help.

As I hang up the phone, my mind begins to imagine the coming month when Mount Washmore rises ominously from the floor of my utility room. I am determined, however, that I shall not be sentenced to gadabout for 28 days on the great Laundromat adventure. I pull on my work shirt and cargo pants, grab my drill and tool box and begin measuring how much ammunition it will take to dismantle the enemy door.

It takes the power drill with the Philips bit about 30 seconds to undo the hinge and 16 screws. I pull the door apart and there, lying dead and broken is the offending part. Two metal pieces, perfectly intact and one shattered black plastic shim, broken beyond recognition. How could something so small cause so much chaos? I clear them away and set out to extract the unbroken clasp by approaching from the rear. It takes a great deal of jimmying and prying, again with fingers, screwdrivers and safety pliers (I learned my lesson the first time), but finally I am victorious.

The latch mechanism pops easily and firmly into its new place. I take the opportunity to remove dryer lint from between the double paned glass, clean and replace the rubber gasket, reassemble and reattach the door. It stays closed.
The entire exercise has taken an hour and a half. All because one simple little plastic shim thinks he doesn’t matter and gives up, shattered and unusable. It’s brokenness meant the entire appliance was useless.

I thought I could get back to writing my story, but I had three phone calls from friends. Each shared specific challenges that were really making it hard for them to persevere. By then, I was paying a little more attention to the still small voice of the Holy Spirit and I did what I could to lend them my full support.

It reminds me of what the Apostle Paul said about the gifts we all contribute to the effective and healthy working of the body of Christ in I Corinthians 12: “If one part suffers, every part suffers with it.”

Are you noticing one person in your church that is perhaps a little troublesome? Are there any who require kid gloves or perhaps a power drill to motivate them? Are there still others who simply give up and drop out of church life, never to be seen again? Are you perhaps in that difficult place, broken and crying in the shadows?

I re-read Paul’s words in I Corinthians 12. Every one of us has a gift. A purpose. A way in which God has called us to contribute to the effective working of the church, the body of Christ. Some roles are higher profile, some are unseen, each is essential. Do I know my gift? Am I using it? In doing so, I find a challenge which goes far beyond my individual role and calls me to be part of something larger than myself.

Then Paul wraps it all up in the greatest love poem of all time, I Corinthians 13. This “love chapter” does not apply only to the starry eyed couple at the altar exchanging vows, this applies to me—working in the trenches, battling it out with dryer clasps, sweltering over a hot oven, sorting smelly socks. It gains momentum as I get in my vehicle and drive in rush hour, slave over an overflowing in-basket and deal with the unreasonable boss. As I come to corporate worship and serve in the church, as I reach, arm-in-arm with other believers to bind the wounds of the needy, the homeless, society’s castoffs, this is where love wears work boots.

Yes, here in all these things I must ask: am I patient and kind? Am I envious, boastful or proud? What about rude or self-seeking? Am I easily angered, do I keep a list of how I’ve been wronged? Do I rejoice with what’s true? That is the measure, and here is the goal: always protect, always trust, always hope, always preserve.

Yes. I matter. I have an incredible job. I get to exercise my gift. I get to love. It is the greatest creative force I can unleash.

Put that into your power tool and use it!

1 comment:

  1. Good story, Joyce, with a great lesson. I think I've been that rubber gasket more than once!