The house my husband and I live in is the house I grew up in. It is over 100 years old. I’m familiar with leaks and broken light switches. But when the burner didn’t heat up under the tea kettle, I was certain the odds were stacking up against me at my sister’s house. I was tempted to Google stovetops and just buy one but I thought maybe that wasn’t my place, so I gave my brother-in-law a call at the hospital. The measurements are tricky, he said. That’s why we haven’t replaced it yet. Joan will want to pick it out. I’ll call my electrician friend and have him check the breakers.
Okay, I said. And Arthur?
I just woke up. It was 1:30 pm. I had spent the past several nights in the hospital chair.
He laughed. Well, try to be awake when he comes over around 4:00.
Okay, I said. His voice cheered me up a bit. Could a week already have passed since I’d flown into town to be with my sister for her surgery…? was the last thing I remember thinking before I heard a knock at the door a couple hours later.
Hi, the man said standing in the entryway. Arthur called me. I’m here to look at the breakers. He sounded a little put out.
Look dude, I didn’t ask you to come over here, I wanted to say but didn’t. I let him in and went back to bed to rest before heading back to the hospital.
Okay, it’s fixed, I heard him say before too long from the hallway and got up to go and check out his handy work.
Nothing wrong with the breakers, he said, even more put out than before. He was closing the oven door. I could see heat pouring out of it.
It’s not the oven. It’s the stove, I said copping a little attitude now myself. Attitude begets attitude.
There were four burners. I had tried the other three. I hadn’t turned on the fourth burner for crying out loud. I figured three out of four had the situation covered. Try the other three and see if I’m right, I said in not my most congenial tone. We both watched as a little smoke began to emerge.
Probably needs to be replaced, he said finally warming up a little. How’s Joan doing?
It was a tough surgery. It’s going to take some time.
Well, tell her we are praying for her.
Hmph. Don’t get all nice on me now. I kept my boundary.
Oh, and by the way, you have a flat tire?
Your rear right tire is flat.
On my sister’s car? The one I use to drive to the hospital?!
Yeah, the CRV, I hate to be the bearer of bad news. It’s flat. Really flat—down to the rim flat.
What the heck…? Water dripping…light not turning off…fickle stove, and a flippin’ flat tire? Breathe, Debbie. Breathe. There are no coincidences…
Heat being carefully monitered.
Air releasing until it can’t go any further…
I was vulnerable. Right where God wanted me. I had a choice then. I could bottom out—cop a serious attitude and all the rest—or choose to rest in His arms, be refilled and refueled.
Leaks and lights and stoves and tires get fixed but what about us? What about our drained, burned out, under fueled, flat spirits? When we are out of sorts with things around us, aren’t we really just out of sorts with ourselves? And when we are out of sorts with ourselves, have we checked in with the Filler of our fuel, the Igniter of our flame, the Quencher of our thirst? Just sayin’.
(AKA Thomas Merton. Thanks for the reminder Abby.)