Broken Light, Broken World, Broken Me

I am not a handy person. Though I would like to be the type of man who can pound any household problem into submission, I am the nail more frequently than I am the hammer. When I take on a household maintainence or repair project, conditions usually get far worse before they improve. And sometimes improvement only happens by dragging a friend or a professional into the house. Sadly, when it comes to home improvement I more closely resemble Bob Denver than Bob Vila.

The Project

StJosephs_LightSwitch_008I recently needed to replace a broken light switch in our kitchen. Simple enough, right? The Lowe’s employee, the packaging, and a hundred YouTube videos convinced me that any upright biped could handle this. After buying the correct replacement switch, this project should be as easy as a few strategic turns of a screwdriver.

Inside the wall, the old light switch didn’t match any diagram or drawing I could find. It was not remotely obvious (to me) how to disconnect the old switch from the wires. And the instructions on the new switch taunted me with their brevity and simplicity.

Why must this task be so difficult?

I nimbly bulldozed my way through the removal of the old switch (hello, wirecutters!) and connected the new one. When trying to put the new switch back into the wall, I realized the new dimensions exceeded the old. Square peg, meet round hole.

Why must everything be so difficult?

My frustration quickly gave way to impatience and anger, and I was less than gentle. Plaster crumbled and I soon found wall innards spilling onto the floor. At this rate my simple, ten-minute project looked like it might just leave me homeless.

Why is everything so difficult for me?

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What Can We Learn?

When I feel the Genesis 3 curse in painful, accute ways, how can I glorify God? When I see that the curse stretches more broadly than I imagined, or that my limitations are more profound than I hoped, what shall I do? Here are three ideas. Please share others if you have them.

  1. Praise God that he is not like me. Where I am finite and weak and foolish and incapable, He is infinite and mighty and wise and proficient.
  2. Thank God for his forgiveness and love. My sinful anger, acts of rage, and bitter complaints are offensive to God, yet because of Jesus he is full of love and forgiveness toward me. Nothing can keep me from the love of God, not even my house.
  3. Praise God that the curse is not everlasting. Though I will feel the curse until the day I die, when I am with the Lord it will be no more. (Rev 21:1–4) All of the frustration and anger and futility that I feel when tackling a difficult task will one day be a distant memory. And, this is not only a future reality, but God is making me into the sort of person right now for whom anger is a less-immediate response. There is reason and evidence for great hope.

Photo Credit: Scott..?, Creative Commons License
Photo Credit: Lotus Carroll, Creative Commons License

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3 thoughts on “Broken Light, Broken World, Broken Me

  1. Thanks for your post, Ryan. While I think we’re a little different in how we think about house projects like this (I generally enjoy doing them even though my skills are fairly basic), I could relate with wanting to (or actually) smashing a lights switch into a hole that was too small. It’s easy to feel frustrated when the project doesn’t go well or takes 5 times as long as I expected.

    Another way to respond might be to ask for help. This could look like:
    -Praying to the Lord to ask for His help (with the project, with anger/frustration/complaining): My pride tells me that I don’t need help; I’m capable and intelligent, and asking for help is weak. But God opposed the proud and gives grace to the humble.
    -Seeking advice/counsel: Sometimes I need another set of eyes to look at a problem I see no solution to or am frustrated with. I’ve found this can come from both people who have deep experience with what you’re working on as well as people who are novices but know how to ask good questions. In your situation, Leanne probably wouldn’t have known a lot more than you, but she could have be helpful in realizing that either the hole needed to be made larger or you needed a different light switch.

    How did things turn out with your project? Are you learning about patching drywall now?

    Also, you may not be interested in this, but I’ve found Jeff Patterson from Home Repair Tutor (http://www.homerepairtutor.com/) to be very helpful. His videos/articles don’t assume that you have much knowledge, and he’s good at explaining/teaching about a number home repair and improvement tasks. I think he lives around Pittsburgh, and from what I can tell, he’s very responsive when people ask him for advice about their particular projects.

  2. Jeremy — Thanks for the comment! Thanks also for the suggestions; both asking for counsel and praying are distasteful to my pride (as you mentioned), which is one reason I don’t pursue them more.

    The wall is plaster, not drywall (old house!), and while I ended up getting everything necessary back inside the wall, I called my electrician to replace the other switch under that cover and check my work just in case. To top matters off, the light switch cover didn’t fit very well over the new switches, so the dimmers don’t slide very freely at the moment!

    Thanks for the recommendation about Jeff Patterson; I’ll have to check him out.

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