I think I have mentioned before those things we just take for granted, until we can’t… when we lived on the north side of Fargo many years ago, we were in a parsonage that had been built in the early 60s. Unfortunately, parts of the home had not been updated, and still carried that 60s “charm.” In the dining room, for instance, there was a light fixture over the table. It wasn’t your typical chandelier or even a simple light – it was one of the inventions of that time past, where the large round four-bulb lamp was suspended from the ceiling by an electric cord that could pulled down or pushed up depending on where you wanted the lamp to be over the table. I took to calling it the “third degree” light, since if the table weren’t there, you could pull the lamp down pretty far and have it hanging inches from the suspect’s head. It was light brass with a white bulb cover, and was really pretty hideous – but it worked, so why bother changing it. I’m sure the lights in Buckingham Palace are pretty old, too.
One autumn, as we had scheduled a walk-through of the parsonage with trustees, after showing them the nearly falling-to-pieces curtain sheers on the windows of the dining room, I then proceeded to demonstrate the third degree lamp. I said, “What this!” and I pulled the lamp quickly down. However, for the first time, the lamp not only came down, but came off the ceiling, and I ended up holding the whole thing in one hand. You might imagine there was a stunned silence in the room. One of the trustees then said, “Well, it looks like you need a new light fixture!” The light had been hanging from the dining room ceiling probably for 30 years only by the electrical wires. When I pulled it that time, they ended up coming undone from the live electrical wires in the ceiling. I must say, that’s one way to get a new light fixture…
So, we moved into our home nearly six years ago. Early every morning, or before we were going to cook something, or in the evening, we would simply push the button on the right lower edge of the microwave that is installed above the stove top. As sure as God made little green apples, the light above the stove top would shine brightly – one more push on the button, and we ended up with a nightlight, with just the right glow to let us maneuver in the kitchen without having to turn on the bright ceiling lights. I’m sure you have one just like it in your home.
So, Sunday evening I walked into the dark kitchen, felt around on the front of the microwave, and pushed the button. What to my wondering eyes, but nothing happened. Just darkness. So, I did what any normal human would do – I pushed it again. Nothing. I then proceeded to push the button a good six or seven more times, each time in awe of the fact that absolutely nothing happened. I heard the click, but that was the extent of the process.
After I had tried the thing many times, I called out to my beloved family, telling them the light on the microwave wouldn’t work. As I presumed, they came in to see this new phenomenon. Of course, all three of them believed the old man of the house, and trusted my word. Not. Each one in turn had to push the button numerous times, I guess to experience for themselves the strange and curious nothingness of the light switch. “I told you – it’s not working!” “Well, did you check the circuit breaker?” “The light on the microwave shows the time – it works, so I don’t think there is a separate breaker for the light switch…”
This exploration went on for a while, akin to a bunch of chimpanzees trying to crack open a coconut with a palm leaf. I then offered the idea that the bulb probably blew out, with their stunned response being that we have only had the bulb in there for… oh yeah, and we don’t know how long it was working before we bought the house…
So, yesterday (I decided to give it a day or so, in case it was just tired…), I got a small screwdriver, and a flashlight, since there was no light under the microwave to see about unscrewing the cap on the light. Actually, that part was pretty easy, and upon shining the flashlight onto the bare bulb itself, of course I had to realize that instead of it being a nice 15 watt, double bulb arrangement, it was a light bulb most likely pulled from an alien ship crash at Area 51. It was weirdly shaped, with two small metal tines protruding at the bottom, and apparently it served as both the bright light and the dim light. Alien work, for sure.
I pulled out the bulb, looked at it under the bright flashlight, and it looked perfectly good, for some reason. I put it back in the two-prong place, pushed the button on the microwave, and lo and behold – it worked! I repeated it about six times just to make sure, and with a sense of pride and accomplishment, I then screwed the cap back on, having it look as good as new, pushed the button… and nothing happened. Six pushes later, and I was back to square one. What else could I do but unscrew the cap – again – and once again examine the bulb.
That was actually a good idea, except that when I unscrewed the cap and pulled the plate down, the bulb all on its own decided to plunge to its death on the stove top. With a nearly two-foot drop, it was fatal. Looking at the bulb at that point proved to me beyond any doubt that it was shot. At least there was no gray area…
So today, I will put on my mask, and go up to the boutique battery and bulb place, and try to buy a couple of alien bulbs, and see if I can restore the light to its former glory. I have no confidence that this project will end today. Frankly, I just don’t trust it, but I’ll go through the motions – just please know that in my heart, this is a fool’s errand, and the story is not done. Not by a long shot.
Now, please know that I am not a pessimist, but I have seen this kind of scam a number of times in the past, where some part of some machine promises to work just right and then when you place total trust in it, it giggles quietly as you fail. Indeed, there are times when, if you had enough money, you just want to pull the entire microwave out and put a new one in, just so you can get a new bulb!
You see, I think human beings are trusting creatures, until we aren’t. We rely on, put our faith in, assume and stand on what in the end is really a promise, isn’t it? When we do that with our relationships, or other fallible, breakable, fail-able things, our hearts nearly break, our gentle, open natures become a bit more like granite, and closed with a rusty key when our trust is broken, by a trust-breakable action or intent. And the hardest thing, when that has happened, is to talk with someone so victimized, because their response is, “Well, I’ve tried that before, and …” And it is easier not to trust, not to rely, not to depend, but it also creates a sad and dark, cracked and hurting hole in our hearts.
Of course, you know now that I am not talking about silly lightbulbs. I’m talking about fundamental faith that helps us walk through life without seeing the results before we act. Cheri often reminds me that, when it is really difficult in life, and we have already suffered pain, or the future ahead looks as dark as a room without a microwave light, that God says to, “Do you trust Me? Can you believe that I am here for you, and that no matter what things look like… I am here for you?”
You see, and you know that huge chunks of our lives are mysteries, with no clear paths. That’s why the scripture reminds us that “we walk by faith, not by sight.” If all of our lives were live out only when we were clear about what was ahead, we would never take a step. Instead, not knowing gives us the open door to trust that God does, and that intentionally placing each day in God’s hands, we can live with hope, which is always defined as “faithful expectation that God is working God’s purpose out in our lives.”
See today as full of Gods’ possibilities, and find the light there that will illuminate your path.
Word for the day: illecebrous. Pronounced ill-ESS-uh-brous. I just stumbled on this word, but it’s a great word to be used by anyone with a romantic heart. The word comes from the earliest root, lacio meaning “to ensnare.” Add to that, in, and you have illicio, meaning “to entice or to seduce.” An “illicit” affair always intends seduction of some sort. So, when one is “illecebrous,” it means one contains the quality of being pretty, or attractive, or alluring. The flower is always illecebrous to the bee. The thing is, however, when you are talking about humans and not wildlife, an illecebrous woman – or man – always includes the dangerous possibility of losing what you already have for the idea of what may be just beyond your reach…
After 43 years of ministry, Randy Cross lived his "fourth life" and shared about retirement, living boldly and intentionally in our world. To be sure, there was some North Dakota thrown in.