I didn’t blow up the house, available at: ForYourMarriage.org


Happily Even After

I didn’t blow up the house


November 17, 2011

I fixed our gas fireplace without incinerating our home.

In my eyes, this was a major accomplishment—worthy of a celebratory end-zone dance in the living room.

The decorative fireplace has a wall switch that ignites the flame. For some still-unknown reason, two weeks ago it ceased to ignite. This caused much worry as I imagined natural gas building up in the glass-enclosure and then suddenly blowing a hole in our home that a Schwan’s truck could drive through.

I called some maintenance and repair companies and we were looking at $150, at least, just for someone to step foot in our house. And they were booked through November.

So, I cracked open our owner’s manual and did some reading. It took several efforts, but after a few hours I had the wiring figured out and I had removed the glass and fake logs and was inspecting the ignition module (“part that starts the fire” in layman’s terms). I was doing what service technicians call “troubleshooting” and, let me tell you, I shot trouble to tarnation.

You are not incorrect if you detect a touch of triumph in my tone. I called Stacey, and, like a good wife, she was impressed. I relished her adulation.

It is curious what a “high” I get from fixing things around the house. Stacey and I typically don’t fall into strict gender roles—I clean and cook and Stacey washes the car, for example—but I really, really, really like to fix things.

It is gratifying to be able to make something work that was not working, to put it very plainly. A gas fireplace that doesn’t work is a waste of space, at best, and an incendiary bomb at worst. I turned that into something that entices my kids to get out of bed on winter mornings and serenely snuggle as they await breakfast. Who wouldn’t gloat at that accomplishment?

I reflected on my playful gloating this week, and it led me to wonder about the power we have to fundamentally shape our lives. In family life with small children, it is easy for me to think that I have very little power to shape my life. Nearly all of my available free time and energy is absorbed into caring for these three young people. Something as simple as getting out for a beer with friends takes an amazing amount of planning.

Yet, when I step back and see the big picture, I realize that I am profoundly free. What an amazing gift to be able to create and shape a life for our family, and Stacey and I get to do that in big ways and small. We get to define how our children ask for a glass of milk, and we get to choose where and how we live. We wield enormous power, and it is terrifying to think of what we’ve missed or the mistakes we’ve made.

The catechism describes how God unites a man and a woman in marriage and enables us to “cooperate in a unique way in the Creator’s work.” This refers to our capacity to participate in the creation of new life, which is a mind-boggling capacity: we have the ability to help bring a new person into the world.

Cooperating with the Creator means participating in this mystery of new life, but in a smaller way, it also means that my work and labor means something, even when I work though a household “to-do” list. Applying my intelligence and energy to a task is also a cooperation with the Creator—it acknowledges and honors the gifts I was created with, and it shapes the world to suit human needs, like snuggling before breakfast.

Reader Comments (1)

  • Very nice reflection. That’s a great way to look at a to do list.

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What I Learned in the Ice Bucket Challenge

What I Learned in the Ice Bucket Challenge

The “ice bucket challenge” is flooding the internet, and I knew it was just a matter of time until it reached me. I could see it closing in through our circles of friends and family. It arrived this week when my sister challenged me to participate.

 

I’ve been pondering what my response would be to this challenge. The basic premise is that a person either donates $100 to support research to fight ALS (Lou Gehrig’s Disease), or donates $10 and dumps a bucket of ice water over their head to raise awareness. The participant then “calls out” others by publicly asking for their participation within 24 hours.

 

The whole phenomenon began early this past spring with a social media-based charity fundraising challenge to jump into freezing cold water. The ALS Association commandeered the bandwagon this summer when it morphed into a much safer ice bucket dump, and has raised more than $50 million, not to mention the public awareness of the disease from these viral videos.

 

(A little investigation reveals that the ALS Association supports research that uses embryonic stem cells, which is problematic. Many people are responding to the challenge by donating to institutions that fight disease with research that uses adult stem cells, such as the John Paul II Medical Research Institute: http://www.jp2mri.org.)

 

Lou Gehrig, the best first baseman to play baseball, was forced to retire at age 36 when he was struck with amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS). The disease causes the deterioration of motor neurons, which control voluntary and involuntary muscle movement throughout the body. Muscle atrophy from the illness leads to paralysis and death.

 

Ice Bucket Challenge videos are captivating because it is fun to see how people we know react to the cold water dousing. It is also attractive to witness and be a part of a social movement that supports a worthy cause.

One reason for the success of the campaign is the public pressure it creates to follow through. Our whole family had been called out, and I felt like our whole circle of extended family and friends were watching to see if we’d participate—many of them completed the challenge, after all.

 

Something in me bristled at submitting to public pressure, and I wanted to be sure that our kids came away from this experience with the strength to follow their own convictions, whatever they are. The whole point, after all, is awareness and support for an important cause, so I talked with them about ALS, described the disease and the campaign, and encouraged them to respond to the challenge in a thoughtful way.

 

I laid out their options: They could just ignore it (a perfectly fine response that Stacey opted for—she’s not one to be pressured into anything). They could follow through and participate with a dousing and donation to raise awareness for ALS. Or they could use the opportunity to support or raise awareness about another cause they feel strongly about.

 

At bottom, the Ice Bucket Challenge earns the undivided attention of people in one’s social network who are watching for the payoff: a freezing-cold soaking. This is a privileged platform for our voice to be heard, so it should not be taken lightly. What a great opportunity to help our children learn about social action.

 

What did we end up doing? Watch here and see:

 

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TslKGhg8f2g&list=UUmn5ZlSNS–S4oO6cQHQ7Zg

 

 

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