Tuesday, February 28, 2017

That's What You Wanted

It's time for me to move on. I've know this for a while now. I need to progress past this place I've been in for too long. I'm talking about spiritual progression but I am also planning on physically moving from the state I've lived in for the past 20 years. My youngest is graduating from high school so I'll be finished with this chapter of my life. Consequently I'm finally facing some of the repairs I've put off for a while. I've also wanted to physically move for a long time. I've had to face these repairs because that's what I wanted

Listen: "What You Wanted" by OneRepublic

A few months ago I was blow drying my hair and the blow dryer blew a fuse. It sparked and stopped working all together. I tried to reset the GFCI outlet, which is the type of outlet with the 'reset' and 'test' buttons on it, but that wouldn't even reset. I discovered that two other outlets, another one in my bathroom and the one in the kids' bathroom, were now non-functional. I went around resetting the other GFCI outlets in the house as my first resolution process. If they were somehow connected to the one in my bathroom, then maybe the blow dryer had tripped them too. But it didn't fix the problem. I went down to the basement to check the breaker panel. No breakers had tripped. 

The next day I found that our garage door had stopped working! What the heck? Was this a coincidence? I didn't even tie the two events together at this point. I just opened and shut the garage door manually for the next few days. But that couldn't last so I finally investigated and found that the GFCI outlet in the garage was tripped. When I reset it the garage door worked again. It was then that I said, 'Wait a minute. This just might be connected to the blow dryer incident.'  I was hoping that resetting that outlet would fix the other but it didn't. So I didn't know what to do except call an electrician.

But I didn't want to call an electrician. The last time I did was so frustrating. I was charged seventy-five bucks for a five-minute visit on a fix I could have totally done myself. So no electrician...at least not until I had completely burned out (not literally hopefully) on trying to fix it myself.

I just left the broken outlet alone for a while. Meanwhile I plugged into another one. It was inconvenient but better than calling an electrician. I used this other outlet for a few months. But when I started to think about selling the house I knew I would have to fix that outlet. I had been thinking about it off and on throughout those months and came to an initial hypothesis that the GFCI outlet itself needed to be replaced. 

So I watched a number of YouTube videos that showed me how to replace it. I love YouTubers that share their skills and talents!!! Then I went to Home Depot and purchased a new one. I followed the instructions I had received and successfully replaced the outlet. But it still wouldn't work! I left it alone for another few days. I was really battling a sense of hopelessness. Of course I was praying about this like I do about everything. The Lord is usually right with me helping me know what to do. So between him and the YouTubers, I was well supervised. Usually I have a sixth sense, the Lord's sense, for how to solve these kinds of issues. But this time He wasn't telling me. It was so frustrating. 

I started thinking that the problem must be somewhere deep within the drywall and it would take a huge mess plus tons of electrician skills that I didn't have to repair it. But still I refused to call an electrician. I was going to fix this thing come hell or high water.

A few days later I had formed another hypothesis. I had watched more YouTube videos and had started taking careful notes about the laws of electricity and getting a better handle on the terminology.  GFCI = Ground Fault Circuit Interrupter. Outlets = Terminals. Wires in = Line. Wires out = Load. Red Wire = neutral, positive. Black Wire = hot, negative.  Copper Wire = ground. I paid close attention to all the safety rules because I didn't want to die.

I called someone at Home Depot who knew about electrical malfunctions and troubleshooting. She was on the phone with me for an hour while I tested a bunch of things. She had me switch the wires on the GFCI outlet but nothing made any different. She told me to check outside for another breaker panel so I went out there. The box looked formidable. In so many ways it seemed to be saying: Access Denied. It looked like only an official electrician should or could open it. It had some sort of blue lock on the front that I couldn't get off. I didn't want to damage it. My Home Depot friend told me to leave it alone. So I did.

My next Conflict Resolution Process was to go to Home Depot and buy a multimeter, which is a device for testing electrical current. I had to find out if the outlet was even receiving any power. So I bought one, watched YouTube videos on how to use the darn thing, tested for power, and found the next clue to solving this mystery! No power was even getting to the GFCI outlet. The lights and fans still worked in the bathroom. It was just the outlets that didn't.

It was time to focus on the breaker panel in the basement. Even though a breaker was not tripped, maybe the one that powered the GFCI outlet in my bathroom was busted! I had got this idea from another YouTube video. So I used my multimeter to check the power on all of the breakers. It took me some time to figure out what was normal and what was abnormal in the panel because some wires didn't register any current at all and others did. So were the breakers all functional or not? I left this question simmering on the back burner for another day. Then I got the idea to manually check all the breakers. I remembered that the garage outlet had been tripped when the blow dryer blew so I figured that outlet was somehow connected to the other. But none of the breakers had 'garage' listed next to them. Had they been mislabeled? I determined that when I found the one that powered the outlet in the garage, it would be the same one that powered my bathroom outlet.

So I got up bright and early the next morning and flipped one breaker off at a time and assessed where the power was now out in the house at the same time as checking if it also turned off the power for the garage door. There are like 15 breakers so this was a lot of running up and down the stairs. It was a pretty good workout. But after doing that, I found that all the breakers were functional and none of them turned off the garage power! Now what? From whence was the garage outlet receiving power? Things were getting pretty exciting now!

But I'm pretty slow in putting two and two together sometimes. I didn't yet see the answer. All I knew was that I needed to know more about the wiring for my house. Where would additional breaker boxes be? My Home Depot friend had suggested I talk to the builders--Richmond--since they were still building in my neighborhood. My house is only 4 years old. I went across the street to the model homes. On my way I noticed a metal box on a house being built that was just like my outside electric box. Hmmm...but I remained on my course to ask Richmond about it. Gotta be sure about all of this. These electrical boxes are so formidable, you know! I asked the woman in the office if I could talk to an onsite electrician. I wasn't going to ask him (or her) to come over and fix my problem. I just had a specific Richmond house question. Denied. She suggested I call an electrician. Nope.

Next up: I went outside and took another long look at my electrical box. Hypothesis: there's another breaker panel in there! But how in the heck could I open it? I googled it. I found this blessed person's video (lol):

Awesome!

So that did it. I easily opened the formidable electrical box and within it lay ANOTHER BREAKER PANEL! Who knew that houses had two breaker panels? And lo and behold there was a breaker labeled 'Baths GFI' (GFCI is sometimes abbreviated) and it was in fact tripped. From there I just had to turn it off and on a few times while I made sure the wires were connected right on the GFCI outlet in the bathroom. Finally, I was able to reset the outlet. 

Then I plugged a lamp into it and it worked! So amazing. Seriously. One of the best mystery solving experiences I've ever had!

Lessons from Home Repairs
The reason I'm writing about this in this blog is that I learned some valuable lessons from this experience. After the conflict was resolved I looked back on the entire story. I saw how weak my faith was. I saw how I 'plugged in' somewhere else when the outlet malfunctioned for months before trying to fix it. But I also saw how I didn't give up once I was determined to fix it--once I had a reason that was powerful enough to motivate me to fix it. I noticed how I had to learn about the basics of electricity. I had created a document, labeled Electricity and took careful notes on the YouTube videos and other forum websites I had studied. I had to slow myself down, be patient, and learn some things so that I wouldn't think this was an impossible task. I had to form hypotheses. The Lord wasn't just going to tell me what I needed to do. He wanted me to go through this step by step troubleshooting process. He wanted me to use my noggin. I didn't think I had enough in my noggin to resolve the conflict. I thought I would need to have months of training before I could fix it. I thought that fixing the problem would be much more complicated than it actually was. I've always had a fear of electricity and have considered these kinds of repairs above my skill level. So instead of thinking the problem was common, at least to begin with, and using easy standard troubleshooting skills, I was envisioning a very complicated tasks that was way above me. Problems may indeed end up being complicated but the key is to start with more basic hypotheses to rule out those first. This is like taking care of the beam first before we go looking for those harder to see motes (Matthew 7:4). 

While it was difficult for me to see the Lord's guidance during the whole experience, I look back and see it clearly. He was the one instructing me to write down what I already knew, watch the YouTube videos looking for clues, form multiple hypotheses, and test them out. I also sensed that he did not want me to call an electrician. He wanted me to work with him to resolve it. This was one of his lessons for me and we would have fun resolving the conflict together. Resolving conflicts with those we love builds relationships. 

When I am trying to resolve spiritual problems my YouTube videos are replaced with the scriptures, conference talks, other good books, the past experiences of others that they share, and my own past experiences (like this one). The Lord expects me to write down what I already know about the answers I'm searching for and use my available resources. He wants me take notes to learn the basic laws and terminology, then form hypotheses and test them out.

“Now, as I said concerning faith—that it was not a perfect knowledge—even so it is with my words. Ye cannot know of their surety at first, unto perfection, any more than faith is a perfect knowledge. But behold, if ye will awake and arouse your faculties, even to an experiment upon my words, and exercise a particle of faith, yea, even if ye can no more than desire to believe, let this desire work in you, even until ye believe in a manner that ye can give place for a portion of my words.” ~Alma 32:26-27

I have spiritual conflicts in my life--metaphoric power outlets that have stopped functioning as well as they used to. I normally feel pretty confident in my strength to deal with these conflicts head-on. I usually don't try to procrastinate fixing them. I don't like to live in denial. This is because it has become a delight to work with the Lord to repent and make things right. And because I am so dependent upon him for my well-being, I can't handle it when breakers trip between us. My repeated choice to repent has built our relationship to what it is. Repentance is just like fixing things in the house that have stopped functioning right.

After this experience with the GFCI outlet, I realized that I had fallen into 'plugging in' to other outlets when my relationship with Him had stopped returning the level of power I desired. The power is never completely turned off but it tends to wax and wane in strength. When it wanes, I know it's time to learn more. But I've become lazy over the past few years and as a result I've been struggling with myself and these temptation to 'plug in' to other sources. 

I've known that I should not plug in to other outlets. That's just going to slow my overall progression down. But at the same time I need a certain level of 'power' and can't make that need go away. I've been trying to resolve this conflict by forcing myself to stop plugging into other sources. I use self-criticism. I shame myself for having the desire to receive more power. I should be grateful for what I'm already receiving! Then I just try to use shear will power to keep away from the things that tempt me. I try to say they're bad for me and I don't really want them anyway. Doesn't work. 

The things that tempt me are pretty wholesome. They are good things such as chocolate hazelnut cheesecake, Twilight on VidAngel, a Georgette Heyer novel, extremely attractive good men who I know would never be right for me and vice versa, a career path that deviates from the one the Lord wants me on, etc. Wholesome. Not terrible. But this is a good, better, and best issue, which makes them Conflicting Desires--opportunity costs to what I really want. So plugging into another power outlet in my room to blow dry my hair is not a huge opportunity cost. But when I plug in to these other temptations, they just prolong my Desire Obtainment Process. They slow it down or keep me running around in circles. And if I keep it up for too long I may end up never obtaining what I wanted.

So I have two conflicting processes that I engage in that throw me off course for what I wanted.  When I encounter tripped breakers that I don't know how to fix, I: 
1. go plug in somewhere else. 
2. try to stop myself from 'plugging in' all together by shear will power. 

I have encountered tripped breakers in my relationship with the Lord throughout my whole life. I work with Him to fix one, but as I progress on my journey up the mountain another higher level breaker trips. Never fails. I have to continually work with him to repair them so that the flow of power can increase to the level that satisfies me. I've loved this process but have also majorly struggled with it. Somewhere along the line I started thinking I was finished with all the tripped breakers. 'Kay, done now. I thought that they shouldn't trip anymore. But they do and they have.

Usually a tripped breaker means there's some habit in me that we need to work on breaking. And there's a better habit that we need to work on developing. And that takes time. I'm sick of time. I don't want it to take any more time! Time, Why You Punish Me? I ask the Lord why he can't just accept me for who I am. His answer is, 'Because that's what you wanted. It is you who is not accepting yourself for who you are. And it is you who will tell me when we have fixed enough of the tripped breakers between us. You will know when you are satisfied with the degree of power in our relationship. If you're not as satisfied as you used to be, it's time to come to me and figure out how to progress past this place.'

So he's right. And here's the issue about accepting myself for who I am. It's not about what I can receive. I'm not interested in just receiving peace and blessings, even from God. Some desires that are inherent to the human soul can't be given to us. And I'm seeing myself almost from a third-person perspective. I actually want to sacrifice more for Him. I need to. Accepting that is accepting who I am. My Savior gives me so much. I am so thankful for that but I will never be satisfied until I can meet his sacrifice with my own. I'm not saying I'll ever be able to sacrifice as much as Jesus Christ. I'm saying that I want to give my widow's mite. I can't hold anything back. I have to give him everything. It's crazy. It's insane! But that's what I wanted.

“I’ll put your poison in my veins
They say the best love is insane, yeah
I'll light your fire till my last day
I'll let your fields burn around me, around me”
~"What You Wanted" by OneRepublic

“For whosoever will save his life shall lose it; but whosoever shall lose his life for my sake and the gospel’s, the same shall save it.” ~Mark 8:35

When breakers trip in my relationship with Christ its like something blew up in my face. I experience confusion or pain that I can't resolve so I block it out, ignore it, and go eat something. After physically repairing the GFCI outlet with him as well as other things around my house during the past month, I'm remembering the joy of repentance--the joy of Conflict Resolution--the joy of mystery solving. This has motivated me to be more aware of our spiritual tripped breakers. So instead of plugging in somewhere else, I'm facing each problem as it comes. I'm looking at him directly and confessing that I don't know how to resolve this one. I'm stuck. This hurts too much for me to work on by myself. I need help. 

For a long time I've been pleading with him to increase the pace in my progression. I can't stand slow downs. I need to move on! The tripped breakers are not what slow us down. It's my plugging in to other sources as a resolution process. Since I've been facing Him with each issue as it arises, I am now experiencing an exhilarating sense of increased progression. And that's what I wanted!