When we came downstairs that morning, we found the temperature in the house was below the thermostat setting.
Normally that would be concerning. But the temperatures outside had been so cold for so long, and it was still early morning. The heat just wasn’t keeping up. Sometimes that happens. Besides, the house was just a few degrees below the mark.
We didn’t think much more about it and readied to go to a family holiday lunch a town over.
A few hours later we returned home.
The house temperature had not recovered. The heating unit had not caught up. The temp had fallen even farther down. The house was now ten degrees colder.
And so the adventure began.
The sun is setting. Temperatures outside are in the single digits and falling. And we’re just trying to find a heating and air company that will answer the phone.
Voicemails. Answering services. Busy signals.
We finally get a hold of someone who can come to the house. It will be a few hours. No problem we say, just as long as you can come.
The technician arrives around 10:30pm. By now the house is in the 50s. It’s cold. We’re cold.
We’ve got the fam piled into the master bedroom with a space heater. To be exact: Two parents, three kids, one parakeet, and two hermit crabs.
I am amazed at how ineffective the space heater is against real cold. If it’s 68 in the room and you want to bump it to 70, get a space heater. If it’s 50, good luck!
We are ready for the heat to return.
The technician gets to work. I don’t know how he does it. It’s nighttime. The wind is blowing. Gusts that would put the real feel in the negatives. And he is wearing a jean jacket with the collar up.
But he doesn’t complain. He is calm and polite. He quietly works. He finds what appears to be the main problem. The fuse for the emergency heat is busted. He replaces it. A simple and inexpensive solution. He tells us a brand new heat pump wouldn’t run in these temps, so we won’t know if there is anything wrong with ours until later.
The emergency heat should suffice. We’re grateful. The tech leaves our house around 11:30pm.
We go to bed with high hopes.
2:00am. The dog is whining. We wake up. He’s cold. Something is up. The air coming out of the vents is freezing cold. We’re blowing cold air into our house.
We go downstairs to get the dog and add him to the master-bedroom pileup. We turn off the unit.
The house is now in the 40s.
What do we do now?
I will spare you the rest. The tech would return in the morning and discover the other fuse had busted. Another simple and quick fix. No charge. And the heat would slowly climb, all day, to normal temperatures. Praise the Lord!
Most of this felt like a bad case of the normals. Just your typical “joys of home ownership” kinda stuff.
But for one moment it felt like more than that.
Let me tell you about that moment.
The moment came sometime after 2:00am. I was lying on the couch in the living room, bundled in a mummy-styled sleeping bag, when I was hit by a sense of powerlessness and lack of control.
I could not stop the cold.
We were being bested by cold.
I couldn’t believe it. How could that be?
We are moderns. Technology whizzes. Purveyors of gadgets and gizmos that address all problems.
Besides, this was my house, my home, my castle, right? We have insulation, electricity, flatscreen TVs, a coffee maker, internet, garage door openers. And Alexa!
But we couldn’t overcome the cold. A seemingly simple problem.
The heating unit went down in two rounds. The space heaters weren’t keeping up. Our gas fireplace was more ornamental than warm.
The HVAC tech had said the heat pump just wouldn’t work in these temps; there was nothing to be done until the weather warmed up. “Nothing to be done”??? I didn’t mention this earlier, but we had also spoken with a plumber about a potentially frozen/freezing pipe. He said if it was frozen there was nothing to be done until the weather warmed up. “Nothing to be done”???
And so, at 2:00am, there was nothing left to do that day. I couldn’t believe it. The cold was weighing down us, infiltrating the house as it willed. We would have to wait for the sunrise and wait for warmer temperatures.
I do not mean to be overly dramatic. We were not in mortal danger. But we were not in control, and that is the point. In that moment, I was reminded I have less control and power than I think. Frustratingly less. Humiliatingly less.
The Lord says to the snow, “Fall on the earth” and to the rain shower, “be a mighty downpour,” and it does (Job 37:6)!
I say to the cold, “Go away.” And it doesn’t. I say to the heater, “Be warm,” and it won’t.
In our modern world, with its many amenities, I can live for long stretches of time within an illusion of control and power. I am the captain of my ship, the master of my fate, I can think. But it’s just not true.
I am not the master. I am not the captain. There is only One who is.
“He sends out his command to the earth; his word runs swiftly. He gives snow like wool; he scatters frost like ashes. He hurls down his crystals of ice like crumbs; who can stand before his cold? He sends out his word, and melts them; he makes his wind blow and the waters flow.” (Psalm 147:15-18)
The next day the sun would shine. The cold would abate. The ice would thaw. The house would warm. No thanks to me.
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