Monday, August 18, 2008

Unhindered

In May, we bought a super nifty portable A/C unit.

At our last house, we had the kind you stick in a window or a wall. It belonged to the owners of that house, so we left it there.

In this house, we didn't want the kind you stick in a window or wall, because we can't cut giant holes in this rental's walls, and all the available windows are in back bedrooms. So we would have had one bedroom whose occupants lived in an igloo, and the rest of us would have sweltered away in the 100 degree heat.

Incidentally, our attic's insulation is something like fifty years old and quite useless. Even when our house has been naturally cooled off all night long, and we've been gone all day, and no one's been going in and out, and every window is shut tight, all blinds are closed, and all curtains drawn, the house's interior is still the same temperature as the exterior. 90 degrees outside, 90 degrees inside.

Now combine the poorly insulated attic with the fact that our basement houses the church offices, which put off a nice fat chunk of their own heat. And what does their heat do? Yep. It rises. (Mind you, their heat rises in the winter too, so we are toasty warm in the cold weather, for which we are extremely thankful.)

So between the attic and the offices, we knew we'd need some form of A/C unit in order to survive the summer in this house. And we knew we'd need one we could stick in the living room, which is where we all hang out all day.

So in May, we bought a super nifty portable A/C unit. It made big promises. It promised to cool several hundred square feet of space, and it proclaimed itself to be 18,000 BTU, or something like that.

We believed it.

But it lied to us.

At first, we put it in a little alcove near our wood stove and added some extra hose so the exhaust vent could reach all the way to the big picture window.

Then we turned it on.

Nothing doing.

After an hour, we could feel the air blowing out, but it wasn't any cooler than any other air.

After a week of this, I finally declared that the emperor was naked.

Jeff removed the extra hose from the A/C unit, and we shoved it closer to the window.

We turned it on again.

Still nothing. Maybe a couple degrees cooler than everything else, but not really super effective.

After a month of total frustration, I spoke up again. Remember that emperor? Still naked.

Jeff made the exhaust hose as small as it could possibly be and removed a piece of screen from the exhaust opening.

Okay. Now we were getting somewhere. The whole entire *corner* of the room the A/C unit stood in was nice and cool.

But what about the rest of the room? Let alone the rest of the house?

We stuck a fan in front of the A/C unit and blew air across the room to my chair.

This setup worked for another month.

Then August came. And with it came 100 degree heat. I knew our A/C unit had failed to keep its big several-hundred-square-foot promises. I just didn't know what to do about it. The thing was brand new. And it appeared to be working fine. What could the problem be? How could it possibly be working so hard and producing so little?

Then, one day last week, I noticed we hadn't removed the window screen from the A/C exhaust opening. So I mentioned to Jeff, "Maybe we should remove the whole window screen. Do you think that could be what's keeping the A/C unit from working properly?"

Jeff replied, "Could be."

He removed the window screen the next morning before he went to work. That day, he was working with a buddy of his, so I didn't call him during the day. But I sure wanted to. The minute he walked in the door that evening, I fairly burst, "It's working! The air conditioner is FINALLY WORKING!!"

Of course Jeff didn't need me to say that because, for the first time, he could tell. The whole living room, the dining room, the kitchen, and even the hallway were all nice and cool, or only comfortably warm (as opposed to stiflingly hot). After two and half months, our super nifty A/C unit was finally doing its job.

As Jeff and I enjoyed the air later that evening, him in shorts and a tank, me wrapped in a cozy blanket (yep, a blanket), I listed all the trouble we'd had. First a week of the long hose, then a month with the exhaust screen, then another month with the window screen, and finally, a working unit. As soon as we got rid of all the impediments, and had 'thrown off' everything that hindered, the air conditioner proved to be effective in its service.

Ah, you see where this is going, don't you? Yes. Absolutely. It's TOTALLY a metaphor for life. Are you in a slump? Do you feel like a failure? Do you work as hard as you possibly can with little or no result? I've been there. Sometimes I'm still there.

If you're anything like me, you think the next thing I'm going to say is that you need to throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles, and you need to run with perseverance the race marked out for you.

But I want to make an important point. The A/C unit did not remove its own hindrances. Jeff, guardian of the A/C unit, removed the impediments that kept it from being effective. Now, the analogy obviously breaks down here, because the air conditioner didn't have eyes, nor was it fixing them on Jeff.

But you have eyes. And rather than focusing on your hindrances and trying to make them budge, I encourage you to fix your eyes, instead, on Jesus.

Jesus, not you, is the author and perfecter of your faith. Only God has the power to remove from your life that which hinders you from freedom in Christ. Are we called to throw off sin? Yes. But we cannot do it without first fixing our eyes on the cross. Only the cross of Christ holds the power to change your life.

"Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles, and let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us. Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy set before him endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. Consider him who endured such opposition from sinful men, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart."

~Hebrews 12:1-3


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