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RITE OF PASSAGE: False alarm

The little Morton Salt girl was right: when it rains, it pours. Our family rarely has one big event at a time. Instead, we have several that collide and send reverberations that echo for miles. Last spring, days before the wedding of our youngest son, our air conditioning unit went out. It couldn’t be repaired. It had to be replaced, and fast. We were hosting the rehearsal dinner in our home, and Tulsa’s temperatures were already h-o-t. At 6 p.m. on the evening of the rehearsal, the repairmen finally left our home . . . for the third time that week.

As you know, my dear wife recently underwent open-heart surgery. We spent several weeks praying and preparing for this event. I tried to make her life as pleasant as possible through the rounds of doctor visits, medication, explanations and decisions. The week before her surgery, our freezer developed a problem. Its alarm sounded to indicate the inside temperature had dropped below a certain level. “Great,” I thought when I heard the shrill tone. “Just what we need.”

I strode into the garage, toolbox in hand. I didn’t want my wife to have a moment’s worry. I would conquer that freezer . . . or else.

I quickly discovered the problem was not with the freezer but with its alarm. The thermometer showed a normal temperature. The alarm was malfunctioning, and only a repairman could reset it.

I’m at the age where my hearing is not as acute as it once was, but the pulsing sound bothered me. I knew it would drive my wife crazy at a time when she especially needed to rest. “No problem,” I told her. “It’s still under warranty. I’ll call the service line.”

You know the story. Companies don’t make appointments for service calls anymore. Instead, they give you a range of time so you can spend those hours on your knees praying the repairman will actually arrive. My wife and I prayed, plugged our ears, waited and prayed some more.

The following day, the repairman appeared and fixed the problem. We spent a few moments savoring the silence. That’s right, “a few moments.” That’s how long it took for the alarm to sound . . . again.

Certain that the truck hadn’t reached the corner, I ran down the block, waving my arms and trying to alert our repairman. When I missed him, I called the 800 number once more. After a long series of automated responses, I heard the final one: “Your service call cannot be completed because less than 24 hours have passed since your previous appointment. Please try again at an appropriate time.”

Again, I stood ready. I could do this. Somehow, I would convince the company of the foolishness of its 24-hour rule. I called again and again, trying every way I knew to circumvent the system. Nearly two hours later, I gave up in defeat. The rules (and the freezer alarm) had won, and the Moores had lost.

Believe it or not, this cycle occurred two more times before we finally had peace and quiet again. Before that, I was ready to take matters into my own hands. After all, my wife needed surgery. Maybe the freezer alarm did, too.

As I sat muttering about the rules of the system, I thought about the days when our boys lived at home. My wife and I made rules to help our family. Without them, our lives would have been chaotic. The rules provided structure and helped us guide our sons in doing what was right.

You know the story. For every rule we had, there was an equal and opposite reaction. There were situations when the rule didn’t fit, or the situation changed. But I had made my rule, and I was sticking to it. Like the automated system, I couldn’t break out or break away.

I realize now that by choosing rules over relationship, I helped produce rebellion. Sometimes it rang as loudly as our freezer alarm. Sometimes it was as silent as the piece deep inside that slipped and set it off. But I failed to see the central issue. You see, the problem was not our boys or even our rules. The real problem was . . . me.

Father, forgive me for the times I have chosen rules over relationships. Help us as parents to make rules that help our families and to realize that relationships come first . . . every time. Amen.

Walker Moore

Author: Walker Moore

View more articles by Walker Moore.

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