This is the story of a water heater.
Michael and I aren't "handyman" types. Before we bought our house, we knew practically nothing about home upkeep. For example, we didn't know that with some water heaters, you need to flush out the accumulated lime every year (if you live in a region with hard water). So we didn't do that with our first water heater, and it had a very short life. After 6 or 7 years, it filled up with so much lime it just stopped working altogether.
I called the local hardware store to get a recommendation of a plumbing contractor, and we had our water heater replaced. Being the naive homeowners that we were, we didn't realize that the contractor we hired installed a used water heater in our house. (We found out later when we had it serviced by a different plumbing company, the one we still use, and they told us it was manufactured several years before we had it installed.)
Even though we did have this second water heater flushed periodically, it didn't work very well. We had it set fairly high, but we rarely had very hot water. When we'd wake up in the morning, the temperature of the hot water would be only about 80 or 90 degrees. I'd run the faucet for awhile and the influx of cold water into the heater's tank would force it to kick on, and in about half an hour we'd have hot water. We'd have a similar problem in the evening if we hadn't run very much water during the day. Even though we had a 40-gallon tank, which should be plenty for two people, we never had enough hot water for both of us to take a shower one right after the other. (And I don't take long showers.)
You would think we would have realized within a very short time that this isn't the way water heaters are supposed to work. But we didn't. We made do with this ridiculously inefficient water heater for 7 or 8 years. We did have it serviced a couple of years ago, and we knew that it had some serious problems that meant we'd have to replace it soon, but we were waiting until we started getting more work.
Friday, we called a plumber to come fix a problem with our toilet. While he was here, I went to the kitchen to load the dishwasher, . . . and we had no hot water. So I asked if he'd turned it off because he was working. He said no and checked our water heater. The pilot was out. (What are the odds that it would break at the exact time we had a plumber in the house? But it did.) He relit it, and we asked him for details about what it would cost to replace the tank, but we didn't want to make a snap decision while he was there.
Anyway, after the plumber left, Michael and I talked it over and decided that we were too nervous about continuing to make do with that faulty water heater. We arranged to have a replacement installed on Monday (today).
At dinner time, I discovered the water heater had gone out again, so we had to call and arrange to have the installation done Saturday.
So we've had it two days, and the new water heater works like a dream. I can start my dishwasher without all that malarkey of running out a lot of water and then waiting 40 minutes for the tank to reheat. When I turn the water on with the tap turned all the way to hot, steam billows in the sink. That has NEVER happened in the 13 years we've lived here.
This story sounds rather ridiculous when I type it out, but I have a fairly logical explanation for why I was willing to put up with this situation for so long. My dad was one of those stereotypical self-taught handymen whose opinion of his skills was far greater than the reality. He was constantly starting jobs around the house and never finishing them. When I was a teenager, there was at least one unfinished repair job in every room of my family's eight-room house. I can remember one period lasting several weeks during which we washed dishes in a plastic tub in the dining room because he tore apart the kitchen sink and delayed putting it back together.
The good part about this background is that I can be pretty flexible about improvising when something doesn't work right. For a brief period Friday night, we thought we might have to wait until Monday for the installation, and I immediately heated several pans of water and began unloading dishes from the dishwasher and washing them by hand. I also started trying to calculate if I could boil enough water for a bath and wondering how to wash my hair. When Michael got off the phone with the plumbing company and told me we could get the job done Saturday, I actually felt a twinge of disappointment that I wouldn't have the chance to prove how resourceful I was.
The bad part about my family background, which incidents like the one of the water heater demonstrate, is that I have low expectations for having things work. It just doesn't strike me as odd to have to finagle and fiddle to trick my water heater into providing hot water.
I think that something similar happens to a lot of us when it comes to our relationship with Go. We each carry a certain amount of baggage from being raised by flawed human beings. Too often, we magnify whatever faults our parents might have had and project those onto God. My mother, for example, is a very narcissistic woman who expected her children to dedicate themselves to meeting her emotional needs. As a consequence, I have struggled all my life to believe that God cares about my needs. My default is to think that he expects me to be all about service and obedience and self-sacrifice. I got that low expectation from the family in which I was raised, not from any experience with God, yet I'm constantly making the mistake of putting it on Him.
It's hard to try to separate our experience of our parents and other authority figures from our view of God. But I think it's an essential part of our growth as human beings. I'm often so afraid of being disappointed and hurt, and yet my personal experience of God is that he delights in exceeding our expectations. Slowly, slowly, I'm learning more about trusting him. I think it's going to be the work of a lifetime.