Monday, January 11, 2010

Lowered Expectations

Not to complain too much, but the central heat furnace at our house doesn't work quite right.  Yes, I am aware that there are people without central heat.  In the summer, there are people without air conditioning.  However, this house was built with a couple of assumptions.  One of those was that, this being South Arkansas, it wouldn't get that cold.  The other that, when it does get cold, the single source of heat as a forced air furnace would be enough for the whole house.

So, what's wrong with my furnace?  Well, Saturday night it just decided not to blow.  Forced air heat works by heating air in a chamber and forcing it out into the house.  The blower motor would not kick on.  So, while the temperature outside dropped into the teens, the temperature inside started the night at 65 and dropped down to 52 by 4 o'clock in the morning.  Ann and I did not sleep well that night.  We'd hear the furnace click, hear the gas burners engage, then something else would click about 30 seconds later and the burners would shut off.  The second click should have been the blower motor switch coming on. 

Well, 4 in the morning, I got up and decided to fight with it as best I could to get it going.  Note: I'm not a licensed technician for heat and air systems.  I'm not even an unlicensed wannabe technician for heat and air.  I'm bad with electrical and worse with mechanical, so this was not a job for me.  However, I discovered that I could take the front panels off, manually spin the blower a couple of turns, and then hold the safety override switch that shuts off the blower if the panel is off and cause it to start blowing.  Then, the burners would fire, since the thermostat was still calling for heat.  I quickly put the cover back on, since there's a warning there about combustible fumes and explosions, and the heater ran all morning to get the house back to 65.

Fast forward to Sunday night.  The heater started doing the same thing.  I thought: NO PROBLEM! I'll do what I did earlier, it'll run just fine.  Nope.  Didn't work.  I put my hand on the blower motor, and it was almost as hot as when I put my hand on the burner I thought was off in the kitchen one time.  The motor was a little overheated, apparently.  Well, to keep the gas burners from cycling so much and not burn natural gas for no reason, I turned the thermostat down to 60.  I thought the furnace probably wasn't going to work anyway, so I cranked it down and left it down.  Then I went to bed.

This morning, it was a challenge to get up, because I was so cold.  First thought? The furnace hasn't run all night, it's back to really chilly in here.  I went to the thermostat to see the temperature, and discovered, much to my surprise, that the temperature was….60 degrees.  Just like I set it to.  I punched the "run program" button to put the thermostat back on auto, and it hit its morning setting of 67, and the furnace immediately fired up and ran.  It's just cycled off from heating the house back to the comfortable temperature of 67 degrees.

What mistake did I make?  I allowed one incident of breakdown to cause me to lower my expectations of the furnace.  I thought that since it had failed me before, it was going to go ahead and fail me this time.  As such, I got exactly what I asked for the second time around.  Except what I asked for wasn't what I really needed or wanted.

Do we ever make that mistake with people?  The first mistake we make, and one that takes much more discussion, is when the same person that let us down before is the one we're dealing with again.  There's a lot to be said for forgiveness and second chances, but there is also a lengthy discussion of consequences, wisdom, and protection.  However, we're often much quicker to hold others to consequences than we are ourselves. 

The second mistake, and the one that we really need to watch for, is lowering our expectations of individual people because other people let us down.  To hold the shortcomings of one person against another really isn't a good plan.  Why? We end up getting exactly what we expect, and we don't expect enough.  This happens incredibly too often in churches.  Somewhere, a long time ago, one young person (and ask 5 people in a church for a definition of "young person."  You'll get 7 answers) dropped the ball on a project.  As such, now the church expects nothing from "young people." And they get it.  Somewhere, the men's ministry slipped up or the deacons failed or the pastor goofed up. Maybe the WMU or the ladies' fellowship made an error.  There was a time your association or convention or denomination revealed their shortcomings.  And now, you have no expectations that they'll ever be helpful again.

Guess what?  They won't be.  Because we'll get what we expect, and if we expect little, we'll get little.  Does raising our expectations have risk? Certainly.  But I also know how hard it was to get up this morning, since I had to do all the work of staying warm last night.  I know how tiring it can be to carry the whole load.  Am I going to be disappointed by people falling short? Absolutely.  Yet I will be more disappointed in myself when I get up in the morning of that day, and my Lord shows me all the ways my low expectations kept people from doing all they could for Him.



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