Anyone who knows me can tell you that I am forgetful. Well, I guess forgetful would be a bit of an understatement. I am the ‘post-it’ queen and the maven of bulletin boards. A phrase heard daily in my house is, “Put it on the board!” Otherwise, everyone knows that mom will forget to pick up an item, pay a bill, or make an appointment. I have reminders for changing the furnace filter and the smoke alarm batteries. I make lists on my phone and set alarms for everything. I think you get the point.
That being said, one thing that I never thought to add to one of my boards was to clean the dryer vent that runs to the outside of the house. I’d been cautioned several times to clean it and I knew it was something important that should be done often, but it’s one of those many things that fall to the bottom of my lists or never makes it on at all. I know, mom fail. It finally did make it to one of my multiple to-do lists, yet I still put it off for about two weeks. Then I read a news article on Facebook about how a local home had caught fire and almost burned to the ground because of a clogged and neglected dryer vent. I didn’t do any more laundry that night and the next day I went directly to the home improvement store and gathered the tools I needed to do a thorough job.
As I pulled the dryer out and unscrewed the foil duct running from it to the wall, I got my first indication that this could be bad. The duct was coated and almost clogged with lint and bits of paper and such. I tossed it aside and brushed and vacuumed out the vent on the actual dryer first. Not too bad.
Then I started on the vent to the outside.
I stuck my hand in the tubing to grab anything in reach. It would barely budge. I had to pull clumps out to just get my hand all the way in the duct. I was appalled at my own lack of attention to something that seemed small but could so dramatically affect the safety of my family. I attached the chimney brush I had bought to the flexible tubing and began cleaning farther up the vent, a little at a time. Piles of junk came out of that tube. When I say junk, I’m not simply talking lint and paper and the usual suspects. I mean debris. When a tornado hit near our home last fall, it lifted and twisted our vent, which goes out the roof. We had never thought to see if it had deposited anything inside.
Pieces of shingles up to four inches square, insulation, plastic, pieces of wood, you name it and it was in there. As I reached the top with my brushing contraption and got the last bit of blockage worked free, a whoosh of warm air from outside flowed towards me through the now open vent. I continued brushing until I was sure it was pristine, then swept up the massive pile that had landed on my floor.
As I was pulling debris out of that duct, I began to cry. My fear and my failure smacked me in the face like someone had thrown a brick at me. The pieces of insulation and shingles brought back the day of the storm and how it is still affecting our neighborhood months later. Then, I realized that there was no logical, scientific reason that this vent hadn’t caught fire. It was plugged up completely. If a fire marshal had seen it he would have had a heart attack. It was that bad. There was only one explanation that made sense to me:
God had His hand on this home and had protected us from calamity yet again. The tears came anew.
As I cleaned, I marveled at the power of prayer. Every day I pray God’s hand of protection around our family and home. Every day I ask that He bring us all home safe again together in the evening and put His angels around us as we sleep. It has become habit, something I often do without really thinking about it. Don’t we all? We get in ruts, with repeated daily prayers and habitual requests. How often do we really stop and think about what we are praying? In addition, how often do we really have faith that those prayers are going to be answered? Sure, we believe God answers, He protects, He provides. But what I’m asking is, each time we pray, are we visualizing God’s loving hands cradling our homes and families? Do we imagine His mighty warrior angels standing guard by our bedsides with swords blazing, ready to defend and protect us against the enemy? Or do we simply repeat our nightly or morning prayers without giving it much thought?
That day, it hit me right between the eyes. Again. God really does hear each and every one of our prayers and answers them. Even the ones we don’t give much thought to or pray out of habit. He hears and He supplies. It may not be the way we wanted or thought it should be, but our prayers are powerful and call down the Hand of Heaven. It occurred to me that, even thought I have seen miracles happen in my own life and I have seen God’s hand of protection at work, I was still surprised that the vent had not caught on fire. It made me take a hard look at my faith and the strength of my own belief. I immediately asked Him to forgive me for any doubt I had. People ask for signs and wonders and confirmation every day and I’ve been given those many times over. I had no excuse. I was Thomas asking for proof, yet not grasping the evidence I was shown in those nail scarred hands.
After my own little cleaning and prayer session, I began talking to others about what I had experienced and how despite everything I had been somewhat surprised at seeing God’s power at work. What I discovered was that I wasn’t the only one. All of us, at one point or another have those moments of doubt, fear, and wavering faith. Life barrels down the tracks and steamrolls everything in its path before we even know what hit us. We send up prayers for help out of habit and let our troubles cloud our belief and weaken our faith. Even great men and women of God in the Bible sometimes had doubt.
But, as I learned the other day, God has a habit as well. He sends us wake up calls, sometimes gentle and sometimes forceful, that cause us to re-examine ourselves and our faith. It may be a clogged dryer vent, a word from a friend, protection in the swirling winds of a tornado, or a still, small voice. Some of us are stubborn and can sometimes not let what He’s trying to show us sink in. Like me. His protection was blatantly evidenced by the fact that no one was seriously injured in that storm, despite homes being destroyed around them, and it takes a dryer vent full of debris months later for me to fully grasp what He had protected us from. I have to wonder if God doesn’t shake His head, smiling and saying to me, “Silly child, aren’t you getting it yet?”! He loves me so much that He continues to prove His love, no matter how much I fail or doubt. He continually nudges, or shoves, me into a place that I have no choice but to believe Him, trust Him, and have faith that those prayers I whisper to Him will always be answered. His protection will always be there, His angelic guardians at the ready for my request. All I have to do is have faith.
I got it, Father. Finally.
Lamentations 3: 22-23 (KJV)
It is of the Lord’s mercies that we are not consumed,
because His compassions fail not. They are new every morning.
Great is thy faithfulness.
Hebrews 11: 6(KJV)
But without faith it is impossible to please Him:
for he that cometh to God must believe that He is,
and that He is a rewarder of them that diligently seek Him.