Wednesday, November 25, 2015

The Squeaky Wheel

It was eleven o'clock at night, many years ago, and I had just realized that I had forgotten to put out the garbage cans...again. I swept through the house as quietly as I could so I wouldn't wake our two young kids or Sylvia, my wife. We were in an exceptionally stressful season in our lives and I wanted everyone to get as much sleep as possible.

When everything was gathered together I hit the button on the sectional two-car garage door and it squealed and squeaked and complained like normal. It had gotten so loud lately that I was thankful the neighbors hadn't complained about the noise or suggested strongly that we get it fixed. Money to do that just wasn't in the cards any time in the foreseeable future. I hoped that the noise wouldn't wake one of the kids, who would then call for mommy, which would set off an hour of glasses of water, tucked covers, and reassurances that everything would be alright and that it was time to go back to bed. I waited...silence.

I brought the three sorted cans to the curb and walked back to the garage. I hit the button to close the door and held my breath as I pressed my luck for the second time in only ten minutes. The usual high-pitched squealing as the metal wheels struggled down the tracks was different, more strained. Then the sound changed into something that was unusual and horrible. The door itself was stuck on one side but the motor kept trying to force it. The motor whined, the metal tracks groaned, and the squealing was unbearable. It was like fingernails on a chalkboard times three. In the time that it took me to take all of this in and reach for the button to stop this cacophony, the safety mechanism in the system had kicked in and reversed the door's direction. I was thankful.  At least the noise would stop.

Here is where the problem really began. As the door moved back up to its horizontal position over the garage I heard metal hitting the floor. I saw the corner closest to me begin to sag away from the track. Apparently the power of the motor against the jammed door had bent things out of shape. I quickly leaned into the house to see if there were any sounds from the children. I completely expected Sylvia to come walking out in her pink flowered robe squinting against the light to see what that horrible sound was. Thankfully, she never came.

I quickly assessed the situation and determined that one wheel had worked its way out of its holder and if I could just slide it back in I could probably maneuver the door into the closed position so I could finally go to bed. Thankfully, I thought, "I am a tall strong guy. No ladder needed. I'll just reach up and push the wheel back in as I push the door back onto the track. I really, really don't want to have to be dealing with this right now, but I got this." Brute strength had worked for me many times before. I grabbed the greasy wheel from the floor, stood under the hanging corner, and began to push it into place. Immediately, the other side of the door drooped as more metal parts came crashing to the floor ten feet away. Now one whole section of the door was dangling precariously over my head. I took a closer look and saw that the next panel's wheels were just barely hanging into their holders and the slightest movement in the wrong direction would pull them out too. Still I thought, "Maybe I got this." I adjusted my strategy and gently moved the door in the direction that would help the wheels stay on. That was when I heard something that sounded like an enormous fishing reel casting about fifty feet of metal cable. The sprocket that was attached to the spring had broken and all of the cable was now spilling all over the door. The door lurched in the wrong direction and another wheel fell to the ground. When the wheel and its components hit the floor, it sounded an awful lot like, "You really don't got this." Now I was worried.

It was now nearing midnight, I correctly determined that there was no possible way I could close this door by myself, and the only person I could think of to even remotely help me was blissfully asleep at the end of the hall.  Waking her wasn't even a remote option. I started thinking about possible solutions and none of them were good. I foolishly touched the newly hanging corner of the second section and its partner wheels squeaked out a warning. Not good.

I assessed the situation. We weren't living in a horrible neighborhood but the thought of leaving the garage door open all night, and leaving the house essentially open for anyone to just walk in, was not going to happen. I wouldn't be able to sleep if I stayed in the garage all night and the astoundingly challenging group of students in my special education classroom needed a teacher who was on top of his game to be effective and safe. I saw no way out. I looked at the uncoiled wire, the two broken pieces of door, the growing number of wheels and parts on the ground, and I quickly sank from worry to despair.

I gave up. Inside my mind I was like a rabbit cornered by a pack of wolves, eyes darting this way and that looking for a solution but realizing that everywhere I looked only spelled out doom. Outwardly, I sat down heavily on the step that led from the garage to the kitchen and buried my face in my hands. Prayer was not really something that came naturally to me. I could never really wrap my head around the fact that the God of the universe would concern himself with what was going on in my little life. I almost silently whispered, "God, I give up. I can't do it myself. I need help."

As the word "help" still hung in the air I heard a cheery, "Hey Jeff.  Need some help?"

Our mechanically inclined neighbor, Mark, was uncharacteristically out for a walk in the middle of the night and passed by our door as he was on his way home. In about ten minutes we were able to coerce the pieces back together well enough for the door to come down and lock into place so I could get a little sleep. I asked Mark if he had ever been an answer to prayer before. He laughed and shook his head. I shook his hand and thanked him for the help but I never did ask him why he was out walking around in the cold at midnight. I knew, God had sent him to me to show me what a simple prayer can do.  And these days? Well, I won't pray for rain unless I am holding an open umbrella.