Friday, November 9, 2012

I *Can* Put the Oven Door Back On

I just don't want to right now. I also don't want to know whether the little girls who told me that they'd painted their lips with nail polish were pulling my leg or not.  Whatever they were wearing, it did look awfully red and shiny, and it smelled sort of not like lip gloss (one child told me it was "nail-polish-scented" lip gloss), but on the other hand, it washed off far more easily than I've ever seen nail polish wash off. One of my children, as a toddler, once painted much of his body and also an ottoman in his grandmother's bedroom with bright-red nail polish, under the guise of taking a nap after Sunday lunch, and in that instance "wash off" was not . . . really . . . what happened. Incidentally, I have also had children super-glue themselves together in my house, so if you were thinking of sending your offspring over here for a sleepover any time soon, you might want to reconsider.

So, we're about three hours into a weekend on which Aelred and one boy have gone off camping, and the littlest girl has a friend sleeping over -- she of the nail-polish-scented lip gloss. When I told the college girl on the phone that the oven door had come off, she remarked laconically that the fridge door would be next, which would not be without precedent. In fact, for about two years the fridge door stayed on only because we had skewered one hinge with a screwdriver and propped the bottom of the door on a brick, and even then if you opened it too fast, it was apt to spring at you with its load of mustard squeeze-bottles and jars of Patel's tikka masala paste. People opening the fridge at our house learned to move fast if they wanted to keep their toes. Anyway, if the fridge door falls off tonight, I know what to do. The oven door, on the other hand, is not cooperating, and I have put it on the back porch to do some quiet thinking and get its mood under control before we try again.

I feel compelled to fix the oven door myself because a) I baked up a triple batch of homemade macaroni-and-cheese, which I was planning for us to eat all weekend, and none of us likes cold mac-and-cheese all that much;  and b) I cannot admit defeat. I am woman. Hear me mutter invective at inanimate objects. If I can pull an oven door off -- as indeed I now know that I can -- I can put an oven door back on. I am not at all sure that this vestigial 1970s kind of feminism (open that door for me, and I'll hit you) does anyone much good, but on the other hand, who else is going to do it for me this weekend? I'm sure there's a patron saint for this kind of situation, but what I am wanting right now is not so much intercession, if you get my drift. Or not just intercession.

Herein, actually, lies what I know to be a spiritual problem:  thinking that to pray is to do nothing helpful. I have heard people opine that it's a pity that contemplative monks and nuns waste their lives in prayer, when they might be doing something useful, to help their fellow humans. My own opinion is that we all ought to be grateful that somebody prays that much, when most of the rest of us pray hardly at all, and that on the fly, while mentally making our grocery lists. Most of us, by which I really mean I, are the 5K walk-runners of prayer, the flabbier people in the spiffier cross-training-type shoes, doing the spirited little jog to the first corner of the course, then lapsing into a sort of cart-horse plod because it's easier to chat that way than if you're out of breath. Suffice it to say that it is not really people like us for whom the race is held. Or, it is for people like us, but ideally we'd want to get better at it, like, say, those people flashing past, not seeming to break a sweat, the people who can run and smile at the same time.

So for me to say that intercession is not quite what we want at the moment is arrant nonsense, and arrogance to boot. Since when is it not a good thing that someone -- saints on earth, saints in heaven -- is praying? Since when is that prayer not, somehow, changing the world, from the inside out, soul by soul? For all I know, right at this very moment the intercession of whatever saint deals with inadvertent oven-door-ectomies is keeping me here, banging this out, instead of which I might have thrown the oven door through the dining-room window and gone to bed grimly satisfied in the blackness of my heart.

All things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to his purpose. What, exactly, his purpose may be in this precise instant I do not pretend to know. But the moments I've spent thinking about it all have been moments not spent thinking only about the oven door as if it were the door to all the secrets of the universe, and that is something. Though if the oven door were the door to all the secrets of the universe, maybe it would reveal to me what, really, that shiny red stuff on the little girls' lips was, and whether I should be more worried about it. Then again, it might just tell me that the oven needs cleaning, but that I already knew.


steve said...

Seems as if less prayer, more screwdriver is called for. But perhaps I'm not seeing the larger picture. I'm certainly laughing my "oven door" off.

Sally Thomas said...

Well, more for my own patience and humility. In the end, what was required wasn't so much a screwdriver as a son who would hold one of the hinges out with a pair of pliers while I guided that side of the door back on. I couldn't do it by myself after all.

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Sally Thomas said...

You're welcome. Now I am kind of laughing.