by John Ellis
At the end of last week, we had a new HVAC system installed in our house. Nobody likes having to do that sort of thing. The inconvenience, not to mention the financial outlay, is a pain. But when we bought the house a year and a half ago, we knew this day was coming sooner rather than later. After the work was completed, I commented to my wife, “It’s actually nice to go ahead and rip that band-aid off.”
This week started with our new AC running smoothly, or so I thought. Late Wednesday night, while reading in the living room/library, I heard my son, who was already supposed to be asleep, exit his room and open the door to the closet that holds the air handler, an odd thing for an eleven-year-old to be doing, I concluded.
“What are you doing, bud?” I asked.
“I can’t go to sleep because of the clicking noises,” he replied.
Getting up from my chair, I queried further, “What clicking noises?”
By then I was standing beside Hayden as we both peered at the air handler. I’m not an HVAC tech, by any stretch of the imagination, so the pointlessness of standing there looking at the air handler quickly revealed itself to me. Wanting to hear the clicking noise, though, I turned the thermostat down so the air handler would start. Sure enough, a definite clicking sound started. The unit seemed to be working, and since it’s brand new, I told Hayden to go back to bed, do his best to fall asleep, and that I’d call the HVAC company in the morning to have them come check it out. As he returned to his room, I returned to my book. I should’ve stood by the air handler a little longer.
The next morning, before calling the HVAC company, I returned to the air handler so that I could better describe the noise to them. This time, I realized that the clicks were from the thermostat. It was clicking on and off, on and off, over and over. “That’s not right,” I thought. My concern jumped to code level red, though, after the air handler kicked on. The pops and hisses were unmistakable; the problem – a big problem, I knew – was electrical.
I immediately turned the unit off and called the HVAC company.
My worst fears were confirmed when after taking the cover off the circuit breaker box by the air handler, the technician let escape an explicative.
“This was arcing bad,” he slowly breathed out. “You’re lucky your house didn’t burn down.”
I don’t know a whole lot about electrical systems, but I know enough to know what arcing is. I also know enough to recognize burn marks when I see them, and the inside of the circuit breaker box looked like a blowtorch had been taken to it.
After poking around some more and looking at things, the HVAC tech told me that I’d have to call an electrician. I had already figured that out.
Turns out that not only was the wiring done improperly inside the box but the circuit breaker itself is obsolete and is no longer manufactured. “You know why?” the electrician asked me this afternoon. “Because this kind doesn’t work,” he finished before I could even reply. “That’s why it didn’t trip.”
“It’s a good thing the house didn’t burn down,” I said.
“It was already starting to burn down,” he gravely replied. “It’s a good thing you turned it off when you did.”
Needless to say, as I type this, an electrician is completely replacing and rewiring the circuit box and breaker to our air handler. It’s not a cheap fix, but AC isn’t really an option in Central Florida. I’ve also scheduled the company to do a complete inspection of our house’s electrical system, raising the question as to why we paid for a house inspector before buying the house. A question the electrician answered, by the way. “Those house inspectors often don’t know what they’re doing.”
However, the inconvenience of being without AC for going on over thirty hours now as well as the extra cost pales to what might have been. After I stopped bugging the electrician and let him do his work in peace, the gravity of what might have happened fully hit me. If a fire had started in the middle of the night, the various outcomes are troubling, to put it mildly. I do know that the fire would’ve started in the wall right next to where Hayden sleeps. That scares me. A lot. So much so that my fear and possible lack of faith will probably keep me up most of the night listening to the air handler each time it kicks on, even though I’ve been assured by the electrician that I don’t have anything to worry about. In my head I accept that. My heart, though, well, my heart apparently needs less sleep than my head.
Here’s the point of all this: It’s not hyperbole to see God’s providential protection in this (it’s not hyperbole to see God’s providence in every situation, to be clear). That box was arcing Wednesday night. The amount of burn marks and oxidation in the box is a terrifying sight, as were the looks on the faces and expressions of dismay from both the HVAC tech and electrician when they first saw the inside of the box. On Wednesday night, I was more concerned with returning to my book than I was with making sure that the noises Hayden heard were benign. Our Heavenly Father, though, never suffers from divided attentions and lack of knowledge. He knew exactly what was going on inside that wall. According to the electrician, it’s a miracle the house hadn’t already burned down. He’s correct, a miracle.
After I left the electrician to work in peace and I realized what might have been, I said a quiet prayer of thanksgiving to God for His protection.
Whether we understand the events in our lives and around the world, good and bad, the fact is that the Creator of the universe is on His throne. He is in control. While I am thankful for His protection in this instance, I pray for the faith to trust Him no matter what happens. For those of you who struggle to understand that perspective, I completely understand. I struggle to understand that perspective, too. My faith is small. But what I know is that even in those moments when I don’t know nor understand the why’s and what’s, my perspective is incredibly limited because I am finite, not to mention sinful. I believe God exists. I believe God is in control. And I submit to the fact that I am not in a position to question His providence – at least, not in ways that cause me to attempt to climb onto the throne of my life. The question all of us have to answer is are we going to attempt to reign over our life when it’s obvious that we can’t and don’t, or are we going to trust in the One who made all things? And that question is of eternal importance.
Soli Deo Gloria