Thursday, February 28, 2008

Snow lesson like a hard lesson

A couple of weeks ago I bought a snow-blower.

For years now I’ve been discouraged by how expensive a new one can be. I got one for a steal at a garage sale once, but it was at least thirty years old. I managed to use it once or twice, had a bear of a time getting it to ever start and wound up with a broken pull chord.

So when I found one just a couple of years old for like a third or a quarter of what they go for new, I couldn't believe I could get such a great deal. The previous owner was an older gentleman who had undergone surgery for a broken neck. His top three vertebrae had to be fused and his surgeon told him that he had to get an electric starter, because pulling on the pull-start chord could literally kill him.

It was still a chunk of change for someone as cheap as me, but I figured it that this was a good investment. You see, I grew up in Phoenix, Arizona so I am lousy at scooping snow. It’s not that I’m lazy, I just never learned how. Besides, I struggle with chronic sinus infections and mild bronchial asthma. Every time I shovel snow, I end up in a coughing attack and sometimes even have to throw up.

Needless to say, I was thrilled to finally have a decent snow blower. When I told my wife, she said that she had thought I was looking for a push-start. Sure, in the best of all possible worlds, but this was a great bargain! As if I’d ever find one so new, so affordable, AND a push start!

But two snow storms came and went and for the life of me I couldn't get the stupid thing started! I'd try to be patient with it. I'd try to be violent with it. I tried every combination I could of adjusting the choke and the throttle. I pushed the little pump to prime the fuel line. I checked the gas, the oil and the spark plug. I couldn't believe how inept I could be. Why was it so easy for all my neighbors to get their snow blower's started? Was it just because I'm from Arizona? Is it because I'm so unhandy? Unmanly?

I shoveled instead and hoped my wife wouldn’t notice. She’s not the type to say “I told ya so,” but I figured she had every right too. It made me wince ever time I thought about it. Thankfully, she refrained.

I pulled and I pulled, I yanked and I yanked. I exerted as much energy and strained my arms and back more than if I had simply shoveled the snow. Not to mention my blood pressure rising from the anger and frustration with this seemingly useless machine.

From left to right, you can see the choke, the throttle, the spark plug and the button for priming the fuel pump, and the gas cap. All there in plain sight to anyone standing proudly in front, ready to drive, ready to lead and command the machine. So what was my problem?

Finally, one day I got home before my wife and kids so the garage was empty. It was a relatively warm day in the 30's with no new snow and even some melting. I thought to myself, okay, I have some time and some room, and no pressure- so I'm going to take a look at this thing one last time before I give up and try to sell it and hopefully recoup some of my losses. If I could get it to work, great, if not, then I guess I'd have to try to sell it for even less than I bought it for.

I'm not even sure why I decided to do this, but I got down on my knees to look around the rest of the engine to see if I could see if something was wrong- as if I was some kind of heap-big macho mechanic.

Lo and behold, down on my knees, from a different, decidedly more humble point of view, something was revealed to me that I had overlooked.

A little switch. A valve that the manufacturer had no doubt, included to prevent gas from freezing in the lines. All I had to do was to turn it to the clearly marked "On" position and guess what- voilà! it started on the very first tug. Didn't even have to tug that hard.

The lesson? Sometimes the only way God can show us something is when we're on our knees. Prayer, humility, submission to Him. These may be difficult, but you won't believe how much less work and grief they involve than anger, frustration and impatience.

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