Like many of the weather phenomenon of recent years, I haven’t a clue as to what a “polar vortex” is. But to me, “polar vortex” is synonymous with “crappiest week that I’ve had in quite a while”.
It all started on Monday morning, when I awoke to discover that our kitchen and bathroom sinks were all frozen from the cold. But having suffered through frozen pipes before, I wasn’t unduly concerned. All I would have to do is make a quick trip to Home Depot, and I would have those pipes unstuck in no time.
But as I drove, I realized that even though the engine temperature was up, the car was not getting any warmer. At a stoplight, I turned on the heat to full, and was greeted with a blast of polar vortex air to the face. Knowing that it would not do to have a car with no heat in this kind of cold, I took my car to the mechanic to check things out.
But by the time I got things sorted out with car, it was already the afternoon, with only a few hours of sunshine remaining. I feverishly tried to unthaw the pipes in the time I had, but was unsuccessful. I would have to leave them overnight, and hope that they didn’t freeze so completely that they would burst.
I got up at 5 am to start working on the pipes, using a hair dryer to thaw them. But a few hours into this process, I suddenly heard a sharp crack, followed by the sound of rushing water. And despite my complete lack of plumbing knowledge, I knew what that meant – our pipes had burst. I rushed outside to see water cascading from underneath our back porch, where not one, but two pipes had burst.
I knew that this was far beyond my ability to fix myself, so I called a local plumber to see if he could come out to fix it. He said that he couldn’t, that he was booked until the end of the month. I called another plumber, and the same story. And again, and again. Every plumber in the DC metro area was already fixing pipes around the city, and would not be able to help me out for at least one solid week. I thought about the prospect of a family of six going without water for a week, and I realized what had to be done: I would have to fix this myself.
So with hardly a clue as to what I was doing, I ripped out the walling and removed the insulation in order to find out which pipe had burst. Then, armed with instructions from Youtube, I cut out the busted portions of pipe and replaced them with new ones, which I hoped would hold until a professional could come and check them out. I re-insulated the pipes and sealed up the wall, and promptly lay down on the floor. I was exhausted. What would have taken a professional a few hours had taken me TWELVE. But I had done it. I had successfully fixed my pipes, unthawed them, and restored my house back to normalcy. And now I could lay down for a much needed night of sleep.
I washed up for bed and took out my left contact lens, as I always do. But when I did, I immediately felt a stinging pain, as if there was a big splinter in my eye. Grimacing, I flushed my eye a few times with warm water. But the pain was still there, and still intense. Not knowing what else to do, I forced the eye open and shoved my contact lens back in, and the pain ceased. I immediately knew what had happened: I had scratched my cornea. It probably was the fiberglass insulation that I had to pull out of the wall – some fibers must have gotten into my eye and scratched the surface, but I didn’t feel it initially because my plastic contacts had provided some cushioning from the abrasion. I had scratched my eye before, and knew that it would take anywhere from three to five days for the scratch to heal, and worse, I would have to leave my contacts out that entire time.
Squinting furiously, I lay down in bed and quickly fell asleep. But I didn’t stay asleep long. Because each time I fell asleep, my eye would twitch, and so a shock of pain would jolt me awake. This went on for a good part of an hour, falling asleep, only to be awakened in the crappiest way possible. I can understand now why sleep deprivation is considered a potent interrogation tool.
It was at this point that I began to really despair. I was already exhausted and stressed, and to not be able to sleep because of my eye was adding an injury to insult. If I wasn’t already tearing up madly, I probably would have cried. And so while lying in bed, knuckles jammed into my eye socket, I plaintively prayed, “God, please heal my eye.” After an hour or so of tossing and turning and praying, I finally managed to fall asleep.
I woke up in the morning the way that I always do, with Lucy walking into my room, squawking, “Dada! Dada!”, and handing me my glasses and phone.
“Hi Lulu,” I sleepily replied, opening my eyes to look at her. But as I did, I realized something: my eye didn’t hurt. I blinked and looked around the room, gingerly rubbing the eye that had been scratched – nothing. I washed my face with water, pulled down the bottom of my eyelid, an action which would have made me cry out in pain seven hours ago – and nothing. I was certain I had scratched my eye, having done so twice before in my life. But now there was no pain, as if nothing had happened!
I went downstairs to find the rest of the family had already woken up. Carol was making coffee, and turned to me with a sympathetic look on her face and asked, “How is your eye?” Still in shock, I didn’t answer at first. But then I carefully said, “Carol, I prayed that God would heal my eye last night. And it doesn’t hurt at all now! I think…I think God healed my eye.”
I’ve had a few days to reflect on this event, and it got me thinking about something. The piece of fiberglass that got lodged in my eye was probably tiny, if not invisible. In much the same way, the pain that it caused me, although pretty intense, was nothing to complain about in the larger scheme of things. And in situations like this, I usually don’t bother to pray because I don’t want to bother God with the small stuff. In some way, I see God kind of like that character “House” on television, an incredible Doctor, but one who doesn’t have time or patience for the piddling stuff. I suspect that many of us harbor such a perception of God.
But Matthew 10 teaches us something very interesting. In verse 28, Jesus tells us that we should fear God, who can destroy both our body and soul. When I pray, I often think of God in such a light, as a mighty God who can do all things, but also so mighty that we don’t want to bother him with our puny concerns.
But Jesus doesn’t end his teaching there. Because in the very next verse, Jesus says this:
29 Are not two sparrows sold for a penny? Yet not one of them will fall to the ground outside your Father’s care. 30 And even the very hairs of your head are all numbered. 31 So don’t be afraid; you are worth more than many sparrows.
You see, sparrows were sold for temple offerings, 2 for 1 copper coin, which was a way of saying that they had virtually no value or importance. But not one of these insignificant creatures falls to the ground without God’s knowledge. And then the kicker: we are worth more than many sparrows to God.
So yes, God is that verse 28 God, a mighty God who does mighty and sometimes frightening things. He is still Jehovah Rapha, the God who heals our wounds – I believe this. But he is also the God of verses 29-31, one who knows us intimately, and cares about the smallest details of our lives, down to the number of hairs on our head. He is not a God who is one way or the other, but both. That is what I discovered last week: that God is a mighty healer, even of tiny splinters.
And so when we pray, we should not hesitate in bringing God all of our concerns, both large and small. He is mighty and even fearsome, and our greatest foes are like nothing to him. But he is also the God of the sparrows, who loves us in such a personal and deep way that our small concerns are still concerns to him.