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What I learned from putting in my 1st toilet

Monday, February 20, 2017, 11:16 pm | Randy Thomasson

I have a confession to make — I am mechanically ignorant.

You see, while I’m good at writing, speaking, researching, fighting, strategizing, negotiating, and composing at the piano, my father never taught me as a child to fix things around the house or with cars.

But the last few months, I’ve been challenging myself to overcome fear and discomfort, and to put on faith and perseverance. And my new attitude on “fix it” projects has changed me.

I’m taking “baby steps,” and so far, have learned to order and replace windshield wipers, test and replace drinking water filters, program Facebook ads (at work), program a new alarm system, install a solid state drive in a laptop computer, and install a new toilet. You see, for tasks like this, I really have been inept all my life. Anything mechanical or technical is a steep learning curve!

The toilet was the most challenging. First, I tried to repair an old toilet, and was nearly successful, thanks to my handyman friend stopping by to give me pointers. But then, all by myself, I blew it by over-tightening the tank bolts. And the tank cracked, broke, and fell apart.

I should mention here that another thing I learned to do was to dry very wet carpet. Because the water was leaking from a broken tank and the stop valve on the water supply tube wouldn’t shut off completely. Water was everywhere. Towels plus fans plus sweat did the job, and the carpet was mostly dry the next day.

But now, I needed a new toilet and I needed it fast. Fortunately, I’m good at finding deals. So I was stoked to find a new toilet for less than $100, out the door. What an improvement! This one had more height, a stronger flush (if needed), and a self-closing lid. I was thrilled to barely fit the big, heavy box into the backseat of my small sedan with the salesman’s help.

Going through my mind was I NEEDED to do this, I COULD do this, and I needed to GROW through this.
I had human faith that I could succeed because I can follow instructions. And I had the belief that suffering through it — with an attitude that loved God and loved people — would conform me more closely to Jesus Christ’s character (Romans 8:28). The only problem was the instructions seemed to be from China and at times were difficult to follow.

I was so relieved when my handyman friend, who wants me to grow in knowledge and ability, stopped in and taught me the first step — how to plant the thick ring of sticky wax on the floor around the pipe going to the sewer. So I got the one-piece base and bowl on OK and did it fairly quickly. (To make the wax ring stick to both the floor and the bowl, I sat on the seat and bounced up and down a few times.)

But then, because the written instructions were unclear, it became a real challenge to correctly attach the tank. A plumber would have taken two minutes, but as an ignorant newbie, it took me over an hour of trial and error, and applying logic — while contorting my body to fit in the small space around the toilet — to get the right fittings in the proper order to seal and secure everything.

Finally, after intensely studying the less-than-optimal instructions and the accompanying drawing, I “got ‘er done,” and proudly proclaimed success. I even called my handyman friend to let him hear the flushing toilet. I thought I was finished, but I was mistaken.

That same day, the toilet seat became loose and unaligned with the bowl. Since there were no instructions for this step, I foolishly just tightened the metal bolts tighter (good thing I was tightening the toilet seat instead of breaking another tank!).

Two whole days passed before I stopped and realized that maybe I was using the wrong bolts and maybe those plastic bolts I’d left in the box would work better. After struggling half an hour in the small space around the toilet, I persevered to affix the lid with the plastic fasteners and plastic bolts — and the lid became secure and worked just right. It was finished!

What I learned from putting in my 1st toilet:

1. Greater faith and love: Too many times, I’ve told myself “can’t,” when God in His Word, tells me “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me” (Philippians 4:13). And I knew it was God’s desire that I conquer my childish fear of doing household mechanical things. And I knew He wanted me to love others so that they could use the toilet. So this was a literal, physical exercise of replacing fear with faith. And I had faith that I would indeed install a new, working toilet! Through it all, I was powerfully reminded that love for others makes pain more acceptable. And, that imagining success — as opposed to imagining failure — gets things done. “Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen” (Hebrews 11:1).

2. Greater patience: Though this exercise, I’ve determined that part of my fear of doing “fix-it projects” like this has come from ignorance (no one willing to teach me as a child). Yet I’ve realized that the other part of my fear was simply pleasure-seeking. At its core, my impatience with mechanical things demonstrates my avoidance of pain. Unconsciously, I’ve been desiring instant gratification, so I refused to slow down and go through the “pain” of learning new, mechanical skills. The long hours — and days — that I spent grasping how to install a toilet helped me to persevere and become more patient. I now know in a deeper way the promise in Chapter 1 of the Epistle of James that I should “count it all joy when you fall into various trials, knowing that the testing of your faith produces patience. But let patience have its perfect work, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking nothing.”

3. Obey the Creator: Without manufacturer instructions on mechanical things or experts training me on technical things, I’m sunk. And without obeying the instruction I receive, and without doing things the way whatever it is — in this case, the new toilet installation — is intended to be done, I will fail and suffer loss. My respect for, and yearning for more of, the toilet manufacturer’s instructions was illustrative of my real-life, desperate need for Creator God, by the Blood of Jesus Christ, and to obey His Holy Word, the Bible — the path of life.

A lesson from the toilet: If I needed careful, good instructions to assemble a toilet, how much more do I need to eat and drink of God’s very applicable Word in order to know how to “assemble” each and every day! “Do you not know that to whom you present yourselves slaves to obey, you are that one’s slaves whom you obey, whether of sin leading to death, or of obedience leading to righteousness? But God be thanked that though you were slaves of sin, yet you obeyed from the heart that form of doctrine to which you were delivered. And having been set free from sin, you became slaves of righteousness” (Romans 6:16-18).

Thank you for reading my account of what I learned from my “toilet trial.” I hope this stimulates you to overcome fear and put on faith, by learning new things that, while uncomfortable, are people-loving, character-building exercises, which God in His Word wants you to do.

“You are capable of more than you realize.
You are far more capable than you were even 12 months ago.
Next year you will be able to do things you can’t imagine doing today.”

Christian leadership mentor Bobb Biehl

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