With a loud zap! and a bright spark shooting off the outlet, my husband blew the breaker that powers roughly half of our house. He let out a "woo!" as he shook the feeling back into his hand, and then pulled the old outlet he was replacing from the wires sticking out of our garage wall, chuckling the whole time.
"What's the matter with you?!" I snipped. I clearly was not chuckling. "Why didn't you shut off the power? I THOUGHT YOU WERE SMARTER THAN THAT!"
He replied with his trademark giggle: "I like a challenge." Then he stuck his tongue out at me, and resumed working on the wiring.
I stood there stunned--and not because he stuck his tongue out at me. My husband is one of the most safety-conscious individuals I've ever known regarding electricity. None of our kitchen appliances ever stay plugged in, except for the microwave and the refrigerator. I got a 20-minute instructional lecture on how to properly turn on and off our air conditioners. If he sees my curling iron on the bathroom sink, he unplugs it and puts it away before I even have a chance to use it.
So you can certainly understand my surprise at my husband's behavior. "Edward (I always call him "Edward" when he ticks me off) You could have killed yourself!"
"Please. There's not enough juice coming out of that wire to kill me." He saw that I didn't believe him, so he stopped what he was doing to reassure me, warped though I thought his explanation was. "Look. Anybody can change an outlet after turning off the power. Where's the challenge in that? It wasn't going to kill me. It's not like I was going to stick my screwdriver right into the socket."
See, I don't know a whole lot about wiring. Even though I personally thought he was nuts, he did make a couple of interesting points. The most obvious is that challenges help us to grow. We are formed by the challenges we face, and by the obstacles we overcome.
As disciples, we are constantly bombarded with challenges: our jobs, our financial obligations, difficult people, attitudes of non-believers, temptations of all kinds, the constant desire to misplace ourselves as the center of our lives...this list could go on and on.
As we face each challenge, whether we succeed or fail, we learn about our true self. The more we learn about our true self, as St. Catherine of Siena has taught us, the better we understand the love and mercy of the Lord. Said the Eternal Father to Catherine: "Do you know, daughter, who you are and who I am? If you know these two things you will have beatitude within your grasp. You are she who is not, and I AM HE WHO IS." (from Life of Catherine of Siena by Raymond of Capua)
This brings me to the other point. Let's go back to my husband's wiring project. As I wrote this piece, I discovered on my bookshelf one of my husband's books, titled Audels Handy Book of Practical Electricity. He's read it. I haven't. Also, he works for a company that manufactures magnetic test equipment, a job requiring some basic electrical knowledge. One of his closest friends is an electrical engineer, as is his son. He's surrounded by people who have done wiring, and has done quite a lot of wiring himself.
He's been formed in this medium, and I haven't, yet I'm calling him crazy because he does something that I perceive as imprudent. Who's the real authority here, him or me? My husband knew that I had no idea what I was talking about. He didn't become combative with me when I jumped all over his case about shocking himself. He just dusted himself off and continued his work.
As disciples, ongoing formation should be one of our primary focuses. Through learning about what it means to be Christian is how we become strong in our faith. We shouldn't just read scripture, Church documents and other Christian literature, but use what we learn from those documents to better understand our Lord. We should surround ourselves with other Christians who can teach us in our walk with the Lord. We should not just attend Mass once a week (see Diana's post on the Mass), but enter into the Mystery of our Lord Jesus' great act of redemption.
Formation never ends. As we are continually strengthened in our faith, we won't shrink away or become combative. Rather, we will be able to jump right back in and continue our work with joy, even when we are questioned by those who don't know what they are talking about.