Changing smoke alarm batteries and offering “moral support”

Our oldest son was in town this past weekend. Ryan has a PhD in church history and is a brilliant scholar who writes regularly for our ministry. He is also six feet three inches tall with arms longer than my body (it seems). Since he left home for college many years ago, my wife has commented regularly when I try to reach household items he would have handed down with ease: “I miss that boy.”

Now I’m recovering from spinal fusion surgery and severely limited with regard to BLT: bending, lifting, and twisting. My surgeon and his assistants have sufficiently frightened me regarding the consequences of violating their rules until the fusion heals, which will take several more months. 

My worthlessness regarding physical needs in our home was vividly illustrated a few days after we returned from the hospital: a smoke alarm began beeping due to low batteries. Is there a more frustrating, ear-piercing, incessant noise?  

We found the culprit, but reaching it required a ladder I am not allowed to carry and physical exertion atop that ladder I am not allowed to make. 

As a result, my long-suffering wife, also known as SuperNurse, had to do this job while I offered nothing but moral support. The problem is, in our experience, once one of these things goes out, the disease becomes contagious. Within days, all the others will start chirping as well, usually around 2 in the morning. Some of them are attached to ceilings too high for Janet to reach. 

What to do? 

Janet then remembered that Ryan was coming into town in a few days. So she bought a large quantity of AAA batteries and requisitioned some of his time. The two of them then changed every battery in every remaining smoke alarm in the house. Once again, I stood by offering “moral support.” (I’m still not sure what that means.) 

The episode reinforced a theme that has been growing in my thoughts across recent weeks: I’m getting old. Or at least “older,” let’s say. Back surgery is something old people have, or so I used to think. Walking around in a back brace with a cane is something that old people do. Grimacing when I get up and down out of chairs—ditto. 

It turns out, I was right. The problem is, “old people” now apparently includes me. 

From this experience, I sensed the Lord reinforcing a lesson I apparently need to hear quite often: Do what you can do and trust others to do what they can do. I cannot change batteries at the present time, but I can write this blog. I cannot take out the trash, but I can thank my wife when she does and find ways to cherish her as only her husband can. 

I cannot fight the Russians in Ukraine, but I can pray for repentance for Vladimir Putin, courage for the Ukrainians, and spiritual awakening to result from this tragic conflict. I cannot heal President Biden of COVID-19, but I can and should pray for him to be the godly leader our nation needs (1 Timothy 2:2). 

Here’s my conclusion: If we focus less on what we cannot do and more on what we can, we will do more. 

What “batteries” will you change today?