The Transfigured Oven

The oven has always been the problem child in our apartment. With four guys all using the same appliance, it’s never in a good state. There’s always an abandoned pizza topping burning in the bottom somewhere. Not to mention that the four stovetops on top are constantly filthy, soaked with grease in the coils. The one on the front left smokes every time you turn it to medium, so that you can’t boil water without setting off the fire alarm. The whole thing is painted black and therefore impossible to clean, because you can’t tell the difference between the appliance and the soot.

Then, on Friday, just as I was getting ready to leave for a two-day retreat, I discovered something strange and alarming. The “oven cycle” light was on, but the oven dial was switched off. I opened the oven door, and a rush of heat greeted me, steaming up my glasses. It smelled like rusty metal and old charcoal. Then the smoke alarm went off because a piece of pepperoni was burning somewhere. I closed the oven and shut my ears until the alarm stopped. Then five minutes later, it went off again.

“What are you burning down here?” said my roommate, coming downstairs.
“Nothing!” I said. “I’m not even cooking anything.”

We quickly determined that the oven simply refused to turn off. It was constantly on, even when you turned the dial off. Sometimes, if you were lucky, you could get it to shut off with the dial turned to 300 degrees. But that’s just nerve-wracking. You just can’t comfortably leave for the weekend when the oven dial’s turned to 300 degrees.

So what else could I do? I called maintenance, but this was late on Friday, and I worried that no one would be able to come in time. I was lucky that someone was able to come as his last job of the week. The maintenance dude fiddled with the dial for a good fifteen minutes.

“Any luck?” I asked him.
“This is the weirdest thing I’ve ever seen,” he said.
That was comforting. “Can you fix it?”
“I can have someone look at it on Monday,” he said. “This is one of the older models. I don’t have any idea what’s going on with it.”
“I can’t just leave it like this all weekend,” I said. “I don’t want to burn the house down.”

So the maintenance dude turned off the breaker to the oven/stovetop and told us to turn it back on only when we needed it. Then he left to go do whatever maintenance dudes do on weekends, and I left for my retreat, leaving a note for my roommates about the whole situation.

I returned Saturday night, after a great retreat learning about the Holy Spirit. I came home to a note from a roommate about how he figured out how to get the oven to turn off. Don’t just turn it to ‘off’, he wrote. You have to turn it and then ‘hit’ it off and then it will turn off.

I didn’t know what that meant, but I tried it anyway. I turned the dial off, and prepared to rebuke it with my fist, but it seemed to have already worked. The oven had turned off. Then, just to make sure the fix was permanent, I turned the dial to 300 degrees and back again. It wouldn’t turn off. I punched it. It still wouldn’t. So I shut off the breaker again, trusting that the maintenance dude would be back on Monday.

When I came home from class on Monday, I had almost forgotten about the oven situation. But I was shocked and overjoyed to discover that my oven was not fixed at all—in fact, it was brand new! Where once there had been a black, greasy, broken shell of an appliance, there was now a gleaming white, brand-spanking new oven-stovetop combo with a digital display. It was shiny not from grease and spills, but gleaming with whatever magical shininess spells they put on it at the factory.

I was excited about the new oven, but there was more to it than that. See, when the Holy Spirit lives in you, He likes to comment on everything.

He told me: This is a transfigured oven.

The truth is, I had just wanted a quick fix. I wanted the maintenance dude to make the oven work again. I didn’t care if it was the best oven it could be, or whether it would mess up again in the future. I just wanted it to cook my frozen pizza, no matter how much it smoked or smelled. But the quick fixes were only temporary, and this oven was doomed to fail me again and again if I kept relying on it. No amount of cleaning or punching or fiddling with dials was going to make it work properly.

The maintenance dude had a plan far beyond what I had imagined. He wanted to take my broken, greasy, old run-down oven and transform it into something brand new and satisfyingly capable. He made it into the oven our kitchen was always meant to have.

Sound familiar?

Thanks, maintenance dude. Thanks, Holy Spirit.

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