Changing a Light Bulb

I am not known for mechanical aptitude, as those who know me well would testify. I am working to change that, though, and while some of you may be afforded a knowing smile by the story that follows, I hope that others will learn from my experience and be inspired to gain an aptitude of their own.

God has been doing amazing things in my life these past few weeks. He always has been – I’ve just been starting to pay closer attention lately. He’s been teaching me so much about the Christian experience and what it really means to know Him and to walk with Him. I love Him more and more each day.

Near the end of last week I was given an opportunity to test my growing experience when the front headlamp on the driver’s side of our HHR gave out. Several weeks prior, my younger brother (who is quite mechanical adept) showed me how to change the rear lamp and, armed with that experience, I was able to approach my task with at least a foundational experience.

I looked up the replacement bulb in my owner’s manual, purchased the bulb at our local Walmart, and set out to perform the task.

I started with the owner’s manual. It offered me the following instructions with the accompanying photo:

  1. Turn the wheel to access the wheel well.
  2. Remove the fasteners to access the headlamp and the turn signal/parking lamp bulbs.
  3. Reach in behind the wheel well liner and locate the bulb you need to change.
  4. Turn the bulb socket counterclockwise to remove.
  5. Pull the old bulb out of the socket.
  6. Install a new bulb.
  7. Reverse Steps 1 through 4 to reinstall.

I turned the wheel and started on the fasteners. Realizing quickly that they weren’t coming out with my fingers, I grabbed a pair of flat and long nosed pliers and tried again. Have you tried to pulling out those fasteners before? They’re like a thick porcupine quill – they don’t want to come out. I called my friend Nick Johnson and asked for his advice. He suggested I just use force to tear them out and get replacements later. One of the fasteners was a bolt instead of a “quill” and it came it much easier.

After removing four of the fasteners, I attempted to “access the wheel well”. The accessing process, which they suggest rather simply in the manual, didn’t turn out to be so simple for me. After a few minutes of evaluating the plastic covering and realizing that I surely wasn’t going to remove the whole thing (I had noticed quite a few more fasteners), I decided to try and hold the plastic cover open far enough to squeeze my hand through. Success!

I’m now about 20-30 minutes into the process. In about an hour, my wife will need to take the vehicle and leave for class. Our son is sleeping peacefully, though nearing his awake time, and Joslyn is working hard on homework. Its cold outside, though not unbearable, and through the entire process, I have been talking with God.

So far, everything is OK. Its taking longer than I’d expected, but that’s alright. I feel for the lightbulb and, after a bit of hand manuevering, I secure it and attempt to pull it out. It doesn’t give (I had forgotten about step 4). After a few moments I attempt to rotate it – success! I pull it out down far enough so I can look at it through the opening.

I used my free hand and a few well placed bites to remove the new lightbulb from its package – taking care that I don’t damage it in the process. As I held the new bulb in my hand, I noticed a red ring around the base which the old bulb did not have. The color difference triggered a thought and, in hindsight, I see that God was putting a mark for my attention. I ascribed the difference to the fact that it was new and moved on.

Freeing the old bulb from its “socket” was a bit difficult. I didn’t know how the release worked and I experimented until I found the right place to squeeze. I put the new bulb in and, feeling success near, I worked the bulb back up to the lamp and pushed it in.

Thirty minutes later I was still trying to push it in. Try as I might, it wouldn’t go! I could see the bulb clearly through the lamp, but it wasn’t holding in place. I thought of leaving it there, but diligence would not allow. I knew God wanted me to do this right and I asked Him and continued to ask Him for the answer.

Over an hour had passed since I began the task and I was still working on changing that light bulb.

“Lord, what should I do?” I asked, and asked again. A thought was impressed to my mind “Go look at the other bulb.” I looked, and gathered some hints. The bulb was facing a certain way and, sure enough, my bulb was not far enough in. I went back at it and still, no success. I would push at it, turn it, twist it, re-angle it, and it just wouldn’t go all the way. It would get close and that closeness would seem so promising, yet it just wasn’t going.

“What should I do Lord?” I asked again, then again. Another thought was impressed to my mind, “Go take the other bulb out.” The thought had occurred to me earlier and I had ignored it – I wasn’t eager to repeat the fastener removal process again. This time, though, I decided to give it a try. I made my way over and, moving on the experience gained from the last panel, I removed the second panel much easier. I discovered that I only needed to undo three fasteners and not four. I accessed the light bulb, pulled it out, and successfully put it back in. It worked beautifully.

I went back to my new bulb and tried it again, armed with the confidence of success on the other bulb. It didn’t work. I went back inside the house, referred to the manual again, and noticed the direction in step 4 to turn it counter-clockwise. I had been trying that – at least I was attempting the right thing.

Joslyn came out with Jaiden in her arms, reminding me sweetly that she had to leave soon. I smiled and thanked her and assured her I was close.

“Lord, I don’t know what to do here.. I know You have the answer. Show me what to do.” I asked and kept asking, the smile still on my face. A thought came to me. I pulled the new bulb out and replaced it with the old bulb and attempted to put it back in. It went in!

I pulled the two bulbs out and examined them closely, looking for a difference. They were manufactured by a different company and, for a moment, I thought that I would have to find a new bulb somewhere else. An impression seemed to say “Keep looking”.

Then, I saw the red ring around the new bulb. I pulled it up and examined it more closely, realizing that the amount of space it occupied had been preventing the bulb from sliding in place. It moved to the touch! I pulled at it and, sure enough, it slide off.

I laughed and smiled, thanked the Lord, and quickly finished the installation, heading back into the house just in time to take Jaiden and successfully see Joslyn off to class.

Through the experience, I learned again that God cares about every single part of my day, however great or small. He wants to help me with all the details and He wants to work in me to solve the problems I face with a smile on my face, no matter how long it takes or how seemingly difficult the task.

Today has been a good day and, as God blesses me with another day, I look forward to getting to know Him more, growing in patience, and increasing my mechanical abilities.

Jonathan Wold