What it hinges on

Our kitchen cabinets are really beautiful. I can say that with no risk of arrogance because we didn't put them in. They were here when we bought our house in November 2000. The previous owners told us the cabinets were imported from Italy. They are ivory Formica with a brown stripe, in an art deco style; several of them have curved doors. My plan is never to replace them. They are definitely better quality than anything I'd be likely to buy, partially because they really don't make things like they used to.

Even well-made things, however, need adjustment from time to time. Not long after we moved in, we learned a valuable trick. Cabinet doors that stopped closing properly could be re-aligned with a screw-driver. Even seriously sagging doors could be fixed by adjusting the hinges. With the high level of usage everything suffers when 12 people live in a house, it was a feature we really appreciated. It worked like a charm -- except for the largest of the doors.

For as long as any of us can remember, the door to the pantry had issues. Maybe it was because it got the most traffic. Maybe it was because it was tall enough to have five hinges instead of two. Maybe it was because the door itself had shelves and the weight of the more-than-just-a-few-things that were stored on them was too much. Maybe, when we had to replace the built-in oven next to it, the carpentry just didn't leave enough room for sagging. Maybe it was simply that even good cabinets do wear out, and that this one wasn't going to be the first one in history to last forever.

Whatever the underlying problem was, Andrew (and eventually at least one of our sons), would adjust the screws on the hinges at least a couple times every year. It was frustrating to get the door to close properly, and even more frustrating when it started sagging again a few weeks later.

Last week, the cabinet doors made their way to the top of the "honey-do" list. Several of them had been worse than ever, so Andrew was prepared for a good deal of frustration. When the power tools came out, it was clear that he was also prepared to take a particularly thorough approach this time, and look more deeply into the problem. He reseated some of the hinges into the wood where needed, and got good results. Knowing that the pantry door would be the most frustrating, he saved it for last.

It's a royal pain to empty the shelves of a six-and-a-half foot pantry door and take it completely off the hinges. I mean it's so much easier to just do what you can without getting too involved and call it a day. And, frankly, that's pretty much what we've been doing for the past 15 years. But this time, Andrew had the patience and curiosity, (and the time), to do more. This time, instead of just adjusting or reseating the top hinge, he bought a replacement for it. When he took it completely off -- Bingo! -- he discovered that a crucial hidden part was broken -- in half. Only God knows how long that had been the case. Now the door closes better than it ever did. (But Andrew is still walking softly when he passes it.)

A broken hinge can't support anything. But you can't always see when a hinge is broken. That's true for pantry doors, but it is also true for our lives. If something in life doesn't function the way it should, most of us are likely to ignore it for a while. The fact is that some things get ignored for a lifetime. We might do what we can to make periodic adjustments, and those might even work -- for a time. But in order to really solve a problem (or a behavior, bad habit, addiction, dysfunction, or character flaw), we need the courage to open it up completely and look inside. We also need the patience, power tools, and replacement parts that only the Holy Spirit can provide.

As we observe the Baptism of the Lord, let's do so knowing that the Holy Spirit lives in us. He is with us not only as a comforter, but as one who can open us up to receive the fullness of grace God wants to give us -- the grace that transforms us into the likeness of Christ Jesus. And it all hinges on him.

- Jaymie Stuart Wolfe is a Catholic convert, wife, and mother of eight. Inspired by the spirituality of St. Francis de Sales, she is an author, speaker, and musician, and serves as a senior editor at Ave Maria Press. Find Jaymie on Facebook or follow her on Twitter @YouFeedThem.