Earlier this week, right before dinner time, our refrigerator started to sound slightly off. Its normal low purr became something of a soft wheeze. When my wife made a passing remark about it, I shot back, “It’s fine! I think it does that sometimes,” as if I were defending the fridge for having been personally slighted. By some miracle, the matter didn’t escalate into an argument and we then ate dinner with our two boys (not peacefully, mind you, dinner was mayhem).

The next morning, the fridge was squealing. It got to the point where I had to speak up a bit in order for my wife to hear what I was saying. When the stainless steel elephant in the room could no longer be ignored, I conceded: “I think we should probably have someone take a look at it, I guess!” She looked back at me with a knowing, loving, slightly irritated look, reminding me that I was a very lucky man. Six days later and I still have yet to get in touch with a repairman.

Judging from the lines at the dentist, mechanic, and veterinarian, we’ve all been deferring maintenance. Routine checkups are being delayed indefinitely because we now have the ultimate excuse to not do things: You could die! At the very least, the pandemic has made most of these chores inadvisable and, yes, possibly life-threatening. The World Health Organization recently advised putting off visiting the dentist for routine care until Covid-19 rates drop or until researchers know more about the risks involved. Perhaps your teeth whitening is, in fact, a matter of life and death, but I happen to know a certain someone who already has been following this public health protocol for a couple of years now.

Pandemic or no pandemic, there are things that aren’t being fixed that need to be. The roof is leaking, but we’ve put buckets across the floor. Our knee hurts, but we don’t mind limping a little, and people seem to hardly notice anyway. We feel overwhelmed, but virtual therapy feels awkward. We’re in dire need of good news, but the church is closed. In many ways, delayed maintenance is our usual modus operandi, but our capacity to meet the bare minimum is at the lowest it’s ever been. If we had been required to file our taxes on time this past April, it might have led to the collapse of modernity.

Deferring upkeep in our lives during Covid-19 seems to be a microcosm of how we deal with inadequacy and judgment. The reason why I denied that my fridge needed to be fixed in the first place is twofold: 1. I don’t want to be the type of person that needs his fridge fixed (thank you very much); and 2. the necessary steps it would take to fix it are beyond my mental capacity at the moment. Life is hard enough as it is and a broken fridge may be all it takes to send me over the edge.

When modest crises present themselves, we might attempt a quick fix and hope for the best, but Lord knows the piper will always get paid and any delay will only accrue interest. In other words, you can fight the law of life, but the law will always win. Life, ultimately, will not be managed, but endured.

I recently left my job of ten years to pursue graduate school. Clearing out my office felt as if I was having an organ removed. Even voluntary surgery requires a recovery process. While talking about this new transition with a friend, I tried to evade the dramatic undertones of what I was going through. “It’s been a little stressful, but I’m trying to name it. I don’t want it to build into a big blowup,” I told her. To which she responded, “You know, it’s OK if it does.” It didn’t occur to me until then that the loss that I was feeling would, in fact, lead to some sort of a blowup if I ever wanted to allow myself to fully grieve.

Of course, there are various degrees of “blowup.” There’s the inconsolable crying while watching a survival show (this can be classified as an acceptable blowup). Then there’s the screaming at a guy who you think is driving too fast on your street (less acceptable). The hope is that the blowup is executed in a safe manner, preferably with someone you love and trust. In the areas of our lives where we have deferred maintenance, let us hope that the car doesn’t break down on the highway in front of an eighteen-wheeler. Then again, even then, it may just be OK if it does.

It’s been said before that God’s office is at the end of your rope. When the car breaks down, when the tooth decays, when your mental health deteriorates. The place that feels God-forsaken is sometimes the very heart of grace, or, at the very least, the gateway to true healing. As Kafka once said, “You can hold yourself back from the sufferings of the world, that is something you are free to do and it accords with your nature, but perhaps this very holding back is the one suffering you could avoid.” Kafka may be right, but I think it’s too much to ask people to try to not avoid suffering. Avoiding suffering is in our very nature. We will inevitably keep the crises of our lives at bay as long as possible, even if that may only delay the wideness of God’s mercy rushing in to meet us there.

The good news is that God works all things together for good. All things means all things. All things also means that one particular thing — whatever it is — that you happen to be putting off right now. He is working that out — as well as the subsequent breakdown — for good. How can we trust this? Because God did not hold back from the sufferings of the world, but instead was lifted up and drew all of it to himself. Jesus’ death was anything but a quick fix. On the Cross, God used his broken body to restore the world once for all.

In truth, I will not call the repairman today. Like most things in my life, I will prolong getting the help I need until it is much too late. In those moments of brokenness, may I trust that the help of God will “come with succor speedy.” There is no queue to wait for God’s mercy. When we pick up the phone to call we find he’s already arrived at our door, wrench in hand.