Make Sure You’re Going the Right Direction

When working under the sink or in changing your life, it's good to make sure you're going the right direction.

When working under the sink or in changing your life, it's good to make sure you're going the right direction.

“Lefty loosey, righty tighty” goes the old handyman’s expression. I thought I was going loosey—but in fact, I was making the nut mighty tighty!

After weeks of painting, yard work, making improvements and doing any repair work we could think of, we were finally ready to put our house up for sale. Or so we thought. Almost immediately after the sign went up, the dining room light started flickering. Thankfully it ended up being a very cheap and easy repair.

A couple of days later, our garage door refused to open; and we discovered that one of the garage door springs had broken. Since it wasn’t a repair we could do ourselves, this was an expensive (but still easy) repair.

The right way to turn?

The next required repair was not cheap or easy. It presented itself the next week when my husband was at the kitchen sink rinsing a dish. He suddenly felt water on his foot and opened the cabinet door beneath the sink to find a large puddle. It took a while, but Mike finally diagnosed the problem: a leak from the sink drain flange (the part where sink meets drain). It seemed the putty or caulk around the drain flange must have failed.

I volunteered to go to the store to get the parts and the larger wrench that would be necessary, and that evening we ate a quick dinner in order to have more time for the repair. As we ate, my husband made the comment that one of the challenges he has always experienced with plumbing projects is simply knowing the right way to turn the wrench.

“I think I just instinctively know the right way to turn,” I replied. “I just think of it as a jar, and then I know which direction to go.”

Yes, I was a bit cocky when I said that. But Mike was humble, and he didn’t call me on it. Shortly after, head under the sink and wrench in hand, he asked “the expert” which way he should turn the large nut that held the sink drain flange in place. Bending over, I looked up at the drain assembly and pretended it was a jar. “Turn it this way,” I told him confidently.

And he set to work. After a few minutes, it became clear that our drain assembly was stuck. Every turn of the nut under the drain made a corresponding turn of the drain flange inside the sink. We were getting nowhere!

I looked online to see if anyone might have a suggestion. One website suggested using a screwdriver in one of the slots of the drain to keep the drain flange from moving while unscrewing. So I held a screw driver and tried to keep it from moving while Mike continued to try to unscrew the nut below. But I didn’t have the strength to keep it from turning.

Are you sure?

“Are you sure we’re turning it the right way?” he asked. Getting down on my knees, I peered up from below the sink and once again visualized a jar. “Yes, I’m sure it should go this way,” I replied.

I went back to the Internet and found another site that suggested that, if all else fails, one can use two wrenches under the sink, one on the nut and one on the pipe. But, of course, that can mess up the threads and make it necessary to replace the drain flange; so while Mike was trying this, I was off to the store again to get this replacement part. I spent some time looking at the specialty plumbing tools again. Was there anything that could help? I went to two hardware stores and finally found a special “wrench” that was designed for this task.

No discernible progress

Finally back home, I found Mike still under the sink, making no discernible progress. We had a new tool, though, so perhaps that would help. But it required greater strength, so we decided to switch places. Mike would use it above the sink, while I used the other wrench to turn the nut below.

Mike was helpless to resist me! (My turns of the wrench, that is.) The drain flange still wanted to move whenever I turned the nut below the sink.

It was at this point, with sweat dripping profusely, that Mike again asked the question: “Are you sure we’re going the right direction?”

“Well, I think so,” I replied, more hesitantly this time. And then it occurred to us that an easy way to make sure would be to use the new nut that had come with the drain flange I had just bought and attempt to put it on the threads that extended from the pipe. Whatever way the new nut would screw onto the threads would be the opposite of the way we needed to go to remove the old.

The wrong way!

Within seconds I realized I had been going the wrong way. The direction I had told Mike to turn the nut had not loosened it—it had tightened it!

We had, in fact, made that nut so tight that it was indeed very hard to go the other direction—which we now knew was the right direction for loosening the nut. It was so hard that at one point we again questioned whether we were still going the correct way. We tested it again and found out that yes, we were going the right direction. It took further effort—and the use of the wrench and our handy new tool—but finally it got to the point that turning was easy, and the nut was soon off.

There was still more work to be done. New silicone caulk had to be applied and the drain had to be reassembled. But it was amazing how quickly things seemed to go once we knew the right direction to go.

Several spiritual lessons

As you might imagine, several spiritual lessons jumped out at me after this experience.

  1. Don’t be so self-confident.
  2. Don’t trust your instinct (Proverbs 14:12).
  3. Don’t trust somebody else’s instinct.
  4. Go to the final authority (the Bible) to determine what’s right.
  5. It’s much harder to change direction when you’ve got yourself in a very tight situation.
  6. But keep using the right tools for overcoming: Bible study, prayer, fasting and meditation.
  7. Keep reminding yourself of what the right way is and persist in going that way (Deuteronomy 5:32). Eventually you will see progress.

For many more spiritual lessons about changing direction and going the right way, see the “Change” section of this website.

About the Author

Becky Bennett

Becky Bennett and her husband, Mike, attend the Dallas, Texas, congregation of the Church of God, a Worldwide Association.


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